Erin Gruwell will once again grace the UCCU Center to speak at UVU’s 71st Commencement Ceremony on April 26 at 6:30 p.m. Graduates and members of the community will recognize Gruwell as the author of “The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them,” the book that spawned the movie “Freedom Writers,” starring Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey.
An Honorary Degree recipient of UVU, the 42-year-old Gruwell is a teacher known for her eccentric teaching methods used to inspire low-performing students in California high schools. Gruwell is particularly known for encouraging her students to keep journals, which she eventually used as the basis for her “Freedom Writers Diary” nonfiction book.
Commencement speakers are historically chosen by UVU’s Board of Trustees, comprised of local community leaders as well as the current president and student body president of UVU. Current Student Body President Christopher Loumeau was out of town late last year when the Board decided to meet, so Vice President of Academics David Millet represented the student body in Loumeau’s absence.
Vice President of Clubs and Organizations Sarah Roseborough also attended the meeting to lend a female presence to the student body’s representation upon Loumeau’s insistence.
“[Loumeau] really wanted to make sure the student body was heard,” Roseborough said.
The Trustees suggested lesser-known local potential speakers, while Millet and Roseborough countered with celebrity personas, such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Gladys Knight. Local speakers were quickly dismissed due to a lack of student familiarity, while the latter were “etched out” because of the expense to bring them to UVU, Roseborough said. Roseborough noted that the Board attempts to lure potential speakers for free, paying only for their travel and lodging expenses.
Gruwell was decided upon because of her popularity speaking to a previous UVU graduation class.
“We [the Board] felt like it might be to our benefit to bring her back, because a lot of students were upset that they missed her [last time],” Roseborough noted.
Gruwell is sure to inspire students with her experiences overcoming teaching trials.
“She has an awesome story behind her,” Roseborough said.