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Erin Gruwell          

Founder & Executive Director of the Freedom Writers Foundation

In 1994, Erin Gruwell an idealistic first-year teacher in Long Beach, California confronted a room of “unteachable, at-risk” students. She had intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust. She was met by uncomprehending looks—none of her students had heard of one of the defining moments of the twentieth century. So she rebooted her entire curriculum, using treasured books such as Anne Frank’s diary as her guide to combat intolerance and misunderstanding. Her students began recording their thoughts and feelings in their own diaries, eventually dubbing themselves “the Freedom Writers.” Their stories became "The Freedom Writers Diary" which climbed to the top of the New York Times Bestsellers list. By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students’ lives. With Gruwell’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence in order to become aspiring college students, published writers, and citizens for change. All 150 of her students graduated high school and many went on to college.

In 1998, Gruwell left Wilson High School and became a Distinguished Teacher in Residence at California State University, Long Beach. Gruwell later went on to start the Freedom Writers Foundation, which aspires to spread the Freedom Writers method across the country.

Gruwell's experiences are recounted in her autobiography, "Teach With Your Heart: Lessons I Learned From The Freedom Writers," the 2007 movie, "Freedom Writers" and the 2019 PBS documentary, "Freedom Writers: Stories from the Heart."

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  ...

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