This Freedom Writer describes the importance that family has played in his life, and his struggles as an adolescent to fit in and feel normal, which he desperately wanted. In the classroom, he kept quiet about his struggles, letting other Freedom Writers discuss their own troubles. However, when Ms. Gruwell invites him to join a retreat at the National Teacher’s Institute, he finds himself revealing more than he would have expected about his past.
This Freedom Writer’s experience reveals that, despite the group’s intense accomplishments in terms of creating bonds of trust and respect, some individuals never experienced emotional healing for themselves. This emphasizes that the Freedom Writers’ goals are never-ending, since progress still remains to be made.
When they play a debate game in which students have to agree or disagree with certain issues, Ms. Gruwell asks if all suspected abuse should be reported, and this Freedom Writer surprises himself and everybody else by being the only person in the room to disagree. This forces him to finally tell his story, describing his experiences with foster care, violence, and abuse.
This Freedom Writer confirms that one’s personal experiences often influence one’s theoretical views, thereby demonstrating that the most effective learning involves full emotional engagement—an aspect that Ms. Gruwell has always promoted.
He explains that when he was fifteen, a teacher mistakenly believed that his little sister was being abused by their mother, because she had bruises on her legs. When the Child Protection Services came in the middle of the night, the student explained that their mother did not abuse them, but no one listened to him. After this, he was separated from his siblings, for whom he had cared his entire life. The siblings were all separated and sent to anonymous families, never to see each other again. When he finally saw one of his sisters again, he felt intense guilt at having failed to protect her.
This Freedom Writer’s story reveals the limits of justice and the legal system. Even though the Child Protection Services were well-intentioned in their desire to protect children from harm, their actions ultimately caused more harm to this family, as they failed to take into account the supposed victims’ opinions. As a result, they unjustly punished innocent children in a situation where they were not responsible.
While he is crying hard, he finally tells the group that, right before this retreat, his mother died, before he was able to tell her that he loved her and that, despite their many difficulties, she has played an important role in his life. After telling his entire story, he finally feels free from a heavy weight on his shoulders, and is able to receive the comfort that Ms. Gruwell and the other students give him. He realizes that the Freedom Writers group was crucial in raising him and turning him into the person he has become. Now, when he looks at himself in the mirror, he sees himself as someone that other people—and, most importantly, he himself—can be proud of.
This Freedom Writer realizes that telling his story is necessary, as it allows him to confront past wounds and, in so doing, potentially overcome them. Despite the separation of his entire family, he has been able to find love, comfort, and understanding through other means. Paradoxically, this external source of support has given him the strength necessary to not rely only on others for his happiness but, instead, to trust that he can find pride within himself.