21 Ways: (4) Freedom Writers Foundation

Last year, I cut back on the stuff I gave for Christmas. While my younger siblings still got books, other family members got gift certificates to various charities in lieu of gifts. Thus, this. Each day from here to 2010, I’ll be posting one charity, NGO or non-profit I can get behind in the spirit of giving.

I’ve been connected with the Freedom Writers Foundation in some way or another for almost 4 years now.

I met Erin Gruwell when she came to speak at our Back-to-School keynote in SRQ. Afterward, we welcomed Erin and Freedom Writer Sonia to our school for a lunch reception. We talked for maybe five minutes, and that was it. A year later, Erin e-mailed me and asked me to fly out to Long Beach, CA as part of a pilot program the Foundation was working on to educate and connect teachers across the country.

I went.

An organization created to collect and award scholarships from the sales of The Freedom Writers Diary, the FWF expanded a few years ago to train and connect educators.

Eventually, I got to work with the Foundation during the summer to help with successive groups of teachers going through the program. Being able to participate and watch from the outside has given me a unique perspective. No matter what criticisms are lobbed, the Freedom Writers Institute is amazing. Solely through donations, teachers are flown to Long Beach, CA for 5 days of training, all expenses paid. I don’t have to explain how rare this kind of generosity in PD is for teachers.

With educators (it’s not just classroom teachers) from every state, several Canadian provinces and a couple territories, the program has connected me in a close-knit way to 200+ people working to help kids learn in every environment imaginable.

While I’m fortunate enough to work with a faculty at SLA who are tremendously supportive and collaborative, not all of the FWT have the same luck. Through the implementation of MOODLE, the FWF maintains a networking, resource-sharing tool that keeps the FWT connected.

The Freedom Writers Institute connected me to veteran and navice educators from all over North America.

Like many non-profit organizations, the FWF has been hit hard economically. The skeleton crew that keeps it going are working fairly creatively to pull together the funds necessary to continue helping teachers.

If you’re interested in helping, buy The Freedom Writers Diary by The Freedom Writers or Teaching Hope by The Freedom Writer Teachers (including me) and gift it. If you’re interested in being more direct, donations are accepted here.

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