At the end of Christmas vacation, Ms. Gruwell receives a call from the Anne Frank Center USA telling her that the Freedom Writers have won the Spirit of Anne Frank Award, honoring people fighting against discrimination and prejudice. While the award isn’t usually given to a group of people, Ms. Gruwell insisted that she would not enter her students individually, since they function as a group. After winning, the students have to go pick up their prize in New York.
This prize serves as an external confirmation of the impressive achievements that the Freedom Writers have made. It demonstrates that their fight against intolerance not only takes place in the classroom, but has the power to impact and inspire other people. It also serves as powerful validation that they are successfully spreading Anne Frank’s message of peace.
Erin explains that in November, the L.A. Times published the article that had been written about the Freedom Writers and Ms. Gruwell was overwhelmed by offers for her students to appear on TV shows and articles. She decided that she would accept the offer to appear on ABC’s Prime Time Live. As the group has gotten increasing attention, however, she has been careful to shield her students from potentially disingenuous adults. Nevertheless, she has received an offer from the brand GUESS? to help the students, and she hopes they might be able to help some students go to New York to receive their award.
Ms. Gruwell tries to remain level-headed about all the attention the Freedom Writers are receiving, because she does not want her students to lose track of the concrete goals they are pursuing. While publicity is a form of validation, Ms. Gruwell does not accept just any form of publicity, but only those that can benefit the group as a whole, helping her students pursue their academic and social objectives.