About the Center Events


Center Events: Speaker Series

Erin Gruwell (Urban High School in Long Beach, CA)
April 16-17, 2001
November 26, 2001

In 1994 Erin Gruwell began teaching English in an urban high school in Long Beach, California. As a recently certified teacher with no seniority she was given the freshman classes that no one else wanted to teach. In her second year at the school she convinced the administration to let her continue with her freshman classes through the next three years of high school. Together, Erin and her students used literature and writing to examine the hard realities of their lives: gangs, inter-racial violence, drugs, family traumas. They began to see themselves as agents for change and dubbed themselves the "Freedom Writers" in honor of the civil rights activists "The Freedom Riders." They accomplished many things including the publication of The Freedom Writers Diary, a collection of their diary writings which tells of their lives, thoughts, and hopes with simple honesty and chronicles their high school odyssey together. Much to their own amazement, all 150 Freedom Writers also graduated from high school and went on to college. The story of the Freedom Writers is a testament to the potential of urban youth and to the power of literature, writing, and community to change people's lives.


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