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September 29, 2011

Host: José Cárdenas

Hispanic Women's Conference

  |   Video
  • The theme for this year's Hispanic Women's Conference is "Latina Power: Inspire! Educate! Elevate!". We'll talk to one of the conference speakers Erika Camacho, Assistant Professor of Math & Natural Sciences with the New College at ASU about her career and experience as one of Jaime Escalante's students. Escalante was the former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master match high level math achievement. and who was portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the movie Stand and Deliver.
  • Erika Camacho - ASU, Asstistant Professor of Math & Natural Sciences
Category: Culture   |   Keywords: women, ASU, math, teacher,

View Transcript

Josè Càrdenas: Jaime Escalante taught calculus and advanced math at Garfield high school in East Los Angeles for 20 years. He showed the nation that inner city kids could master advanced mathematics. Escalante was the inspiration for the 1988 movie "Stand and Deliver." One of his former students is set to be a guest speaker for the Hispanic women's conference in October. With me tonight is Erika Camacho, an assistant professor with ASU's mathematical and natural sciences department at the new college. Dr. Comacho, welcome to Horizontè.

Erika Camacho: Thank you.
Josè Càrdenas: Yours is quite an inspiring story. It began with your birth and initial years in Mexico. Tell us about that.

Erika Camacho: Right. I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. And my father died when I was 3 months old. My mom had three jobs all at once. Being a maid, and working at a shoe store and working at a bakery restaurant place. Just to be able to support us. It was -- she had to manage all that and then because all the employees in the shoe store she was able to meet my stepdad. And they met and they wrote letters, and that's how they court each other. And then they decided to get married, and that's when we came to the United States.

Josè Càrdenas: You moved to Los Angeles?

Erika Camacho: Yes. My three siblings and myself.

Josè Càrdenas: And ultimately ended up living in one of the tougher parts of the city, East Los Angeles.

Erika Camacho: Yes. We started in south central, and we lived in a one bedroom apartment infested with mice and rats. And we had no furniture. And I remember that I used to love sleeping in between my siblings because I didn't want nice crawl over me first. This way would I get a warning. Then we moved to East Los Angeles to a two-bedroom amount. It was a little better but still in East Los Angeles where there's a lot of crime and violence.

Josè Càrdenas: And there is where you attended Garfield high school.

Erika Camacho: Yes.

Josè Càrdenas: Your story would be remarkable under any circumstance, but what makes it more special is you had the opportunity to work or be taught by inspired by Jaime Escalante, who as we noted in the introduction, was the inspiration for "Stand and Deliver."

Erika Camacho: Absolutely. And my passion for mathematics, my passion for helping others, and teaching, came from what I learned from Jaime Escalante.

Josè Càrdenas: We just put a picture on the screen of Jaime Escalante with Edward James Olmos who played him in the movie. How accurate was the movie in terms of depicting the way he taught kids, high school kids, and how he inspired them?

Erika Camacho: I would say it would be 85 to 90% accurate.

Josè Càrdenas: What kinds of things in particular? I know you talk in your bio, it discusses the tough love that you received from Jaime Escalante. What was --

Erika Camacho: Exactly. It was great, because it was kind like being at home. Kind of -- he was like a parent. And he treated us as a parent. He loved us as a person in the sense that he had high expectations. He would expect you to rise to that expectation and he would not allow excuses. At the same time he would assign you a nickname, a term of endearment. And whenever we let him down, he would make sure he would let us know that. For example there were many times he would say. [SPEAKING SPANISH]

Josè Càrdenas: Donkeys --

Erika Camacho: If your ancestors would be here they would be put to shame again and they would die again because of shame. They invented the concept of zero and you don't know anything. Things like that. Or whenever I would want to give up there were times he would give quizzes to check where we were, and one time I was just so frustrated and I put my pencil down. I didn't say anything. But I just put my pencil down. He was across the room and he said this Mensa belongs with all the other cheerleaders on the field, and I remember everyone started laughing because he started jumping up and kicking like a cheerleader. I felt humiliated but at the same time, I said, I'm going to show him. And I picked up my pencil and I was able to do it. And he said, you see, you belong here.

Josè Càrdenas: Some of the things you've written, you talk not only about how he reacted when you disappoint him because of your performance, but even when you did well he kept pushing you.

Erika Camacho: Yes. Even up to when I went to undergrad, in college, there were times I was about to give up because I felt I was not prepared. I felt they made a mistake by accepting me there. So sometimes I would call him up because if would I call my mom she'd she just come over, your brother and sister will don't a job in downtown L.A. selling clothes in the fashion district. But Jaime would say no, have you an opportunity no one has. You cannot just walk away.

