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Freshman English. New teacher. School overwhelmed with gangs. Repeaters hardened by the violent neighborhoods they live in. This movie tells the story of a first-year teacher and her determination to give her students hope, at any cost. Bitter enemies learn how much they have in common instead of how different they are through Gruwell's teaching methods. Although Gruwell must make many sacrifices herself, including working two extra jobs, she never abandons them.

(Yes, I am probably the only person who hadn't seen this movie until recently!)

Gruwell, Erin. Freedom Writers. Directors: Richard LaGravenese and Erin Gruwell. Hollywood: Paramount, 2007.

If I Grow Up


Guns. Drugs. Violence. Teen pregnancy. Poverty. Just another day at the Frederick Douglass housing project where teenager DeShawn struggles to beat the overwhelming odds. He is confronted every day with his environment, and his family and his friends, all who have made choices that end up in death or despair. It’s not a question of will he make a life-changing choice, but when he will make the choice.

Strasser, Todd. If I Grow Up. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2009.


Junior Julia DiVino is surrounded by Bloods and Crips at her gang-infested Brooklyn High School. So far she has managed to maintain an A average and stay just clear of being pulled into either group. It's a dangerous dance between seeming like a hater and staying neutral, but she and her friend Q made a pact in middle school to never get involved with gangs or gang life. When Julia meets Eric, a new student, her interest in him makes her question her commitment to stay away from gangs. As she learns more and more about Eric's secrets and involvement, she wonders how far she must go to get out.

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Van Diepen, Allison. Snitch. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2007.


Street Pharm

It's a tough choice: Carry on your dad's business or make your own way. This decision is even more challenging for 17-year-old Ty Johnson, whose father is the main drug dealer in town and has been sent to prison. As a younger teen, Ty only saw the money and respect his father's job brought, but as he struggles with the realities of the "job," he must face decisions that could result in life or death consequences for not only himself and his family, but also the girl he loves.

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Van Diepen, Allison. Street Pharm. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2006.