Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

Supporters seek to help legendary former East L.A. teacher as he battles cancer

Jaime Escalante
Jaime Escalante spent a career helping youths learn math. His exploits teaching calculus at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles were immortalized in the film "Stand and Deliver."

Now, the 79-year-old former teacher is suffering from advanced stages of cancer, and his friends and supporters are seeking to help the family pay medical bills while Escalante undergoes treatment at a center in Reno, Nev.

"He probably has changed the course of the way we view inner-city children of color with his commitment to helping them understand mathematics," said actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Escalante in the 1988 feature film. "Mathematics is a great equalizer. It's a universal language."

Olmos said Tuesday that Escalante may have only a few weeks to live and that his family can no longer afford to cover the treatment costs at a holistic cancer center in Reno. Escalante is suffering from bladder cancer that has spread to other parts of his body, according to Olmos.

To help pay for medical costs, which are totaling several thousand dollars a day, cast members from "Stand and Deliver" and other supporters will hold a fundraising event Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside of Garfield High. Olmos said he plans to be there in the afternoon.

Born in Bolivia, Escalante came to Los Angeles in the early 1960s and later was hired to teach math at Garfield. He helped transform the school's calculus program into one of the top public high school programs in the nation.

In 1999, Escalante moved back to Bolivia to teach math. He returned to the U.S. about four months ago to seek treatment.

 Olmos, who posted a call for help on his website, said he paid for Escalante and some of his family to return to the United States. Escalante's wife is still in Bolivia and is hoping to make her way to Reno.

"They're really in trouble," Olmos said of the family's financial situation. "They need help."

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photo: Jaime Escalante with members of the Garfield High band during a 1998 event to celebrate his inclusion into the Latino Walk of Fame. Credit: Bob Chamberlin/Los Angeles Times.

Comments () | Archives (5)

Since he is such a hero to the Latino community, especially in East L.A., it would make sense to do a door-to-door fundraising campaign for his medical costs. Latinos churches, businesses, philanthropic foundations etc. should all invest in his recovery.

A collection account has been established by Pan American Bank and the Rotary Club of East Los Angeles.

Donations can be made to
"Jaime Escalante Medical Fund"
C/O Pan American Bank
3626 East FIrst Street
East Los Angeles, CA 90063

If you wish to make a credit card donation you can send a request for the credit card donation form to [email protected]

Jesse Torres
President and CEO
Pan American Bank
3626 East First Street
East Los Angeles, CA 90063
"California's Oldest Latino-Owned Bank"

What about those great medical benefits upon retiring!

Jaime Escalante has inspired me for all the years since I first saw Stand and Deliver in the theater, then read a book about his experiences at Garfield High, and for the years since then until now, and into the future.

That includes 11 years of teaching with his example in mind. Not his example of teaching calculus, the teaching of which he mastered like no before him or since, but his example, plain to see, that our education system is fundamentally broken.

My studies in education further showed to me why the system as it is is untenable, and robs teachers of their right to pride in the work they do, and robs administration of their potential for leadership.

It is unfortunate that his successes, and those of the staff that supported him such as Senor Molina, have been dismissed in so many ways with so many excuses.

Doing things properly is not a mystery. It can be systematized. Everywhere.

Why is it not? Jaime stands as a beacon of potential in a morass of pedagogical weariness, of teachers and administrators and legislators without the ganas to improve a system that is ill and dying, even on the face of it.

Our country, its youth, and industry, and government, must rise above their attachments to ego, and the system it supports, and challenge their own views first, before condemning those of another. Has need do nothing more than prove that excellence is possible in everyone, and that he has done as very few others ever will.

As for his suffering, no man can judge the suffering of another man as his own.

My thoughts and prayers are with you Jaime, for happiness and joy for all your remaining days, whether they be few, or many. The service you have performed for mankind will never disappear.


Escalante's experience, in my opinion, highlights how academic tracking and unions have led to worse conditions for public school students. Forget about AP and honors classes. They should all be AP and honors classes. Raise the standards so that kids actually learn something. It's better to fail in the World Series than winning in Little League. Unions despised Escalante, and actually tried to hinder his teaching methods.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: