Sue Ellen was raised in one of the predominantly poor and violent neighborhoods of Long Beach, California. As the youngest of four it wasn’t uncommon for her to see prostitutes, drug deals and gang violence at the end of her block. The violence didn’t end there, it extended into her home in the form of an alcoholic and abusive father.
By the time she was 13, her parents divorced, and Sue Ellen became homeless along with her mother and brother. She recounts life as a homeless and abused teenager who had no hope and no future. At school her teachers called her lazy rather than working through her undiagnosed dyslexia. When she was 16 Sue Ellen’s brother died. It was the same year she started in Erin Gruwell’s classroom. She describes how Room 203 was the first place where, through the power of education and writing, she was able to overcome adversity and become liberated from the labels that once defined her.
After graduation from Wilson High School Sue Ellen graduated in 2009 from California State, Long Beach with a BA in Chicano Latino Studies and a BS in Professional Studies. Today she works at the Freedom Writers Foundation and is responsible for the human resources and accounting functions.
Her future plans include higher education to secure her Masters in business and accounting. Sue Ellen appeared on the cover of the Freedom Writers Diary and has written several entries in the 10th Anniversary edition. She continues to share her inspirational story about the power of education and hope to youth and educators.
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