Speaking to the World
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Inspirational Educator & Author of The Freedom Writers
Erin Gruwell is a teacher, an author, and an activist who has been fighting for social justice for over two decades. She first gained national attention in 1998 when she and her 150 students appeared on an ABC special–PrimeTime Live–with Connie Chung. Read More >
Erin's students - affectionately called the Freedom Writers - came from backgrounds of poverty, gangs, and violence, and many were at-risk of dropping out of school due to the school-to-prison-pipeline. But, under Erin's guidance, all 150 Freedom Writers graduated from high school and pursued higher education.
In 1999, Erin and the Freedom Writers published their book, The Freedom Writers Diary, which detailed their unique journey from hardship to hope. The book became a #1 New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a major motion picture, Freedom Writers, starring two-time Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank as Erin. The film brought Erin's work to an even wider audience, and she has since used her platform to continue her fight for equity and inclusion with her non-profit, the Freedom Writers Foundation.
Erin's work has been recognized with several humanitarian awards, including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award. Erin and the Freedom Writers have appeared on multiple television shows to promote educational reform, including Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, and NBC's TODAY. They have also been featured on National Public Radio, numerous newspapers, and national magazines, such as People. In 2019, Erin and the Freedom Writers were the subjects of the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary Freedom Writers: Stories from the Heart. Erin also hosts The Freedom Writers Podcast with guests who are authors, activists and civil rights icons.
In 2022, Erin and the Freedom Writers Foundation released their latest book, Dear Freedom Writer. This critically acclaimed book combines heartfelt letters written by the next generation of student authors with deeply personal responses from the original Freedom Writers.
Be it in the classroom, or otherwise, Erin’s powerful message of hope and possibility is sure to resonate with any audience, whom she encourages “to stand up, speak up and speak out.” Read Less ^
TEDTalk: Becoming a Catalyst for Change
TEDTalk: The Freedom Writers
Freedom Writers Promo
What do Storytellers do?
A Message From Erin Gruwell for Fusion
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. Read More >
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. Read Less ^
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. Read More >
She challenged her students to overcome the seemingly insurmountable problems of poverty, racism, and violence. Encouraging tolerance, respect, and cooperation, Gruwell teaches us all how we can become role models and "Catalysts for Change." Read Less ^
"We got great feedback about Erin’s speech. Attendees were really moved by her message and were excited to be able to have a book signing later that day. Erin was incredibly generous with her time, talking with a number of attendees after the speech and then taking a lot of time to talk individually with those who came to the book signing. It all went really well, we were very happy to have Erin at our event! Thanks for all you help in coordinating her participation."
"Erin is an absolutely dynamic speaker and her message is obviously from the heart. She expressed a feeling of kinship with our group because we all work with at-risk kids and have a passion for trying to turn lives around. A lot of people emailed me today about what a great speaker she was. We all love her!"
"I cannot tell you how fantastic Erin Gruwell was! She will be remembered as one of our top speakers in the 12-year history of this series. She packed the lecture theater, connected with the audience so effectively and students stood up and talked about their struggles academically in trying to earn their degree. She was encouraging and inspiring. WE LOVED HER! Then, Erin sat and talked to student after student for an additional nearly two hours, connecting with each one in a way that I know each individual will remember. She has amazing stamina, grace and chutzpah. We need her voice in education. Thank you for sending Erin our way!"
"On a scale of 1 (not valuable) to 4 (extremely valuable), her keynote earned a 3.99. WHO GETS A 3.99?! Unreal. We loved her stories, her integrity, her perseverance, and her unparalleled capacity to care about children who would otherwise have been written off as “bad kids.” Because of Erin, they chose to forego lives filled with drugs, teenage pregnancy, and racial hatred in favor of becoming curious learners, published writers, and college students with limitless possibility. Again, thank you."
"Last night was AWESOME. Erin was incredible. She really brought the house down. She stayed and signed books for about 45 minutes afterwards. We ordered 100 books and actually ran out. We needed twice that amount. Her message really struck home with our campus. I would say that we had over 650 people in attendance."
"She was fantastic, fabulous... Erin is really the best speaker we have ever had. In addition to being a wonderful person, she consistently delivers all of the elements we look for: inspirational story, customization of material and excellent delivery. She keeps changing it up for our different audiences."
"Erin Gruwell is a teacher who had more to teach us as corporate leaders than big headliners such as Larry Bossidy. Erin showed us how the power of one can make a significant difference in the lives of many. She talked about how we have hundreds of thousands of “Jessica Lynch's” MIA in our own country and in our own education system. And although we spend millions to find and rescue the one private Jessica Lynch, we do minimal to help and rescue all the children who are MIA in our education system. She emphasized how each and every one of us needs to have dreams in our lives and we have the right to pursue them."
"Thank you so much for her outstanding presentation at our Annual Convention…it was a major factor in the success of our convention and we are pleased she was able to participate. Her message was poignant and so very important; it touched all those who attended the session. The convention evaluations identified Erin’s presentation as a highlight of the event. She brought meaning to and reinforced the hard work of those in education and challenged us to continue in our joint efforts to meet student and social needs."
Erin had a HUGE impact on our audience at the Forum. In fact, her session got the highest marks for Overall Value! Some of the comments were:
"Our attendees absolutely loved Erin Gruwell. The location where she spoke seats 80 comfortably and about 200 people showed up to watch her speaker and just stood around the perimeter of the room. She was very interactive and engaging with the audience. Her topic was extremely relatable to our attendees as their mission is to positively influence their students, and make the educational experience for them as seamless and enjoyable as possible. The book signing was also a huge success! The line was wrapped around the space and she spoke individually to each person, took photos and was very gracious. We all loved her!"
Dear Freedom Writer: Stories of Hardship and Hope from the Next Generation
1,001 Pearls of Teachers' Wisdom: Quotations on Life and Learning
The Freedom Writers Diary Teacher's Guide
Teach with Your Heart: Lessons I Learned from The Freedom Writers
Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writer Teachers and Erin Gruwell
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