Erin got two standing ovations - she was fabulous and everyone at the event was raving about her and her story. Erin is such a gracious and lovely person. We all had a great time.
Erin Gruwell is a teacher, author, and 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.”
Featured Keynote Programs
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
Since teaching the original Freedom Writers in Room 203 at Wilson High School, Erin
Gruwell has worked diligently to create a methodology that will universally allow teachers
across the country, and across the globe, to empower their students in the same
life-changing ways that Gruwell was able to empower the Freedom Writers. Gruwell
developed a Teacher’s Guide based on her methodology, and also, through the Freedom
Writers Foundation, organizes institutes and symposiums for teachers and professionals in
Gruwell provides an empowering presentation of how she has passed on her methodology to
other teachers, and how she has been able to do this so successfully. 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. Gruwell offers anecdotes and advice that show teachers then can implement
these ideas in their classrooms as well, and it shows students a different perspective on
what it is like to be a teacher.
This presentation can be adapted to two different styles. A workshop provides a more
hands-on experience of what Gruwell has learned from the teachers she has taught, and
how teachers can best apply that knowledge and her methodology. A traditional keynote
presentation allows Gruwell to speak with audiences of all sizes and truly emphasizes that
teachers have as much to learn as students do. Both the workshop and the keynote have a
unique emphasis on professional development, and are centered around a variety of
exercises that Gruwell and the Freedom Writers Foundation use at their institutes and
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
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
"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."
"Erin Gruwell was very inspirational....I loved listening to her story and how she haspositively changed the lives of so many people. Not only has she changed the lives of 150students but also many others as it definitely has had a ripple effect....and that ripple effectcontinues on and on. I feel honoured to have heard her story in person....it was fabulous andvery touching.""Erin's presentation hit home for me.""Erin Gruwell's presentation was so emotionally moving."