July 4, 2023: USDLA News — 2 Week Countdown to the National Conference!

USDLA 2023 National Conference is less than 2 weeks away: July 17-20

Happy July 4 USDLA friends! We are thrilled to introduce you to this month’s guest on the Distance Learning Roundtable: Teacher, Author, and Freedom Writers Foundation Founder Erin Gruwell.

On Tuesday, July 18, Erin and Waldorf University’s Dr. Freda Braddock will be hosting a special workshop at the USDLA National Conference from 1:30-4 pm. Immediately after, Erin will be hosting a Cookies and Coffee session where we can all gather for an informal conversation with the woman who has changed the lives of countless students.

Scroll down to learn more about Erin, her two groundbreaking books, and the film about her life starring Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank.

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We’ll see you soon! — The USDLA Communications team


Tuesday, July 18, 1:30-4pm: Meet ​Freedom Writers Founder Erin Gruwell

About Erin: Freedom Writers Founder Erin Gruwell is a teacher, author, and activist fighting for social justice for more than two decades.

Erin first gained national attention in 1998 when she and her 150 students appeared on an ABC special–PrimeTime Live–with Connie Chung. Erin’s students – affectionately called the Freedom Writers – came from backgrounds of poverty, gangs, and violence, and many were at risk of dropping out of school due to the school-to-prison pipeline. But, under Erin’s guidance, all 150 Freedom Writers graduated from high school and pursued higher education.

In 1999, she and the Freedom Writers published their book, The Freedom Writers Diary, which detailed their unique journey from hardship to hope (scroll down for details).

The book became a #1 New York Times bestseller and was adapted into a major motion picture, Freedom Writers, starring two-time Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank as Erin. The film brought Erin’s work to an even wider audience, and she has since used her platform to continue her fight for equity and inclusion with her non-profit, the Freedom Writers Foundation.

Erin’s work has been recognized with several humanitarian awards, including the prestigious Spirit of Anne Frank Award. Erin and the Freedom Writers have appeared on multiple television shows to promote educational reform, including Oprah, The View, Good Morning America, and NBC’s TODAY. They have also been featured on National Public Radio, numerous newspapers, and national magazines, such as People. In 2019, Erin and the Freedom Writers were the subjects of the Emmy Award-winning PBS documentary Freedom Writers: Stories from the Heart. Erin also hosts The Freedom Writers Podcast with guests who are authors, activists, and civil rights icons.

Click here to listen to our podcast on DistanceLearningRoundtable.com. Watch the video interview on DistanceLearningRoundtable.tv


Dear Freedom Writer: Stories of Hardship and Hope from the Next Generation

About the book: “Today’s students tell their stories of adversity and growth in letters to the original Freedom Writers—authors of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Freedom Writers Diary—who write supportive and powerful letters in response,” explains Erin.

In 1994, she was a first-year high school teacher in Long Beach, California. “My students were labeled ‘unteachable,’ but I saw past that. Instead of treating them as scores on a test, I knew each had a unique story to tell.”

Inspired by books like Anne Frank’s Diary, Erin’s students began writing their own diaries, eventually dubbing themselves the Freedom Writers. Together, they co-authored The Freedom Writers Diary, which launched a movement that remains incredibly relevant and impactful today. Their stories speak to young people who feel those around them do not care about their lives, feelings, and struggles. They want to be heard; they want to be seen.

In Dear Freedom Writer, the next generation of Freedom Writers shares its struggles with abuse, racism, discrimination, poverty, mental health, imposed borders, LGBTQIA+ identity, and police violence. Each story is answered with a letter of advice from an original Freedom Writer. With empathy and honesty, they address these young people not with the platitudes of a politician or a celebrity but with the pragmatic advice of people who have dealt with these same issues and come out on the other side. Through its eye-opening and inspiring stories, Dear Freedom Writer paints an unflinchingly honest portrait of today’s youth and offers a powerful message of perseverance, understanding, and hope.

Click here to buy the book!