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.
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.”
Erin Gruwell’s Speech Topics
Nurturing the Leader Within
Filled with anecdotes from teachers across the country, Gruwell’s presentation proves that the methodology she has developed is not location-specific, but can be implemented in all types of schools and communities. In “Nurturing the Leader Within,” Erin explores her personal journey and her students’ transformations from disgruntled high school students to leaders and activists, illustrating that everyone has the power to embrace change and become a leader in their own community.
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 changeHow to develop an environment of trust and communicationWays that individuals can become catalysts for change in their own livesHow to harness your own personal power and determination to accomplish success that others may not think is possible
What other organizations say about Erin Gruwell
Erin Gruwell absolutely brought the house down. The feedback was universally positive, starting with a standing ovation after the introduction of her and followed by a standing ovation at the conclusion of her remarks. I’d say it was a success.