The teacher that inspired the Freedom Writers movement visited Laurel High School Monday to share her story with local educators.
Erin Gruwell entered the classroom for the first time as a new teacher in Long Beach, California about 20 years ago. She was faced with a group of high schoolers that were considered "at risk" and had been written off by society as lazy, violent, and worthless. But Gruwell saw something more in them. She saw bright futures.
"Kids everywhere just need someone to believe in them," said Gruwell. "I think that was the amazing thing about the Freedom Writers. A lot of them had stopped believing in fairy tales and happy endings because of the adversity they faced. And by writing, they realized, 'I can write my own ending.'"
Teachers from the Laurel School District gathered Monday to hear how Gruwell impacted her students' lives simply by encouraging them to pick up a pen.
"It completely changed the path I was on," said Tiffony Jacobs, a former student and Freedom Writer. "Statistically, I shouldn't be college educated with no kids, doing my own thing."
The Freedom Writers' journal entries were published and a feature film was made, both coming as a surprise to the kids who grew up in a neighborhood where gang affiliations and rampant violence were of more concern than SAT scores. Many of Gruwell's students were the first in their families to graduate high school. Her dedication to their education serves as an example to teachers everywhere.