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Chocolate and inspiration found in Hershey, PA

I was privileged this week to attend the annual EACUBO meeting in Hershey, PA. The event began with a keynote address from Erin Gruwel, author of Freedom Writers Diary and the founder of Freedom Writers Foundation. Erin’s remarkable story was turned into a feature film in 2007 starring Hilary Swank.The video clip above is from an interview Hilary Swank did for ABC News describing this unique story.

For those of you who are not in Higher Ed, there is an exceptionally well run National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) that does remarkable work. The meeting in Hershey was for the Eastern association. I attended the event because our company has a number of Higher Ed clients, in addition to all of the users we have in industry.

Back to Erin’s inspiring story. As a young (and some would say, very naïve school teacher) Erin taught underprivileged students at a high school in Long Beach, CA. These kids were much more likely to wind up in a gang than to get into college. They experienced a level of hardship that is hard to imagine exists in a developed country.

The odds were stacked against these kids, and against Erin. Even the school had lost faith. There were some school administrators who lamented that these kids had not already dropped out, because they were pulling down school test scores. In many respects, at 14 years old these kids were written off.

But they weren’t written off in Erin’s mind. They had the same raw potential as anyone else. That’s what she saw that nobody else did. The result was these kids were saved, many went on to college and beyond to their Ph.Ds.

So why mention this here, in this blog?

Because many of us struggle with something we want to change at work or at home, but the forces arrayed against change appear insurmountable at times. Giving in, accepting the way things are today as the way they always will be, is easy. But let people like Erin Gruwell inspire you to do more.

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