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Latinos in the Classroom 

Trailblazer of the Day | Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catherine J.K. Sandoval, Hugh Tosteson Garcia, Jaime Escalante

The first Latino to win the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship was Catherine J.K. Sandoval. Raised in East Los Angeles, she graduated magnum cum laude at Yale University, studied global politics - particularly U.S.-Central America policy – at Oxford University and earned a law degree at Stanford Law School. After serving as a law clerk and litigator for a private firm, Sandoval worked at the Federal Communications Commission. Sandoval is a two-time Trailblazer: California Gov. Jerry Brown named her to the state Public Utility Commission, the first Latino in the agency’s 100-year history. She is currently on leave from the Santa Clara University School of Law faculty.

In 1975, Puerto Rican teenager Hugh Tosteson García became the first Latino to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Sponsored by the San Juan Star, he won by correctly spelling “incisor”. He later graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s in European History, and has worked in archeology, historic preservation and emergency management in Puerto Rico.

Jaime Escalante (1930-2010) was a Bolivian-born educator known for teaching high school math (specifically calculus) in East Los Angeles. Escalante was the subject of the 1988 film, Stand and Deliver, in which he is portrayed by Edward James Olmos. Sometimes criticized for his teaching methods, Escalante’s agenda was to push students to be the best they could be, especially those in underserved low-income communities. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan bestowed the Presidential Citizens Medal upon Escalante, only the second Latino (after Roberto Clemente) to receive the honor, and in 1999, he was inducted into the Teachers’ Hall of Fame.