Josè Càrdenas: One other thing, and you graduated, obviously from Garfield, we've good picture of you’re at your graduation, the other thing he did, he made you sign a contract.

Erika Camacho: Yes. He did. He made us sign a contract. If you got anything below an A in any quiz would you have to come on the weekend to learn math for four hours, and you'd have to come in the summer so you get ahead.

Josè Càrdenas: So it was a year-long program.

Erika Camacho: It was.

Josè Càrdenas: Because of those efforts, you end up going to one of the finest colleges in the country, Wellesley, and after that you get a doctorate at Cornell.

Erika Camacho: Right.

Josè Càrdenas: What was that experience like?

Erika Camacho: Going through that? It was hard. It was hard in terms of, it was a culture shock, economically too. But it made me realize I had an opportunity that I wouldn't have thanks to Jaime. He was -- he would have us go on the weekends or the summer, but he was not getting any more salary for that. Seeing how much he gave, and to allow me to get from where I was and have a new opportunity of life, I just felt like I had this moral obligation. Not just to finish but to do the same for others that Jaime did for me and many other students.

Josè Càrdenas: I want to talk about mentoring that you've been doing. But before that you graduated from Cornell, and worked first at one of the national labs?

Erika Camacho: M-hmm.

Josè Càrdenas: In Los Alamos.

Erika Camacho: Yes.

Josè Càrdenas: What's your degree, your area of specialty?

Erika Camacho: My degree was in applied mathematics, with a focus in differential equations. Mainly I used differential equations to model process. So I do mathematical physiology. And my research is trying to understand the interaction of the photo receptors in the eye and hopefully to get insight into certain degenerative diseases.

Josè Càrdenas: And you've been doing that first were you doing it at the lab and since then at ASU?

Erika Camacho: Yes.

Josè Càrdenas: And the kinds of work you're doing, we were talking a little bit off camera, you mentioned there are different applications for math, not just physiology, but also sociological?

Erika Camacho: Yes. For example, dispensary some work -- I love work with undergraduates because I think it's very important for students to realize math is not just learning the books, but it's Irv where. I did research in trying to understand the different drinking patterns in a college campus and how that becomes almost an epidemic. And with equation and trying to model that and see the different dynamics. And why, because this way we could get insight, we could run experiments through simulations, that would tell us how is it that different patterns develop, and what kind of prevention can we put in place. What kind of treatment transcript or preventions. So mathematics is especially important, because now because of certain things that would be unethical or too costly to run an experiment or collect data and see what is going on. And that's where modeling is very important. And that's one of the things I do. There's other applications, and I think I really like applied math because it allows me to see how it's going time pact my community and impact human kind.

Josè Càrdenas: I want to mention, I want to come back to your mentoring activities, but I want to make sure I mention the Hispanic women's conference, which I know you're on a science panel, but on Friday you're getting an award. And what can you tell us about that?

Erika Camacho: I'm much honored. I'm very humbled to believe receive it. What I do, I do it out of the heart. I feel like I have this moral obligation, so much has been given to me. Honestly, thanks to people like Jaime Escalante and other mentors I have had along the way, I'm sitting here with you inbound stead of being in prison or being dead, like a lot of my friends.

Josè Càrdenas: When you spoke at his memorial service.

Erika Camacho: M-hmm.

Josè Càrdenas: What did you tell people?

Erika Camacho: I basically I wanted to thank his family. And thank his family for allowing us, for sharing some of his time with us. Actually a lot of his time with us, and for allowing us to meet that person, to have that great opportunity. Because thanks to him, I'm just one data point. Many of us got out of that situation and did something really good for ourselves and our community. And many of us continue to help our communities. In different ways. In different venues. For example, I love mentoring students. But I also love creating opportunities for them to advance. To be able to get inspired like Jaime inspired me.

Josè Càrdenas: Erika Camacho, thank you for sharing with us your very inspiring story. Best of luck to you.

Erika Camacho: Thank you.

Josè Càrdenas: Thanks for being with us here.

Erika Camacho: Thank you.

Sounds of Cultura (SOC): Phoenix Symphony CALA Festival

  |   Video
  • Jim Ward, Interim President and CEO for the Phoenix Symphony discusses their the Symphony's participation in the first bi-annual Celebracion Artistica de las Americas (CALA) festival with special performances by Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five. He'll also talk about this and other celebrating the musical offerings of our regional Latino community as well as symphony efforts to connect with cultures in our diverse communities.
  • Jim Ward - Interim President, CEO of the Phoenix Symphony
Category: Sounds of Cultura   |   Keywords: art, Cala, festival,

View Transcript

José Cárdenas: In Sounds of Cultura, SOC, "Celebracion Artistica De Las Americas" known as Cala, launched its inaugural Cala festival to coincide with Hispanic heritage month. It's a celebration of Latino arts and culture. The Phoenix symphony is taking part in the Cala with a special concert with me to talk about what they're doing is Jim Ward, interim president and CEO of the Phoenix symphony.
Josè Càrdenas: Jim thanks so much for being on our show.
Jim Ward: Thank you José.
Josè Càrdenas: Let's talk first a little bit about the symphony. It had some difficult times, but things cement to be on the right course.

