Freedom Writers Speakers

The People That Continue to Make a Difference

Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell is a teacher, an author, and the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation.

Daisy Farias

Daisy Farias is a Freedom Writer and Special Education teacher who gives back to the community.

Latilla Cain

Latilla Cain is a Freedom Writer who works for the Big Brothers Big Sisters

Sue Ellen Alpizar

Sue Ellen continues to share her inspirational story about the power of education and hope to youth and educators.

Narada Comans

Narada speaks about the difficulties of growing up in poverty, surrounded by gang violence, and the lack of a positive male role model in the household.

Shanita Jones

Shanita Jones went on to pursue a degree in Child Development and currently works with the Freedom Writers Foundation.

Ian Terrell

Ian Terrell is following his dream of pursuing a writing career by working on a book of poetry.

Jessica Martinez

Jessica Martinez is an active Freedom Writer, serving as a member of the Freedom Writers Educational Advisory Board and assisting in the active training of teachers who participate in the Freedom Writers Institute.

Tanya Payne

Tanya Payne believes the best way to tackle institutionalized racism and bigotry is through teachers, educators, and professors have the power to change the world.

Calvin Williams III

Remember those who helped you and remember the strength you had in all the battles you fought—Calvin Williams III

Carlos Barragan

“Make your own positive family if you don’t have one.” -Carlos Barragan

Lisa Shouse

“You can change it if you want to. You just have to take the first step.” -Lisa Shouse

Stephanie Sample

The tools of the Freedom Writers have prepared Stephanie for a future filled with hope.

Ricardo Gonzalez

Ricardo Gonzalez is currently working on his A.S. in Architecture Design.

Oscar Carrera

Oscar is currently working towards obtaining his Doctoral Degree in Education (Ed.D) from Loyola Marymount University, which he will complete in 2016.

Kanya Sim

Kanya Sim has worked as a Legal Aid and Outreach Director, helping people access services despite language and cultural barriers.

Erin Gruwell

By fostering an educational philosophy that values and promotes diversity, Erin transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider daily decisions, and ultimately re-chart their futures. Erin and her students captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary.    


Erin founded the Freedom Writers Foundation where she currently teaches educators around the world how to implement her innovative lesson plans into their own classrooms. She created the Freedom Writers Methodology, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula designed to achieve excellence from all students. Erin continues to fight for equality in education and inspires teachers and students all over the world with her work.

Daisy Farias

Daisy Farias was born in South Central Los Angeles, where she was the youngest of three children being raised by two hard-working immigrant parents. Throughout her life she had been split into three cultural worlds: Salvadorian, Mexican, and American.  


For Daisy, growing up with a mixed identity was often confusing. She never knew what culture to embrace, especially since her friends teased her about all of them. This was amplified when Daisy entered school, where she had to assimilate to American culture in addition to her Latin ones. She had to learn English, as well as new customs and values that differed greatly from those she had been taught at home.


Daisy found solace in her fellow Freedom Writers. They helped her realize that she did not need to choose one identity, but that she was a beautiful amalgamation of three cultures.

Latilla Cain

Independence was something Latilla Cain had to learn at an early age. Latilla was forced to live the life of an adult when she was just six years old. Her single mother worked multiple jobs to provide, leaving Latilla without supervision or protection from the bullying she faced at the hands of the neighborhood children.  


Latilla didn’t have anyone to lean on for help or advice. In turn, much of Latilla’s time was spent at home alone. She was considered a “latchkey kid,” but unlike many of her peers, she used her time alone to develop a deep love for reading and writing.   When Latilla was eight, she moved to Long Beach, but the bullying didn’t stop. Eventually, Latilla put up walls and didn’t allow herself to trust others. She became reclusive, ultimately becoming a bully herself.  


After joining Ms. Gruwell’s class in the 10th grade, Latilla found a safe place where she felt accepted. It was in Ms. Gruwell’s class that Latilla learned to trust others. She has since earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She now works with the Freedom Writers Foundation and for Big Brothers Big Sisters.      

Sue Ellen Alpizar

Sue Ellen was raised in one of the predominantly poor and violent neighborhoods of Long Beach, California. As the youngest of four it wasn’t uncommon for her to see prostitutes, drug deals and gang violence at the end of her block. The violence didn’t end there, it extended into her home in the form of an alcoholic and abusive father.

