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Freedom Writers, Keller version

 


I had the privilege of going to Keller last week to see one of my heroes. Yes, one of my heroes was in Keller; her name is Erin Gruwell and she is the teacher the movie “Freedom Writers” is based upon. As I sat there in Keller school and listened to how she got there and her story, I quickly realized that this all was not about her. It was about the students of Mrs. Clark, a teacher in the Keller School District.

In a very cool turn of events and much like in the movie this little class in Keller, Washington wrote a letter to Mrs. Gruwell and asked her to come visit them. The letters moved Erin so much that she could not say no, thus causing a whirlwind of fundraisers and preparation in the town of Keller. It came together flawlessly; the school looked like they had prepared for this event many months in advance, when in reality they had about one.

As Erin spoke, it became apparent that that day was not a celebration about her and her accomplishments. It was about students like Eli Katich, the short young man with the big black cowboy hat, and students like Inorah Phifer and her giant, ever-present smile. The stories about these kids and all the hard work they put in to this celebration, which was what this day was about. Erin Gruwell was just icing on a delicious homemade rhubarb cake.

The night, dubbed “Being a Catalyst for Change” was a celebration of Keller. It was about people and students having a voice. Being able to express to others about their importance in our lives and their own; to be strong enough to stand and request what your needs and desires are. To give back to those who have given so much to you. When the class video played, the eyes at my table all misted over. Must have been an allergy flare up.

But the end was what impacted me most. A simple toast. A toast for change. We all toasted together that we would be the catalyst for change, and then we wrote a vow or a promise that was hung in the walls of Keller school. So students like MaryJayn LaPlante, Haileigh Peone and Cody Abrahamson can see those vows every day and know there are others out there pulling for them and willing to hear them.

So I challenge you all. Take a chance like these students of Keller did. Dream big. Chase your star and make a difference in others’ lives. Don’t be afraid to work hard for what you want most. Someday a Freedom Writer might just visit your hometown to meet you.

On a side note: Congratulations Karrie Utz, I could not be prouder. I’m Jess Saying.

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