Rayla Melchor Santos with Erin Gruwell

I met ERIN GRUWELL, Founder of Freedom Writers Foundation at the 3rd Stephen Covey’s The Leader In ME Global Education Summit in California, Pennsylvania (outside of Pittsburgh) on August 3, 2011. I have heard many motivation speakers but have not been moved as much as I have been by Erin.  We were 700 + educators with a handful of us from outside of the US in the auditorium. Not one of these co-educators, not Sean nor Joshua Covey and the team from Franklin Covey had his/her eyes dry listening to Erin. I had the opportunity to speak with her after the talk, during the book signing. I told her that I would need to have as many teachers in the Far East hear her too.  We exchanged contact details for this purpose.


In April of 2012, I received an email from her.  It was to invite me to participate in and speak at the Freedom  Writers Institute educator-training program called The August Institute, in Long Beach, California on August 2nd through the 7th, 2012. The August Institute was to be filmed by the film crew that collaborated on Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List,Teachers’ Edition. The finished project will be distributed worldwide for remote training purposes.


I was honored to read : “because of the similar focus between our organizations, we believe it would be mutually beneficial if you shared her experiences, visions, and goals with I Am SAM Foundation for children’s rights”.  How can you say anything other than YES to be with Erin, meet her students from Wilson High and other educators from all over the US and the world and be filmed too by the Stephen Spielberg crew.


The five-day intensive training program for educators across the world was held at the Hotel Maya, a beachside destination resort. Erin was the gracious host and main facilitator . There are no words to express what a wonderful experience it was. We had our Welcome and Despedida Dinners at the Foundation headquarters in Long Beach. Made a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Downtown Los Angeles where I had the opportunity to meet 3 of the 150 remaining survivors of the Holocaust and was treated to a tour at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and special viewing of Freedom Writers Diary by Stephen Spielberg.


The purpose of Freedom Writers Foundation is to engage, empower, and enlighten educators across the world to foster children’s rights, teach equitably, promote tolerance, and encourage children to make the best of their lives.