By the time she was 13, her parents divorced, and Sue Ellen became homeless along with her mother and brother. She recounts life as a homeless and abused teenager who had no hope and no future. At school her teachers called her lazy rather than working through her undiagnosed dyslexia. When she was 16 Sue Ellen’s brother died. It was the same year she started in Erin Gruwell’s classroom. She describes how Room 203 was the first place where, through the power of education and writing, she was able to overcome adversity and become liberated from the labels that once defined her.

After graduation from Wilson High School Sue Ellen graduated in 2009 from California State, Long Beach with a BA in Chicano Latino Studies and a BS in Professional Studies. Today she works at the Freedom Writers Foundation and is responsible for the human resources and accounting functions.

Her future plans include higher education to secure her Masters in business and accounting. Sue Ellen appeared on the cover of the Freedom Writers Diary and has written several entries in the 10th Anniversary edition. She continues to share her inspirational story about the power of education and hope to youth and educators.

Narada Comans

At age 9, Narada Comans moved 3,000 miles away from his hometown, Pittsburgh, PA. His once suburban neighborhood turned into an urban nightmare. His father began to abuse drugs fueling the constant physical abuse against his mother and destroying the household he once knew.

At the age of 14, Narada again was forced to move due to circumstances beyond his control. The summer before his sophomore year at Wilson High School, he was evicted from his single household apartment due to his mom’s job loss. Too young to get a job and not willing to do anything illegal to get money, Narada felt defeated, helpless, and ashamed. With the start of 10th grade a few weeks away, he felt more compelled to keep the hardships of his summer a secret for fear of being made fun of by his peers.

However, soon he would discover his experience as a Freedom Writer allowed him to open up about the hardships of his life. Through the trust and guidance of Ms. Gruwell and his classmates, Narada would learn through activities such as the Line Game and journal writing, and as others began to share the hardships of their own lives, Narada no longer tried to keep his a secret. This began the bond between himself, his classmates, and Ms. Gruwell. The newfound support would allow Narada to finish high school and go on to college.

Today, Narada speaks about the difficulties of growing up in poverty, surrounded by gang violence, and the lack of a positive male role model in the household. Narada has shared his diary story for over 10 years now with the hope his story can help and inspire others dealing with their own hardships. Narada also contributed an additional diary entry to the 10th anniversary edition of The Freedom Writers Diary.

Shanita Jones

When Shanita was young, her mother got fed up with her jealous husband and moved Shanita and her four siblings from North Carolina to Long Beach. In California, Shanita’s mother worked three jobs to provide for her children. As a result of her mother’s exhausting schedule, Shanita and her siblings were latchkey kids who often had to take care of themselves. Shanita took on the role of the surrogate mother, getting everyone up, dressed, and at the bus stop on time.

Without realizing it, her mother ended up in a relationship with a prominent gang member. The family soon learned that their new step dad was a “god father” of the Crips. His status provided protection for Shanita as she navigated the rough, crime-riddled streets of East Long Beach.

Things began to change for Shanita and her twin sister when they entered Room 203 at Wilson High School. Ms. G showed actual interest in who they were inside and outside of the classroom. Regardless of her dysfunctional home life, Shanita was able to make her education a priority because she felt supported by Ms. G and her Freedom Writer Family.

Shanita went on to pursue a degree in Child Development and currently works with the Freedom Writers Foundation. She is a volunteer parent for her children’s school and is a proud mother and wife who supports her family the way the Freedom Writers supported her.

Ian Terrell

For as long as Ian can remember, he has always felt like the odd man out. Ian was often picked on for being hyper and no one understood why he acted the way he did. At a young age, Ian was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but the diagnosis only confirmed to Ian that he was different.

The diagnosis also brought with it medication. Medication that needed to be taken at certain times throughout the day. Certain times throughout the day that caused disruption in the classroom. As the cause of these classroom disruptions, Ian felt even worse for being different. Feelings that Ian carried with him throughout his childhood and much of his adolescence.

It wasn’t until becoming a part of the Freedom Writers that Ian felt a sense of acceptance. Ms. Gruwell taught him that it was okay for him to be himself and that there is nothing wrong with being different. In fact, his individuality is now something that Ian takes pride in. Ian may have ADD, but he knows now that he is not defective. The sense of acceptance that Ian felt within the Freedom Writers was the support that cemented within him feelings of positivity and helped boost his self-confidence.

