The Freedom Writers Diary Characters

Erin Gruwell


Erin Gruwell is a graduate of the University of California at Irvine where she received several awards as an undergraduate. She received her master's at California State University, Long Beach where she has been honored as a Distinguished Alumna by the School of Education. As a student teacher, Gruwell found herself questioning the status quo of the education system. She could not understand why her colleagues were not more supportive of her efforts to reach at-risk students. Fortunately, those outside of the system saw merit in what she was doing and Gruwell found benefactors who were willing to not only support her efforts but also to fund them. Barely able to make ends meet on her own financially, in addition to the countless hours Gruwell spent at school and her tireless dedication to her students' success, Gruwell took two part-time jobs: one as a concierge at a local Marriott and another as a salesperson at Nordstrom's. Gruwell's marriage also eventually succumbed to her busy schedule and dedication to teaching. Gruwell traveled with the Freedom Writers to Washington D.C., New York City, Auschwitz, the Anne Frank House, and many other significant places around the globe.

Today, Erin Gruwell is the president of the Freedom Writers Foundation. She travels nationwide to share her methodology with other teachers. She served as a professor at Cal State Long Beach and even ran for Congress in 2000. Gruwell is the recipient of many awards, including the What's Right With Southern California Award, the American Jewish Committee Micah Award, the Justice Gene Lentzer Human Relations Award, and the Junior Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Educator Award for the State of California.

Zlata Filipovic started keeping a diary in the fall of 1991 at the age of 11. Her diary reveals that she was concerned with many of the same things that pre-teens of her day were interested in: boys, fashion, and MTV. However, what made her diary notable was that she was living in war-torn Bosnia where she and her family faced food shortages, bombings, and tremendous fear. Zlata loses friends and loved...

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