Our Story

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Where We Came From

On October 15th, 2009, former educator and Freedom Writers author, Erin Gruwell came to Panama City to help kickoff the ASAP Capital Campaign!

Initially, the event was solely a fundraising dinner, but we realized that educators and students in our area would benefit immensely from hearing her as well, so an afternoon presentation was planned at the Marina Civic Center.

Erin Gruwell has earned a national, award-winning reputation for her steadfast commitment to the future of education. Her impact as a change agent runs deep. So deep in fact that her story attracted Hollywood’s attention, and two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank calls Erin “a force of nature.” Erin’s story tracks an idealistic young woman who actually believed in her high-school English students, most of whom had been written off by the education system. Aside from Erin, nobody thought these “troubled” kids would even graduate high school, but Erin encouraged them to become much more. She forced them to question long-held racial stereotypes, address their deepest struggles, and ultimately, re-chart their futures. With Erin’s support, they chose to forego teenage pregnancy, drugs, and violence to become published writers, college students, and hopeful young adults. Their story earned Erin and her students dozens of awards, including the Spirit of Anne Frank Award and in January 2007, Paramount Pictures released the feature film Freedom Writers to national acclaim, starring Hilary Swank as Erin.

Erin thinks differently about education and her message of hope and possibilities left everyone inspired to be a catalyst for social change in classrooms and communities. She was the perfect person to engage our community in Building One Positive Place!

The ASAP kids are our “Freedom Writers” and we are committed to changing their lives and opening up the door to a future of limitless possibilities. Who will your freedom writers be?