Presently, Ian is living in Long Beach, not too far from Wilson High School and the classroom that helped to change his life. Ian is following his dream of pursuing a writing career by currently working on writing a book of poetry. Through his poetry, Ian is able to express himself to the fullest extent and he hopes to help the next generation take pride in themselves and everything that makes each person an individual.

Jessica Martinez

Jessica Martinez was born in the city of Torrance, California, but her life mainly resided in Long Beach, CA. She graduated in the class of 1998 from Woodrow Wilson High School where she experienced events that she could not have dreamed were possible. She became one of the 150 original members of the Freedom Writers who learned the value of education and how through writing they could change the world around them.

In school Jessica was an English language learner and had problems with reading comprehension and writing. Jessica’s parents had twins at a young age; they married, but decided to throw in the towel years later and divorce. Her father became a single parent of three girls. She remembers having frustrating staring contests with her homework assignments. Her father had no idea if the assignments were correct; because he couldn’t read or write, a fact that remains the same to this day. As she grew up, Jessica learned about her father’s life experiences. He was born in Mexico and his family was very poor.

He was able to complete the first grade before he quit school to work for his family. When he was sixteen years old he moved to the United States and was “sponsored” by his older brother. Due to his lack of education, language and cultural barriers, her father performed physical labor. In time, he realized that education was necessary for success. Jessica’s father always encouraged her to pursue her education. His encouragement remained consistent throughout her educational career.

As a teenager, her father’s encouragement was not always enough. Growing up in a broken home and experiencing yet several other life altering situations, made it difficult to focus and achieve in school. Life was very unstable. Fortunately for Jessica, the unstable existence changed the minute she walked into her first class during her freshmen year of high school. An idealistic 23-year-old first year English teacher came into her life unaware of the enormous impact she would have on Jessica’s life. Erin Gruwell occupied several of the open slots in her life and provided many opportunities for personal growth. Her teachings and guidance motivated and inspired Jessica to continue on her path of life and to battle it out.

For almost 10 years, Jessica has furthered her goals by working for the Gang Alternatives Program (GAP). She has contributed her passion and expertise to GAP’s vision to prevent young people from joining gangs. She serves as the Associate Director of Gang Prevention and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree and a Master of Art’s Degree in Occupational Studies and is a currently enrolled in the Educational Leadership Doctorate program at CSULB. Her greatest contribution to society is to dedicate herself to empowering and inspiring young people, so they can take advantage of the best education that is possible and to inspire them to have the voice and choice to succeed in life.

Currently, she remains an active member of the Freedom Writers Foundation as a member of the Freedom Writers Educational Advisory Board and assist in the active training of teachers who participate in the Freedom Writers Institute.

“Everyone’s upbringing has a special twist, whether good or bad, only one thing “always” remains constant—thyself.” - Jessica

Tanya Payne

Tanya was born and raised in Long Beach, California. Although she was raised in a housing project and was, for all intents and purposes, poor, she never knew it. Her parents shielded her from the violence and depravation of her community. Tanya's mom, an RN, and her father prioritized Tanya's education and she was raised knowing that going to college was not optional to succeed in life. With this strong support system in place Tanya became one of the first in her family to attend a university.

She received a full academic scholarship to Brandeis University, and matriculated without visiting the school. As a result Tanya was ill prepared for the pervasive racism in Boston and her studies suffered as a result. Ultimately, she was put on academic suspension and returned to Long Beach where she attended Long Beach City College while she sorted through the emotional baggage and scars from Boston.

At LBCC Tanya excelled, earning admission to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Golden Key Honor Society, as well as making Dean's Honor Roll during her tenure. In 2002, Tanya received a full Freedom Writer scholarship to California State University Long Beach, ultimately earning Tanya's ultimate dream is to earn her doctoral degree from USC and become a professor. She believes the best way to tackle institutionalized racism and bigotry is to enlighten those who hold the power, and that teachers, educators, and professors have the power to change the world.

