This student is amazed at Ms. Gruwell’s teaching methods and, in particular, at her activity of making the students turn Durango Street into a movie. Both this student and his friend want to play the part of Rufus. This student felt that he was a better choice than his friend, since he lives in the projects and has never known his father. While he was chosen for the part, he later realized that his friend, too, had grown up without a father. This allowed the student to understand why his friend had wanted to play the part of Rufus.
The students are given an opportunity to express their life outside of school in a school activity, therefore effectively turning an academic assignment into an emotional outlet and an opportunity for self-expression. In addition, it allows this student to learn more about his friend, therefore promoting empathy, team work, and cooperation in and out of the classroom.
Making the movie allows the students to learn more about the book and about each other. The activity is so successful that students in other classes want to be part of Ms. Gruwell’s class. Ms. Gruwell then takes her class to see Hoop Dreams, a movie where the characters—boys from the Chicago projects with a passion for baseball—feel strikingly similar to Ms. Gruwell’s students. The movie proves that, with enough passion, people can achieve their highest dreams, even if everyone believes they are going to fail.
Ms. Gruwell transforms an assignment into an opportunity to have fun and to socialize, proving that academic success is intimately tied to a positive atmosphere of cooperation in the classroom. Her goal is to inspire students to find themselves in other people’s stories, so that they might come to believe in stories of success—inspiring them to believe in their own success.