Former Student of Jaime Escalante Lives in Fresno

FRESNO, Calif.

One former student remembers him as an exceptional teacher who motivated students to believe in themselves.

Daniel Castro has come a long way from the tough streets of East Los Angeles. The 33-year-old is now an attorney living in North Fresno.

"Everything that I have right now I owe to him ... and to the program," said Castro, a former student of Jaime Escalante, the Garfield High School math teacher who inspired the movie "Stand and Deliver" by turning the school's failing math program into one of the most successful in the country.

"A lot of the teachers and a lot of the administrators just didn't believe we could handle it, and Escalante changed that entire culture," said Castro.

An immigrant from Bolivia, Escalante taught his students that math was the great equalizer -- where the color of your skin and the language you spoke did not matter, as long as you worked hard and pushed yourself.

Castro said, "One of the things that the program advocated was don't let someone believe in you, more than you believe in yourself, and he believed in all of us."

For Castro, Escalante's math program was his ticket out of an environment filled with gangs and drugs. One of Castro's closest friends was killed and another overdosed shortly after graduation.

"I owe my life to him," said Castro.

Castro took the lessons learned in Escalante's classroom to heart. He graduated Garfield with honors. His high scores got him into MIT where he graduated with a degree in electrical engineering and he received his law degree from UC Berkeley.

His proud parents say -- Castro has now become their role model. "It was about ganas -- determination -- that's really going to drive you in whatever you do."

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