Calvin Williams III

At only 18 months old, Calvin Williams III began his fight to survive. It was then that he was diagnosed with epilepsy, an ailment that he continues to fight to this day. Growing up on the tough streets of Long Beach was far from easy for Calvin. Calvin spent much of his youth moving from roach motel to roach motel with different family members. With drug dealers by the windows and the threat of shootings or stabbings on every corner, his neighborhood didn’t make focusing on school seem very important. In fact, Calvin took every opportunity to act the class clown.

As a young student, Calvin was smart, but he preferred to spend his time with impressions of Stevie Wonder instead of homework. He believed himself the true King of Comedy, but this didn’t fair well in the eyes of his mother or teachers. While he grew older, he also grew out of the need to be the class clown. Calvin transformed from a student that would pick up the slack after progress reports to avoid extensive grounding to a student that learned to focus and and work hard.

Since infancy, Calvin has faced illness, bullies, race wars, and gangs among other things, yet he has continued to work to improve his life. Currently, he works a regular job with aspirations of moving up the ladder. He enjoys talking about the impact of his interactions with Ms. Gru-
well and the Freedom Writers.

Carlos Barragan

Carlos Barragan’s connection to the Freedom Writers story began when Erin Gruwell was a student teacher at Wilson High School in 1993. Carlos, abandoned by his parents, was forced to live with his grandparents; and moved back and forth from Long Beach, CA to Mexico during his formative years. By the time he entered high school he was a straight “F” student, the head of a tagging crew, and placed in Erin Gruwell’s 1st ever taught class as a student teacher.

In the movie “Freedom Writers” it was Carlos, in real life, that asked the famous question “Ms. G what is the Holocaust?” This question was the catalyst that inspired Erin Gruwell to focus on Holocaust education to change her students perception about embracing diversity. Since graduating high school in 1995 Carlos is now a self-made entrepreneur. He owns his own plumbing company, SoCal Plumbing and has 2 beautiful daughters that he ensures will never feel the effects of abandonment. Carlos has never left the home that Erin Gruwell created at Wilson high school and still works closely with the Freedom Writers Foundation’s Outreach Program.

Lisa Shouse

Lisa grew up without memories of family. In fact, the single parent household that Lisa grew up in did not offer her much as Lisa’s mother was not able to fulfill her child’s basic needs. Separately, Lisa’s father wasn’t always around and was controlled by a drug addiction problem throughout her formative years.

Though her father did not raise her, Lisa slowly, but surely started to turn into her father’s daughter. Even though Lisa had been raised by her mother, during her teenage years she began to be plagued by the addictive personality traits of her father. It was during these years that Lisa began experimenting with her father’s drug of choice. Meth. A drug that Lisa had watched take over or end so many people’s lives.

As Lisa found herself falling for the controlling drug, she also found herself falling in love with a man that she thought to be the one. He was not, the relationship tested Lisa and continually pushed her toward the edge. Ultimately, good did come from this trying relationship as Lisa had two sons that are the loves of her life.

Currently, Lisa works to give her boys the sense of family that she never had growing up. Though Lisa has been tested throughout her life she is proud to say that she is no longer addicted to meth nor is she still in an abusive relationship. She is simply, continually working to improve herself for her boys in order to give them a life that she wasn’t afforded in her youth.

Stephanie Sample

When you agree to participate in the various forms of human hatred such as: violence, racism, bullying, gang-banging, and racial profiling you are “choosing to” dim the light of this world a little bit more, but when you “choose to” rise above it and embrace tolerance the world glows more brightly.

In the beginning of her academic career Stephanie didn’t know how to take what she was taught about tolerance and apply it to her life. Stephanie was surrounded by so much hatred in her day-to-day life that she was simply perpetuating what was in her environment. When circumstances seemed hopeless many teenagers like Stephanie would throw in the towel and quit. Unfortunately this was a detrimental attitude to have. It was in these moments where Stephanie made a choice to remain silent and it eventually cost her five years of freedom.

It wasn’t until she wound up in Erin Gruwell’s classroom that she learned that she did have a choice. Regardless of her circumstances, her friends, and her environment, her voice mattered within the walls of Room 203 and Stephanie found she could stand up for tolerance! Stephanie was once told, "You can TRY all you want but until you DO then all you are doing is trying” (T.E). She keeps these words in mind every day because she is making a difference, and not just trying. These tools have prepared her for a future filled with decisions where she can “choose to” make a difference, and she can “choose to” have hope!