Jim Ward: Absolutely. We had a fairly tumultuous time given the economy, when I came aboard we had to do a lot of triage to keep the music alive in our community. And part of that included renegotiating a contract with our musicians who had taken a 19% pay cut two years ago and were due for a restoration of their salary, although we just couldn't handle that at this point in the trajectory of the symphony. Our musicians agreed to sacrifice that restoration, for the sake of the community. And we've had a glorious opening with Beethoven's 9th, it was sold out, and we're excited about the Cala festival. It was due to our musicians making the sacrifice to keep music alive for Phoenix.

Josè Càrdenas: So we're on a pretty good trajectory right now.

Jim Ward: We've stabilized our finances, and it's a tough economy out there, so I -- we're not quite out of the woods. But I think with the support of the community we can definitely get there. And I urge anyone if I can make an aside, that whether you enjoy symphonic music or not, please come down and support us and support those musicians who sacrificed their salary in order to keep that music alive. And I think with the support of the community we'll make it out of the woods.

Josè Càrdenas: And your reference to community is important, because the more tradition, more established arts like the symphony, like the opera and so forth, one of the problems they're having is the aging of their traditional client base.

Jim Ward: That's true. There's a natural aging that does occur, though people that age into it as well. But I think one of the things that we feel very strongly about is the Phoenix similar foreign I is that would are serving our community. We have a mission to help revitalize Arizona. And to do something unique with what we have, which is unique, which is music, to revitalize our community. But in order to do that we need to reflect the community that we serve. I'm not sure we've done a very good job of that in the past number of years, which is why we got very interested in becoming a part of the Cala festival.

Josè Càrdenas: Give us a few words about the festival itself and then the specific role that the symphony is playing.

Jim Ward: The Cala festival is a celebration of our Hispanic heritage here in our community. And it's a multi-month project and collaboration amongst a number of different and varying arts organizations in our community. We happen to be one of the lead-offs in this. I met with Myra of the Cala festival and different folks and began to explore the possibility of joining in and being a part of it. And yes have come up with I think a very exciting program.

Josè Càrdenas: And let's talk about that. It's Doc Severinsen, who's had a long-time relationship with the Phoenix symphony but he hasn't been here in years.

Jim Ward: That’s right. He was our resident pops conductor for many years, but retired about five years ago, and he hasn't been back since. So we're very excited to bring him back, but Doc's not coming back alone.

Josè Càrdenas: We had a picture of him on the screen with his new companion.

Jim Ward: Absolutely. The San Miguel Five. Some great, great jazz fusion Hispanic Latin musicians that are regionally very well known in Mexico and have toured quite extensively and we're glad that we can bring them to our metropolitan area for people to enjoy.

Josè Càrdenas: It's a very interesting story as to how this all came about. I understand Doc Severinsen is retired, officially, to Mexico, living in ---, one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. In Central Mexico. And that's how he melts these guys. Tell us the story.

Jim Ward: Doc I think, with all due respect he's in his 80s, and I think he had retired to live a great life, and it's a beautiful area down there. And literally bumped into these guys. And when music is in your blood it's tough to walk away from. I think Doc became excited about jamming with these folks, and one thing led to another, and here we are. With a great opportunity to see this group.

Josè Càrdenas: Tell us a little bit about the group itself.

Jim Ward: Well, the San Migel Five is a group of five artists that I think have cobbled together a very unique sound. Made up of the roots of the tradition, of San Migel, where they're from, but layered on with other Hispanic influences, and then fused again with a jazz feeling that is very unique. And you don't hear that very often. I've been very successful with that sound, and then you layer on top of that of course Doc Severinsen and what he can do with his virtuosity as a trumpet player, and I think you've got a winning combination.

Josè Càrdenas: The San Migel five toured around Mexico, and in the United States Doc Severinsen and the group have played at places like Carnegie hall and other major venues. How did you get them here?

Jim Ward: Well, look, I think in collaboration with the Cala festival we approached them and they're very eager to spread the kind of unique musical sound they have. And coming to our community, which is clearly laced with great Hispanic culture, it seemed to be a natural thing for them to do, and they're very excited to be here.

