Two former students involved in the original “Freedom Writers” diary project that served as the basis for a Hollywood movie by the same name will give a presentation as part of the Uniting Neighbors in the Experience of Diversity (UNITED) Conference at Northern Michigan University. The Freedom Writers presentation is scheduled at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28. Admission is free to NMU students and $2 for the general public. A movement was born with a teacher’s simple notion: inspire young, underprivileged students to pick up pens instead of guns.Erin Gruwell gave some “unteachable” inner-city kids at a Los Angeles school their own voice by having them journal their experiences, emotions, challenges and triumphs. They also discovered how writing helped Anne Frank cope with her situation hiding from the Nazis. The students called themselves the Freedom Writers after learning about the Freedom Riders who fought against segregation during the Civil Rights Movement. They had no idea that their entries would one day be collected and published in a book, The Freedom Writers Diary. Guest speaker Sharaud Moore was born to a 16-year-old homeless single mother. By the time he was 13, he had been to 14 different schools. He lived out of a car. Moore joined a gang in the eighth grade because he felt the need for protection. He is now an algebra teacher and coach at one of the schools he was once expelled from. Maria Reyes was born in East Los Angeles and comes from a family with strong gang heritage—both her father and grandfather were gang members. When she turned 11, she was “jumped” into a gang, making her a third-generation gang member. Reyes was in and out of juvenile detention centers for the better part of her teenage years. Reading the Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank marked a turning point, as she found herself in the page of a book for the first time ever. She now travels across country speaking to educators, at-risk youth, and community leaders about the power of education and the need to give students a second chance. The UNITED conference runs Sunday, Sept. 27 through Thursday, Oct. 1. The public is invited. For a full and updated schedule, visit www.nmu.edu/united.
September 16, 2009