Today Stephanie makes conscious decisions to better her future. Today she uses her voice to remind others that they are not victims of circumstance, but rather victors because they can overcome anything. Today Stephanie inspires others to use their voice to choose the right path.

Ricardo Gonzalez

Ricardo Gonzalez comes from a traditional Mexican family. On his father’s side there were 16 children and on his mother’s side there were 12. Economic level and the “macho” mentality of the time limited his parent’s education. His father saw that coming to America was an opportunity for him to find the life that he wanted.

Ricardo was a good student and considered himself a “nerd.” Because he was a big kid, wore thick glasses, and loved school Ricardo was bullied because of his appearance. Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writers gave Ricardo a family away from home. He found support, advice, and understanding in Room 203 at Wilson High School.

Ricardo now has 5 daughters is dedicated to teaching them to become independent strong women. He is currently attending Long Beach City College and working on his A.S. in Architecture Design. Ricardo plans to transfer to CSULB and to create a path for his daughters to succeed in life.

Oscar Carrera

Oscar Carrera was born in the Bronx, New York, but moved to Los Angeles at the age of three. Oscar comes from a strong family background that values and upholds unity, respect, and faith above anything else. After the Rodney King riots, Oscar transferred to Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.

While at Wilson, due to his below average test scores, Oscar was placed in Erin Gruwell’s English class where he became an original Freedom Writer. In Ms. Gruwell’s class, Oscar and his fellow Freedom Writers began writing in diaries that were later compiled and published in a number one New York Times best-selling book called The Freedom Writers Diary, which later became a major motion picture called Freedom Writers in 2007.

Since then, Oscar continues to motivate, engage, and inspire his students in the power and importance of education through his teaching. He continues to be a spokesperson for the Freedom Writers as a board member in the Freedom Writers Educational Board Committee and as a motivational guest speaker. Oscar earned his Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from California State University Dominguez Hills in 2005 and his Master’s Degree in Education from Loyola Marymount University in 2010.

Oscar is currently working towards obtaining his Doctoral Degree in Education (Ed.D) from Loyola Marymount University, which he will complete in 2016. Oscar is also currently teaching fifth grade in the City of Bell Gardens, but has also worked in both the Los Angeles and Adelanto Unified School Districts as a fourth and fifth grade teacher.

Kanya Sim

As a Cambodian refugee, Kanya Sim sees herself as the lotus flower growing up in a muddy pond. Her parents fled the Khmer Rouge genocide when Kanya was three, but soon they would face the challenges of cultural and language barriers as well as expected assimilation in a new land. This only intensified the family’s struggles.

Kanya’s mother, an educated middle class woman, and father, an uneducated peasant farmer, had been forced to marry as punishment by the Communist government. Kanya’s parents’ unhappiness caused constant fighting and created much resentment in their daughter. Kanya grew angry and ashamed of who she was and where she came from. She often blamed her past and sought love and affection in the wrong places.

Kanya had been forced to grow up quickly in order to help her parents, much of the time through translation. By junior high, she often hung out with the students in gangs. Her grades were poor and she was repeatedly suspended from school for fighting. It wasn’t until meeting Erin Gruwell in her freshman year at Wilson High School that she started to find hope and meaning through education. Kanya finally wanted to study and learn to do better. Her strength came from studying intolerance and learning of other victims and survivors.

After graduating from Wilson High School, Kanya spent time in Lowell, MA working for a domestic violence agency, focusing on outreach to Southeast Asian victims. She also worked as a legal aid and outreach director, helping people access services due to language and cultural barriers.

Recently, Kanya returned to Southern California and graduated from cosmetology school. As a cosmetologist, Kanya works to help others find beauty inside and out. Like a lotus flower that blooms unsoiled by its environment and radiates its beauty to the world, Kanya has grown from a life of past shame and self-loathing to a person that wants to create serenity and value in not only her life, but those of her family, society, and the world.


Community Outreach

Through our Outreach Program, Erin Gruwell and the original Freedom Writers provide powerful presentations for students, educators, and other professionals. Our speakers engage various audiences with personal stories of overcoming adversity and inspire others to create their own path to success.


Freedom Writers

Freedom Writers conduct compelling presentations about their experiences in Erin Gruwell’s classroom and beyond. Freedom Writers are Toastmasters-trained speakers who galvanize every kind of audience.



