Erin Gruwell Headshot
Report a problem with this profile
[email protected]

Erin Gruwell          

Inspirational Educator & Author of "The Freedom Writers"

Erin Gruwell is an inspirational educator & Author of "The Freedom Writers", based on her experience as a teacher at Long Beach High School.

Nothing could have prepared Erin Gruwell for her first day teaching at Long Beach High School. Many of her students from this tough, racially divided school were deemed “unteachable,” and written off by the education system. Shaken, but undeterred, Gruwell leveraged the power of education to deliver an academic miracle.

Finding her classroom a safe haven, the Freedom Writers transcribed their stories on paper, transforming their lives one word at a time. Through Gruwell’s efforts, these stories were published in the book Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. Her enthusiasm and fierce determination galvanized her class, and eventually all 150 of her students went on to graduate from high school and attend college.

Now, Gruwell's story has made it to the big screen, as she is portrayed by Academy Award winner Hilary Swank in Paramount Picture’s feature film, Freedom Writers. “In the beginning I was pretty naïve and did not know a lot about at-risk teens. I knew I could see past color and culture, but I did not know how to get to the hearts of these young people. So I gave them a pen and told them to share their experiences through the art of writing. Through writing, my students discovered tolerance and respect for one another.”

Honored by many teaching and humanitarian awards, Gruwell founded the Erin Gruwell Education Project dedicated to promoting tolerance and innovative educational methods. Creating the “Ambassadors of Tolerance Tour,” Gruwell enriched the lives of her students with lessons of history, taking the Freedom Writers to visit Auschwitz in Poland, Anne Frank’s attic in Amsterdam, and war-torn Sarajevo. Chronicled by Academy Award-winning filmmakers, the story of their journey is currently being made into a documentary. The film is based on the experiences of this extraordinary teacher and her students.

Speech Topics

Achieving the Impossible: Become a Catalyst for Change

Erin Gruwell found herself the teacher for a troubled group of students who had been dubbed unteachable. The tale of how this first-year teacher encouraged these wayward inner city kids to redirect their lives, forego rampant drugs and the violence that pervaded their neighborhoods is the story recounted in the best-selling The Freedom Writers Diary. From the stark reality of one seemingly innocuous event in the classroom, she sparked a chord in the students that led the class to name themselves the Freedom Writers. Over the course of a few months, Gruwell empowered the class to re-chart their future and go on to become college students, published writers and citizens for change.

In a powerful presentation that leaves audiences cheering, Gruwell parlays her story into ways the audience can improve their performance and productivity by asking "what can I do to make a difference?" Gruwell speaks to the authenticity and stamina needed to fuel change. An emotional connection with your work and life goals is a powerful force that can produce an unstoppable vision against all odds. Gruwell speaks from her heart, customizing every speech to her audience and shares:

How even little events can fuel transformational change

How to develop an environment of trust and communication

Ways that individuals can become catalysts for change in their own lives

How to harness your own personal power and determination to accomplish success that others may not think is possible

Teaching Tolerance

In a scene from the hit movie Freedom Writers, a film based on Erin Gruwell’s experiences as an English teacher to inner-city Los Angeles youth, a Latino student is drawing a derogatory picture of a fellow black student. Intercepting the racial correspondence, Gruwell is reminded of a caricature she had seen from the Museum of Tolerance—Holocaust propaganda of a Jew made to look like a rat. Drawing parallels between her students’ ignorance and the prejudice of the Nazis, Gruwell captures the attention of her class by pointing out the seriousness of their actions and the implications that can follow.

In a through-provoking presentation, Gruwell explores the very situations that have led us towards conflict in the past and how tolerance and understanding could have prevented such negative outcomes. A true proponent that one person can make an extraordinary difference, Gruwell inspires us all to embrace the concept of changing lives by teaching tolerance.

Nurturing the Leader Within

Becoming A Catalyst For Change

Erin Gruwell helped 150 of her students - many of whom were written off by the education system - to use the power of education to write a book, graduate from high school and attend college. In her inspiring presentation, Gruwell tells the story of this extraordinary journey - from poverty and despair to hope and promise - with stops at Anne Frank's House and Auschwitz and then on to Capitol Hill and Congress.

Erin challenged her students to overcome the seemingly insurmountable problems of poverty, racism, violence. How can we all become role models for tolerance, respect, and cooperation? Erin Gruwell teaches us all how we can become "Catalysts for Change."


Erin Gruwell of the Freedom Writers at Soka University to present ...

Erin Gruwell, NY Times best-selling author of The Freedom Writer's Diary, will be at Soka University on Wednesday, March 13th from 6-9 pm to show her ...

Freedom Writers Foundation Founder, Erin Gruwell Delivers ...

On June 22, 2013, the founder of Freedom Writers Foundation, Erin Gruwell was the keynote speaker at American Career College's 2013 Summer ...

'Freedom Writers' educator speaks to Tuscaloosa City Schools ...

Erin Gruwell, pictured left, of Freedom Writers fame spoke to Tuscaloosa City Schools faculty and staff Monday at TCS's Institute Day. (c/o Lesley Bruinton).

My View: Inspiring students to put their stories 'on the record ...

By Erin Gruwell, Special to CNN Editor's note: Erin Gruwell is the inspiration for the film “Freedom Writers,” starring Hilary Swank. She helped a group of ...

What A High School Teacher Who Turned Her Students Into Best ...

When Erin Gruwell jettisoned her entire curriculum and replaced it with creative new teaching techniques, she inspired her students to start journaling about their  ...

Related Speakers View all

More like Erin