The Freedom Writers

special edition– Audrey Bernier and Tanya Soucy

The Freedom Writers are a group of people with an interesting story to tell. These people went to school in Long Beach in California. They were surrounded by racial tensions and gang violence. They hated school and they were considered “un-teachable”. They got a new English teacher called Miss Gruwell, and when she arrived it all changed. Miss Gruwell helped these kids when no one else did, she gave them hope. Miss Gruwell was always there for the students, and even saw them graduate. They succeeded because Miss Gruwell believed that they could make it, when no one else did. Today, Miss Gruwell and the Freedom Writers share their story all around the world.

Darrius reads to the Secondary 1-2 English students. Photo: Brett Mitchell

Darrius reads to the Secondary 1-2 English students.
Photo: Brett Mitchell

Why are they called the Freedom Writers?
Miss Gruwell showed the students a documentary called “Eyes on the Prize” during their English class. The documentary was about a group called the Freedom Riders who rode buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 as part of the civil rights movement. The students wanted to send a message that was similar to that of the Freedom Riders, who fought against segregation, making the world a better place. The students expressed themselves by writing in their diaries, so they decided to call themselves the Freedom Writers!

About Darrius Garrett
Darrius Garrett is one of the original Freedom Writers. Darrius was a gang member, and when he was 14 years old, his mom kicked him out because of this. Darrius became homeless. Before the Freedom Writers and Miss Gruwell, Darrius wanted to be like his father and his brother, respected on the streets. But after meeting Miss Gruwell, reading about Anne Frank, and writing in his diary, he decided that what he wanted most was to make his mother proud. Miss Gruwell helped him take charge of his life, and even if he was the last to graduate from his class, she was still there by his side.

Today, Darrius has three beautiful daughters and a wife. He visits schools, universities, churches and other groups to share his story. He travels around the world to communicate his message of hope and his definition of success, because he thinks that it is important. “There is good in sharing hope with others, promoting tolerance throughout the world and enjoying each day. When I die, I want the world to know my name as someone that helped people change, by first changing himself then the world around him.”

Darrius is now on an Eastern Québec book and speaking tour, to share his story with English-speaking students throughout Eastern Shores School Board. Darrius visited Metis Beach School on March 27th and 28th. He met with students of several classes in both elementary and high school during these two days, and took the time to get to know students, discuss with them and get his message across. Besides reading Dr. Seuss with the kindergarten, chatting about bullying with grades 3-4 and talking about teen issues with the secondary, Darrius also got to enjoy a pickup-hockey game at recess. On March 27th in the evening, the Metis community had the opportunity to hear and meet Darrius at the local public library.

Darrius Garrett with Grade five and six students (l-r): Nicholas Belanger, Jessica Bernier, Darrius Garret, Matis Lapointe, Alissa Turriff, Cindy Lavoie Photo: Brett Mitchell

Darrius Garrett with Grade five and six students (l-r): Nicholas Belanger, Jessica Bernier, Darrius Garret, Matis Lapointe, Alissa Turriff, Cindy Lavoie
Photo: Brett Mitchell

His visit was greatly appreciated by the students of Metis Beach School and all the community members who met him: “It was an amazing experience that we won’t forget, we were happy to have one of the original Freedom Writers to come into our classes and have the time to explore in more detail one man’s message of hope.”

Why is it important to share their story?
It is important to share the story of the Freedom Writers because it is inspirational for all that hear it. The Freedom Writers help people understand that even if life is hard, they can still make it through and grow from their experiences, helping others around them do the same. This group of young people went through so many hardships and yet they still managed to change things around them, to make their lives better.

It is also important to share Darrius’s story because it can stop people from feeling discouraged and can give them hope, just like Miss Gruwell did for the Freedom Writers. His message of hope is universal and the way he simply states: “being successful is not how much money you make or the career you have had, but how people will remember you, who you have helped and how you made a difference in their lives,” has the power to change how people see their problems.

About Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence

We mobilize people and resources to support the vitality of the English-speaking community of the region, foster the well-being of all its members and promote its interests.
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