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Erin Gruwell          

Inspirational Educator & Author of "The Freedom Writers Diary"; Subject of the "Freedom Writers" Film & Documentary

Erin Gruwell has earned an award-winning reputation for her steadfast commitment to the future of education. Her impact as a change agent attracted Hollywood’s attention, and in 2007, Paramount Pictures released Freedom Writers, starring two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank as Erin. The film is based on The Freedom Writers Diary, the New York Times bestseller that chronicled Erin’s extraordinary journey with her 150 high school students who dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” in homage to Civil Rights activists the Freedom Riders.

By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider their own daily decisions, and ultimately, rechart their future. With Erin’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence in order to become aspiring college students, published writers, and citizens for change.

Inspired by Anne Frank, Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary. Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book records their “eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.” Their inspiring story of success is also chronicled in the documentary, Freedom Writers: Stories from an Undeclared War, which features behind the scenes footage of Erin and the Freedom Writers from their freshman year to present day.

While Erin has been credited with giving her students a “second chance,” it was perhaps she who changed the most during her tenure at Wilson High School. Erin decided to channel her classroom experiences toward a broader cause, and today her impact as a teacher extends well beyond Room 203. Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches educators around the world how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms.

Erin’s teaching methods from her time in Room 203 have been published in her powerful call to arms, Teach With Your Heart as well the Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide. Erin and teachers she’s trained known as Freedom Writer Teachers collaborated to write Teaching Hope, a book in which stories from “the front lines of education take [the reader] from the anticipation of the first day to the disillusionment, challenges, and triumphs of the school year.”

Erin and her students have appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara Walters’ The View, and Good Morning America, to name a few. Their story has earned them dozens of awards, including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award. Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writer Teachers also collaborated with Scholastic to create On the Record, an innovative reading and writing program. On the Record uses the Freedom Writer Methodologies to improve students' reading and writing skills, as well as their lives.

Erin continues to fight for equality in education and inspires teachers and students all over the world with her work.

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."

News


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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