Office of the Chancellor

Keynote Speaker

Keynote Speaker

Erin Gruwell '91, Freedom Writers Foundation

Erin Gruwell

In 1994, Erin Gruwell began teaching at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. Like many first year teachers, Erin was assigned the unmotivated, unnoticed and “unteachable” students. Erin strongly believed that education could overcome even the worst kinds of adversity and was determined that her 150 “at-risk” students should receive the same opportunities as everyone else. Four years later all 150 students, dubbed the Freedom Writers, graduated from high school. Her story inspired the film, The Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank and Patrick Dempsey. Gruwell earned her bachelor's degree from UCI in 1991 and was honored with a UCI Alumni Lauds & Laurels Distinguished Alumni Award in 1998 for her inspiring, educational activism. She is currently an active board member of the UCI Alumni Association.