Famous writer headed to parish

April 09, 2008 at 4:30 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The St. Charles Parish School System is showing their appreciation for their employees in a big way by bringing in Erin Gruwell, who was portrayed in the movie “Freedom Writers,” as a guest speaker.

Gruwell has appeared on “Oprah,” “The Rosie O'Donnell Show,” “The View” and “Good Morning America,” among others, and rose to fame after a 2007 movie was based upon her book The Freedom Writers Diary.

In the book Gruwell, who graduated from the University of California, Irvine, details her experience after getting assigned to the lowest-performing students class at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, Calif. in 1994.

While teaching that class, Gruwell had a student she referred to as "Sharaud" that seemed determine to make her life miserable and had transferred to the school after allegedly threatening his previous teacher with a gun. A few months into the school year, Gruwell intercepted a note that depicted Sharaud, who is an African American, with extremely large lips.

Gruwell was infuriated and told the class that that was similar to tactics the Nazis had used during the Holocaust. Because only one of her students even knew what the Holocaust was, Gruwell took the students to see the Steven Spielberg film “Schindler's List,” bought new books for them using her own money and invited guest speakers.

By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she transformed her student's lives. With her support, the students became critical thinkers, aspiring college students and citizens for change. They even dubbed themselves the "Freedom Writers" and published a book.

Gruwell and her students then started a foundation to positively impact communities by decreasing high school drop out rates through the replication and enhancement of the Freedom Writers Method. Now, the Freedom Writers Foundation uses these innovative teaching methods to train teachers, in addition to providing scholarships for deserving students.

The Employee Appreciation Event will begin at 5 p.m. on April 10, with a speech from Gruwell from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. There will then be a book signing and prizes.

Jambalaya and appetizers will also be served.

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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