Contact: Wendy Milette FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ERIN GRUWELL WINS MY HERO’S 2015 GLOBAL EDUCATOR AWARD
SANTA MONICA, CA – 11/25/15 – Erin Gruwell believes the most important thing a teacher can do is to give students a voice. The documentary “Freedom Writers: Stories From an Undeclared War” tells the story of Gruwell’s efforts to do just that. This month, The MY HERO Project presented the 2015 Global Educator Award to Gruwell at its 20th Anniversary Multimedia Festival.
“The power of one teacher to make an impact is truly inspiring,” said MY HERO Co-founder and Director Jeanne Meyers. “Erin is a model of compassion and commitment to raising the bar for underserved, and all students, by encouraging self expression and communication skills that will last them their lifetime.”
The U.S. State Department recently translated “Freedom Writers: Stories From an Undeclared War
” into Hebrew and Arabic. Soon, Gruwell will travel to the Middle East to teach 25 lessons on tolerance and acceptance to young Palestinians and Israelis.
“I’m going to use my students’ stories as a backdrop,” said Gruwell. “Hopefully, each and every young person who was taught to hate can learn from a teacher the power of acceptance and inclusion and love.”
For 20 years Gruwell has helped young people see that there’s a lot of common ground between religions, ethnicities and even nations. In 1994, she was fresh out of college and eager put her new skills to use as an English teacher. She walked into her first classroom, hoping to educate and inspire her students in Long Beach, California. What she found were students preoccupied by their lives outside the classroom; lives dominated by extreme poverty, violence, intolerance and drug abuse.
|Erin Gruwell - MY HERO's 2015 Global Educator Award Winner|
“I walked into classroom 203 in Long Beach, on the heels of the Los Angeles riots. I had a hundred and fifty kids who didn’t believe they would last a day, a week or a month,” said Gruwell, as she accepted her MY HERO award. “At the age of 14, my students thought they would drop out of school and be statistics. They’d be, like their father, behind bars. They believed they’d be six feet under like that friend, like that cousin like that neighbor.”
Gruwell wanted to draw parallels between the students’ lives and the struggles of others. After reading “Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl” and “Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo,” the students started journals of their own, calling themselves the “Freedom Writers.”
Their stories were published in “The Freedom Writers Diary,” a New York Times bestseller that has been translated for readers around the world. They inspired the 2007 feature film, “Freedom Writers”, with Hilary Swank portraying Gruwell.
For the past 17 years, Gruwell and her team have documented their remarkable journey. “Freedom Writers: Stories From an Undeclared War (2015),” is the result of their efforts. Directed by Daniel Anker, the film premiered at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival and won the Audience Award at the Austin Film Festival.
Gruwell’s students were first generation high school graduates and many earned college degrees. Oscar Carrera, one of Gruwell’s former Long Beach students, went on to become Principal at an elementary school in Bell Gardens, CA, and works as an educational consultant in Las Vegas, Nevada, introducing Freedom Writers methodology to a new group of teachers and students.
Through her outreach, educational program and training institute, Gruwell has shared her gifts of teaching, hope and inspiration with educators around the world.