Freedom Writers

The Freedom Writers seek to motivate young people to make positive choices and encourage adults working with youth to help students take part in their own education. Throughout the year, Freedom Writers share their stories at schools worldwide with in-person presentations and video chats.


With 150 unique stories of how education and writing helped them flourish, the Freedom Writers can reach any group looking for motivation. From corporations to non-profits, local or international peoples, the Freedom Writers message of perseverance inspires everyone to triumph over seemingly insurmountable odds.



Erin gruwell leads empowering events and video chats for students, educators, business people, leaders and community members about the Freedom Writers Methodology and her inspiring stories with Freedom Writers.


Inspire your students through a capstone event to your Freedom Writers unit of study.Make your student's education come alive when they interact with Erin Gruwell.


Gruwell has worked as an adjunct instructor at California state Long Beach and she has deep partnerships and frequent collaborations with university of California Irvine,Bay Path college,Claremont Colleges and others.Gruwell's experiences are invaluable to teacher preparation programs,staff developments and student learning.


Your search for an inspiring and motivating way to reach your faculty ends here.One of Gruwell's primary focuses in the past decade has been educator professional development.Through Gruwell's unique approach to professional development,your staff will gain useful strategies for dealing with all students, but most importantly, they we relearn what it is like to be student.


The Freedom Writers Methodology and Gruwell's inspiring experiences have proven to be highly effective in fields outside of education. Gruwells frequently speaks at corporate events,leadership training, and community meetings.Gruwell has worked with the Girl's Scout of America,Coinstar,Franklin Covey,San Diego Hospital and the International forum for child welfare.Her approach to leadership and management is applicable in all contexts and profoundlyimpacts professionals in all industries.


Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell leads empowering events and video chats to help classrooms, communities, and professional environments create cultures of acceptance and inclusion.

Erin Gruwell

Erin Gruwell is a world-renowned educator who has worked with diverse student and teacher populations. Her distinctive approach to the classroom continues to inspire the schools she is fortunate enough to speak to. Educational presentations with Gruwell promote atmospheres of open and effective learning.


The Freedom Writers Methodology is proven to be highly effective in fields outside of education. Gruwell frequently speaks at corporate events, leadership trainings, and community meetings. She has worked with organizations like the Girl Scouts of America, TED, and the International Forum for Child Welfare. Her approach to leadership and management is applicable to all group settings and improves working experiences for every individual.


Freedom Writer Teachers Institute

The Freedom Writer Teachers Institute is a five-day training program led by Erin Gruwell and the Foundation staff in Long Beach, CA. The Institute is designed as professional development to train and support educators of at-risk and vulnerable students and has the long term strategy of retaining dedicated teachers.

During the Institute, educators participate in and learn a pedagogical framework (Freedom Writers Methodology) through which they can engage students in the learning process, enlighten them intellectually, and empower them to achieve academic and civic success.



Freedom Writers Teachers



Educational professionals (classroom teachers, school administrators, superintendents, coaches, and counselors), social workers and other community leaders (policy makers, directors of foundations, and school board members) who can benefit from the training may apply to the institute. 25-30 educators participate in each session.


To apply, educators must fill out our application, providing information regarding their students, school/organization, and teaching experience. Each applicant is reviewed by our Foundation’s Selection Committee and carefully selected so that each session is diversified by region, teaching level, and experience. To receive an application, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The 2017 Freedom Writer Teacher Institute sessions will be held on June 23-27, 2017 and July 28-August 1, 2017.


If you are interested in attending an Institute, please fill out the application DOWNLOAD APPLICATION and send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Our program fee of $5,000 per educator includes: 5 days of workshops led by Erin Gruwell, curriculum, hotel, meals, and year-round support as a Freedom Writer Teacher. Title 1 funding, professional development budgets, or education grants can be allocated for our training.


If you are interested in sponsoring an educator’s program fees to attend, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You can support this program by sponsoring an individual educator or co-sponsoring an entire institute.


Freedom Writer Teachers

Freedom Writers Teachers

Educators who attend our week-long institute program receive a certificate of completion and the title of Freedom Writer Teacher. Institute participants are also eligible to receive graduate credits through our partnership with Bay Path University.

