Posted by: Anna | March 31, 2010

East LA and a sappy ending

Last night on facebook I read a status update from my aunt that read,

Reminiscing on my high school years…RIP Mr. Escalante”

Mr. Escalante was a famous Math teacher in East Los Angeles, teaching at Garfield High School where both my parents attended, dad graduated and at least five of my aunts and uncles attended as well.  Garfield High School was a force to reckon with and in the heart of the ‘ghetto.’

At one point in my life we lived down the street from Garfield High School.  Growing up I always wanted to attend that high school and cheer for their team.  As I got older we moved further to Montebello, CA, literally across the street from E.L.A, making me loose the opportunity to qualify to attend that school, and where also, my dad, a straight A high school student who played Varsity Soccer for Garfield forbade me to attended.

There were all these issues where to grow up.  I wanted to attend the school my parents attended and have the privilege to be taught by some of the best teachers like Mr. Escalante, who became so famous a movie was made about him and his impact, “Stand and Deliver”.

If you sit with my dad down and talk about his youth, he will tell you to watch these movies,

“Stand and Deliver”

“Blood in Blood Out”

“El Norte”

“Training Day”,

All of which are suppose to give you a glimpse of the youth he lived.  The “cholo” he wasn’t, but the best friends that he hung out with that were.  The straight A student who was the only one who graduated high school, alone, no one attending the ceremony or basically giving a shit at the time.  There were no expectations of him.  He was to get a good job and marry. 

But he was inspired by his teachers and coaches; he was able to earn straight A’s in a time where drugs, gangs and low family support were his life. 

And I know, maybe you don’t get it and this just sounds sappy to you, but that teacher made a difference in my father’s life.  In many people lives and although we had never met it was sad to hear that he had passed.  It is people and teachers like that I hope my son meets one day.  I want to be that for my son one day and the children to come.  Someone who rises above and pushes the envelope.  My parents grew up in the ghetto, raised a family and seriously were probably not suppose to make it.  That’s what you would think if you watch all those movies.  The gangs and the stereotypes, the ‘typical’ people from ELA…until you meet me, my sister who is in the Army, my brother, and my son.  We are an outcome of the shit, stereotypes, insults and gun bullets my father dodged.  

And if you ever talk to us, the ninety of us at a wedding and threaten us, just know someone might just come out and say, “You don’t know where we’re from!” Which is a hilarious and oh so threatening way to say, “Yeah, we are all educated and pretty now, but you don’t know the shit we had to go through to get here. WATCH YOURSELF.”

So to the famous teachers who teache in the ghetto and to the not so famous who teach anyway, thanks for teaching, because it’s people like you who can truly impact our children other than their parents.

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Responses

  1. Thank you for writing this. I am an eighth grade teacher working very hard to help students see their potential every day in an area in Phoenix seen by most as a “ghetto.” I don’t see ghetto kids though, I see young adults ready to take on the world! I have high hopes and high expectations for my students.


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