All event proceeds from the evening support Olive Tree Initiative student travel in the OTI model of experiential education.
about the speaker:
A proud Anteater, Erin Gruwell credits her experience as a UCI undergrad as the catalyst for a career of championing educational equity. Erin's time at UCI was followed by four years of teaching a tightly-knit English class of 150 students from a wide variety of cultural, racial, economic, and religious backgrounds, an experience that inspired her to develop an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity and inclusion.
This vision led Erin and her students to study the literature and history of the Holocaust, particularly The Diary of Anne Frank, and to meet personally with Miep Gies, the woman who hid the Frank family in the secret annex. These lessons and experiences inspired the students to keep diaries of their own that recorded their own experiences with discrimination and violence and ensured that their voices would be heard as well. Naming themselves the "Freedom Writers" in honor of the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement, the class of Room 203 became active in advocating for equality in education. After sending a delegation to Washington, D.C., to give their diary entries to the U.S. Secretary of Education in person, the Freedom Writers published a collection of their stories in the New York Times Best-Seller The Freedom Writers Diary, which was later adapted into the 2007 feature film "Freedom Writers" starring Hilary Swank. Following their high school graduation, the Freedom Writers sent a peace delegation to Europe, where they visited the Anne Frank Museum and Auschwitz and partnered with the Anne Frank House to help to further their shared messages of social justice and youth activism.
Gruwell has furthered her advocacy for education through the non-profit Freedom Writers Foundation, which provides teacher training and curricula, offers scholarships to first generation students, and continues to tell the Freedom Writers' inspiring and crucially relevant story to a global audience. The foundation additionally offers UCI students internships and job opportunities as a means of giving back to Gruwell's fellow Anteaters. The Freedom Writers have earned numerous awards and accolades for their achievements, including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award, and have published three other books about teaching: The Freedom Writers Diary Teachers' Guide, Teach With Your Heart, and Teaching Hope: Stories from the Freedom Writers Teachers.
Copies of Gruwell's four books will be available for purchase and signing at the gala.
about the Olive Tree Initiative:
The Olive Tree Initiative began in the Spring of 2007 at UC Irvine as a grassroots student and faculty initiative. The group ventured into the Middle East in 2008 with their inaugural trip to Israel and the West Bank. Since then, the group has expanded nationally and internationally; developing its academic foundation and becoming one of the world's premier training ground for international conflict analysis and resolution.