image of Tony Becerra

Freedom Writers Foundation speaker Tony Becerra opens up about his life as a child of poverty during FSSD Opening Day.

The impact of the August 1 opening keynote speaker, Tony Becerra – one of the original Freedom Writers in teacher Erin Gruwell’s class – on FSSD faculty and staff has been deep and meaningful. One week removed from Tony’s emotional testimony about his life as a destitute child has forever changed the way many faculty and staff view children of poverty here in Franklin, where 40% of students are on free and reduced lunch. Tony reminded teachers that sometimes completing homework must come second to things like surviving hunger, watching loved ones participate in dangerous behavior, or staying home alone at night in a dangerous area as a latchkey child.

Tony’s poignant stories about the secrets children of poverty keep, like wearing hoodies in the heat of summer because clean laundry is a luxury, were important reminders of the necessity for patience and respect, even when there is not a clear understanding of student behaviors. Over the past few years, the FSSD has invested heavily in trauma-informed school practices and the importance of daily use of the social emotional learning resources gleaned during the many professional learning opportunities offered by the district.

The FSSD is proud to have been able to provide all employees with back-to-back keynote addresses that shine a bright light on the importance of building relationships and understanding each child’s struggles. In 2018, “Freedom Writers Diaries” author Erin Gruwell provided a spark

image of Erin Gruwell in front of audience

Erin Gruwell

with her passion for reaching all students, and this year Tony Becerra’s inspirational messages of relationship building, empathy and kindness has reminded FSSD faculty of their “why.” Why do they what they do? Gruwell and Becerra reminded everyone that children arrive at school every day with unknown trauma in their lives and it is up to the adults they encounter to teach them, believe in them and give them hope for something more. We are ready!