Freedom Writers

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Photo Credit: Matty Stern

Visit to CET- Center for Education Technology, Tel Aviv

In 1994 Erin Gruwell was accepted to teach  at Woodrow Wilson High School. The school was a highly acclaimed school until voluntary integration had been enforced. Erin struggled to create a relationship with her students and to get them to get along since the students at Wilson only stayed within people of their same race. One night one of her Latina students, Eva Benitez, went to a liquor store and got out of the car to get snacks leaving her two friends and boyfriend Paco in the car. While in the store Eva’s classmate Sindy Ngro was also there with her friends and boyfriend, while an African American student, Grant Rice, was also there. As Grant was out of the store Paco notices him and is bothered about losing a fight with him at school so Paco aims to shoot Grant but misses and shoots Sindy’s boyfriend. Grant runs away and is later arrested for homicide and Eva has to testify as she must “protect her own.”

On the next day of school Erin notices the racism as one of her Latino students makes a racial drawing about another student of a different race. Erin explained that the drawing was like the ones from the Holocaust and none of her students knew what that was except for one white student in her class. Erin starts to gain the trust of her students as she buys them new school materials because she understands that they don’t treat their school supplies well because the students know that they get cheap supplies because they are not trusted. She gets them all new books that they can write in like a diary and express how they feel. Erin treats her students really well by getting them new supplies and taking them on field trips she paid for. Erin took her students to the Anne Frank museum and to talk to real Holocaust survivors and they were touched by the stories. The following year Erin teaches her students as sophomores.  While in class one of her students had the idea to bring Miep Gies  to come speak to the class. The students form dances and food stands to earn money to bring Miep to the United States. Miep comes to their class and tells the story of how it was to hide Anne and her family. One of the students tells Miep that he has never had a hero to look up to until he knew about Miep. She explains to the students that she doesn’t consider herself a hero and she was doing what she could to help. Miep told all the students that they are heroes in their own special way. Both events inspire Eva to tell the truth about what happened the day Paco shot and killed Sindy’s boyfriend going against the demand of her father and betraying “her people.” That day at school Erin asks her students to write their diaries in story form to create a book that tells their story and she later names it “The Freedom Writers Diary.”