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Legendary East L.A. teacher Jaime Escalante battles cancer

March 1, 2010 |  7:50 pm
Jaime Escalante, the legendary Garfield High School math teacher immortalized in the film "Stand and Deliver," is battling cancer.

The news about Escalante, 79, was posted on the Web page of actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed the educator in the critically acclaimed 1988 movie. Jaime Escalante

Olmos said Escalante was in serious condition and that his family had run out of money to pay the medical bills.

"The treatment he needs has depleted all the funds his family can raise," Olmos said in the announcement on his website. The family "did not want to ask for help, but we took it upon ourselves to get the word out to all the country and around the world, to make his final days as comfortable as possible -- and maybe even give him a chance to beat the cancer that has afflicted him."

Olmos could not be reached Monday night for comment.

Escalante was born in La Paz, Bolivia. His father and mother were both teachers.

He arrived in Los Angeles in the early 1960s and later landed the job at Garfield High in East Los Angeles. He was able to transform the school's calculus program into one of the top public school programs in the country.

In 1999, Escalante returned to Bolivia to teach math.

 "I wanted to do something for my country, like I did something in East L.A. for the barrio," he told The Times in a 1999 interview in Bolivia.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Photo: Jaime Escalante in the classroom in the early 1990s. Credit: Los Angeles Times

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