Based on a true story, Freedom Writers is an inspiring film about a young teacher named Erin Gruell (played by Hilary Swank) who chooses to work at Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California. It is a school that is torn by gang violence and racial tension due to the recent integration program in that district. The story begins in 1994, Erin is a newly hired teacher at the high school and is assigned to teach Freshman and Sophomore English.
Teaching at the school is nothing like what she expected, as fights constantly break out both inside and outside of the classroom. Additionally, students come to school strapped with guns (if they come at all). The teachers have very little faith in the students and the students have very little faith in Erin Gruell, but as time goes by she develops their trust and respect. Erin throws out her more traditional lesson plans and instead appeals to the students by having them write daily journals about their personal stories.
She teaches them about the Holocaust, Anne Frank, and takes them on field trips and to restaurants. At the same time that Erin tries to reach out and inspire these young people, Erin faces a divorce and protests from her fellow coworkers. However, Erin rises above these adversities to inspire her students to soar to new academic and personal heights, none of which they ever thought were imaginable. Erin displays unwavering faith in her students and in their capacity to learn.
Likewise, these students find faith in themselves and each other and previous gang, racial, and territorial divides are broken down as students like Eva, Jamal, Marcus, and Brandi gain the courage to do what’s right and improve their lives. The ending is incredibly motivational as Erin gets 35 computers to be donated to her school so that her students can compile their stories from their journals into a book that would eventually be published in 1999. Most of her students went on to college and broke from their previous lives.