Award-winning education activist and founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation Erin Gruwell will deliver the keynote address at the 23rd Annual Leonardo Dorantes Memorial Lecture at Santa Barbara City College on Wednesday, November 6. The event, which focuses each year on diversity and equality, will be held from 12:45 to 2:05 p.m. at SBCC’s Garvin Theatre on West Campus. A reception will follow the presentation. Both are free and open to the community.

Ms. Gruwell is best-known for creating Freedom Writer Methods, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula valuing diversity that is designed to achieve excellence from all students. By encouraging her students to re-think their beliefs about themselves and others and re-consider their daily decisions, she transformed their lives from potential paths of teenage pregnancy, drugs and violence to ones of college students, published writers and catalysts for change.

At Wilson High School, Ms. Gruwell and her 150 students, who were written off by the education system, told their collective stories in the book Freedom Writers Diary, the name selected in recognition of the civil right activists the Freedom Riders. In 2007 Paramount Pictures turned the New York Times’ bestseller into a major motion picture starring Hilary Swank.*

After publishing Teach with Your Heart, a personal memoir and call to arms, Ms. Gruwell decided to broaden her educational teaching from the classroom to a wider audience. She founded the Freedom Writers Foundation and currently teaches teachers across the country how to implement her lessons into their own classrooms. Recently she published her teaching methods into the Freedom Writers Diary Teachers’ Guide. Proceeds from the sales of all her books directly fund the Freedom Writers’ Foundation.

Ms. Gruwell and her students have been interviewed by numerous national television programs and their story have earned them dozens of awards including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award

She is a graduate of the University of California, Irvine and earned her master’s degree and teaching credentials from California State University Long Beach.

The Dorantes lecture series at Santa Barbara City College was established in honor of Leonardo Dorantes, a SBCC second-year student and Mexican immigrant, who was tragically killed in 1990 in an assault with strong racial overtones. Started in 1991 by SBCC and the SBCC Foundation, the series was designed to heighten the awareness and understanding of racial and ethnic differences and shared commonalities in Santa Barbara.


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