The Freedom Writers go to Butler Elementary School to mentor children themselves. Located in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Long Beach, this school teaches children who are used to witnessing violence from a very early age. When the teachers there learned about the Freedom Writers, they wanted Ms. Gruwell’s students to share their success stories with the children. The Freedom Writers are unaccompanied by Ms. Gruwell and given the freedom to serve as educators themselves.
The Freedom Writers are given the opportunity to impact their community in a very direct way and share with others what they have learned about self-confidence, non-violence, and ethnic diversity. This allows them to perpetuate learning, creating a potential cycle of mentorship in which the people mentored later want to use their experience to mentor others.
They play a game in which students have to step on a line if they respond affirmatively to a question that the Freedom Writers have asked. The questions are initially trivial but soon become centered on issues of violence, forcing all the students to realize that, despite their cultural and ethnic differences, they share many similar experiences. The Freedom Writers then share their stories of hardship, after which the children themselves feel inclined to share their own tales of suffering and violence.
The Freedom Writers use the teaching techniques they know best: the ones that Ms. Gruwell used on them. The goal of this exercise is to make everyone feel comfortable with sharing personal stories, providing the emotional outlet they need, and to further unite the entire group, as it identifies shared experiences that transcend visible characteristics such as skin color.
By the end of the day, with the Freedom Writers’ mentorship, the children feel confident enough to assert their dreams and career desires, trusting that this life of violence is not what they want for themselves. The Freedom Writers feel proud to be considered role models, heroes in their own right.
By being given the opportunity to share the difficult experiences they have lived through, these children are able to adopt a critical distance toward their environment and realize, in this way, that they are capable of escaping it.