In 2007, Paramount released the film Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank and based on the story of Erin Gruwell, a teacher at Wilson High School in Long Beach, California.
Gruwell inspired her 150 students with the hope to succeed when everyone else doubted their potential. Gruwell wrote of her experiences in her book The Freedom Writers Diary, from which the film was adapted.
On Oct. 26, the student body had the privilege of hearing from Gruwell. During the lecture, many of the meaningful messages she shared brought inspiration to the students listening.
As the audience listened to Gruwell tell her students’ story, there was an overwhelming sense of encouragement and inspiration among the students. There were many lessons to take away from her speech, but there was also an undeniable, comprehensive message relevant to everyone listening.
“You may just be one person in the world,” Gruwell said, “but the world to one person.”
It is because of that positivity that UVUSA chose to invite Gruwell to speak for the students’ benefit.
“She was important because of our diversity on campus,” said UVUSA Coordinator Daniel Diaz. “She was so great at inspiring her students. We wanted her to inspire our students to be successful as well.”
Not only is it evident that Gruwell’s success made a difference in her students’ lives, but sharing her story inspires educators as well. With her example as an educator who went the extra mile, who made the difference in the world that she had, she inspires others to be more like her.
Junior Lindsay Farnworth, an Elementary Education major, said, “This was really inspiring because I’m going into the field of education. It’s amazing how big of a difference you can make in the life of so many people.”
It would be an understatement to say that the students who attended are grateful for Gruwell’s story and inspiration. Students who heard her story cannot deny feeling empowered and inspired to make a difference in the world and be that one person who affects the lives of many more.
“This speech was really cool,” said freshman Landon Egan, a Visual Communications major. “I’ve seen the movie and love it. The most amazing thing to know is it actually happened. It’s really motivating.”
Hopefully, we can all aspire to keep our heads up and for those who attended the speech, keep her message in our hearts and know there’s always hope. Gruwell’s words and work are our reminder of that.