On Erin Gruwell’s first day as a high school English teacher, she faced a classroom of 150 “at risk” freshmen. Most of these kids, statistically, were going to fail. They were tough, their young lives already defined by poverty, gangs, violence and low expectations. These students, she wrote, knew nearly every “four-letter word” except one: hope.
Yet four years later, every one of her “at risk” students at Wilson High School in Long Beach, CA, had graduated from high school. More than half went on to graduate from college. The stories written by Gruwell’s students were published as a book called “The Freedom Writers Diary”. It became a New York Times bestseller and in 2007 was made into a major motion picture called “Freedom Writers” starring Hilary Swank.
Gruwell taught English but also taught them an