Freedom Writer Teachers return to their jobs with greater career satisfaction, higher student success rates, lower student dropout rates, and a stronger commitment to teaching and learning. Our program cultivates rejuvenation and hope within educators and changes the current culture of compliance to a culture of commitment and caring in the classroom. A teacher shared with us, “The Freedom Writer Teachers Institute transformed my teaching… this program is a life-changing gift, both for teachers and students.”

Freedom Writer Teachers become part of our esteemed international network of education professionals. Our Foundation provides them with ongoing professional development opportunities and support throughout the school year, including the Empowerment Symposium. We have worked collaboratively with communities across the nation (such as Omaha, NE, Springfield, MA, Westmoreland, NY and Los Angeles, CA) to incorporate our teaching methodology across their districts to evoke system changes. Freedom Writer Teachers have been awarded prestigious teaching awards, have become published authors, and are change-makers in their respective communities.


Transformative Curriculum

The Freedom Writers Foundation has created several volumes of curriculum designed to be used with the Freedom Writers Methodology. All of our curricula contains activities that are aligned with national standards. Our material facilitates a transformative process for how students approach life and school.


The Freedom Writers Diary and More

Erin Gruwell was confronted with a room of high school freshman students labeled “unteachable.” Four years later, these same students were graduating and publishing their stories of overcoming adversity in The Freedom Writers Diary.

With powerful, first-hand accounts from students struggling in the streets of Long Beach, The Freedom Writers Diary is an unforgettable example for teens of how hard work, courage, and determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students.

To date, The Freedom Writers Diary has become popular in classrooms, sold more than one million copies, and has been translated in over a dozen languages.



The Freedom Writers Diary Teacher’s Guide is a class supplement that shares Erin Gruwell and the Freedom Writer Teacher’s standard-based, educational strategies and techniques for shifting a classroom into a space for students to grow.


Teaching Hope mirrors The Freedom Writers Diary by providing 150 Freedom Writer Teachers with a space to share stories from their classrooms. Their personal experiences give insight into the struggles and triumphs of being an educator. Released in 2009, Teaching Hope went straight to The New York Times’ Best Seller’s List.


With over one million copies sold, The Freedom Writers Diary caught the attention of Hollywood. Paramount Pictures worked closely with Erin and the Freedom Writers to adapt a script from the successful book. The feature film, Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank hit theaters in 2008. The movie has gone on to inspire countless students and encourage education advocates to become teachers.


Teach With Your Heart, Erin Gruwell's personal memoir, takes a deeper look into the educator who changed the lives of 150 at-risk teens. Her book chronicles her years with the Freedom Writers and surpasses The Freedom Writers Diary and the film Freedom Writers to share what Gruwell and her students are up to today.


Scholastic’s On The Record


Erin Gruwell, the Freedom Writers, and Freedom Writer Teachers are proud to have partnered with Scholastic for their On The Record series. On The Record is an innovative reading and writing program based on the Freedom Writers Methodology. The program melds memoir and academic writing in a comprehensive, Common Core aligned curriculum sure to engage students with its gritty and relevant content.


About The Scholarship Program

The Freedom Writers Foundation awards scholarships each year to first-generation high school seniors and college students who have demonstrated remarkable academic promise despite considerable odds. Freedom Writer Scholars have overcome adversities such as homelessness, inner-city crime, poverty, abuse, and broken homes in order to pursue a college education and achieve success in life. Our scholars are the first in their family to pursue and receive a college education. As of 2015, we are proud to have awarded 100 scholarships.

What is special about our program is that we do not just provide our scholars with a tuition stipend - they become part of our Freedom Writers Foundation network/family. We provide ongoing support, mentorship, and encouragement throughout their college career.

We offer our scholars the opportunity to intern at the Freedom Writers Foundation. For our internship program, we're affiliated with local universities in California, including: University of California, Irvine, University of California, Davis, California State University, Long Beach, and Chapman University.


Donate to the Scholarship Fund

It is our goal to provide students with the same support and advocacy the Freedom Writers received. The scholarship program helps us recognize the stellar achievements of students who have gone to great lengths to make their education a priority.

Donate to the scholarship fund today to show these students that their efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Mail a check to:
Freedom Writers Foundation, c/o Scholarship, PO Box 41505, Long Beach, CA 90853