Josè Càrdenas: We've got on the screen the performance dates. Any recommendations to people, get your tickets early or anything else you can tell people about the performances coming up this weekend?

Jim Ward: Absolutely. They're going to be with us Friday and Saturday night, Friday's performance is 7:30, Saturday is at 8:00. We do have tickets. So -- but they're going fast, so please contact the symphony at our box office or go to our website at WWW.phoenixsymphony.org and you, purchase tickets right on the website as well.

Josè Càrdenas: We don't have too much time left, I do want to talk more about the symphony's efforts to make outreach to the Hispanic community. Why is that important?

Jim Ward: Listen, it is a community in which we live in. And success comes when you reflect that community. The Hispanic audience is extremely important to the economic base of our state, and certainly culturally as well. But it's not just the Hispanic audience. We have -- we reach out to different constituencies in our community. We certainly through our education program reach into title one schools and we bring them to our symphony hall. We go on to the reservation with our one nation program where we help retention of high school kids through playing instruments. We celebrate music with Rosie's house, with disadvantaged kids. So there are many things we do to try to service our community, and this is yet another one.

Josè Càrdenas: On that note, Jim ward, interim president of the Phoenix symphony. Thank you so much for joining us.

Jim Ward: Thank you.

Josè Càrdenas: That's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Street Law

  |   Video
  • Street Law is a Hispanic National Bar Association Program where law students, assisted and supervised by licensed attorneys, will go out into the Hispanic community to teach and give information about bankruptcy, foreclosure, and consumer rights.
  • Tom Tollison - Hispanic National Bar Association
Category: Law   |   Keywords: law, students, rights,

View Transcript

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us. I'm José Cárdenas. The street law program is grass-roots efforts where law students will educate the Latino community about foreclosure, consumer rights and more. With me to talk more about this program is Tom Tollison, regional president with the Hispanic national bar association. Tom, thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Tom Tollison: Thank you Josè, it's an honor.

Josè Càrdenas: A few words about the HNBA. What is it and what are its priorities?

Tom Tollison: The Hispanic National Bar Association, as it goes by HNBA. It's basically a group organization committed to the Hispanic community through membership with Hispanic attorneys. The goal of the HNBA are to support the community, Hispanic community across the United States without reach, with classes, with information sessions, and with certain initiatives to support and improve the lives of the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: And you've been a long-time member and currently serve as regional president. What does that mean for folks in Arizona?

Tom Tollison: I've been a member for about 10 years, the Hispanic National Bar Association, and I've wanted to up my level of commitment to the Hispanic community, particularly here in Arizona. And one way that I realized could I do that is to get involved with initiatives, get involved with policy making, and I was asked and appointed, elected to be the regional president of the Hispanic national bar association, which serves Arizona and Nevada.

Josè Càrdenas: And this year the HNBA has a number of initiatives, one being this street law program. Describe that.

Tom Tollison: The street law program really excites me, because it's going to be a grass-roots efforts, face-to-face effort, if you will, with members of the Hispanic community here in Arizona. Phoenix, Tucson, and even in the smaller towns. And what we're going to do with the program is to go out to the community teach Hispanic community about certain consumer issues, consumer debt, foreclosure, and bankruptcy. And what we want to teach the Hispanic community or inform them about those issues is resources that they have rights that they have about the law, under the law, options they have and it's basically an information session for the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: And when we say we, in this case we're talking about volunteer lawyers, working with law students.

Tom Tollison: That's exactly right. The program is derived around law students. I'm excited and happy to report we have many law schools that have committed to participating in this program, from University of Arizona, Arizona State, and Phoenix school of law. We also have a committed volunteer group of attorneys who are going to supervise these law students as they go out and educate and inform the Hispanic community.

Josè Càrdenas: And exactly how will you be doing this?

Tom Tollison: Well, my goal is to go out to venue of all sides in Phoenix, not just have one big meeting and say at a convention center, but go out to even the churches and go out to other nonprofit organizations. Use any type of meeting rooms we can to get people in the door, hand out materials, answer their questions, let them know there are attorneys and even law students in the community that are committed to serving them and committed to helping them.

Josè Càrdenas: If they have questions or they need individual representation how do you deal with that?

Tom Tollison: I think it's very important to tell them right off the bat that we're not there to give specific legal advice on their specific legal matters. But we're there to encourage them to seek help. We will give them list of row sources of pro bono clinics site; they can go and call for additional help over and above what we will provide.

Josè Càrdenas: And the program is focused on the Hispanic community so you'll be going into predominantly Hispanic majority population areas?

Tom Tollison: That's right.

Josè Càrdenas: And if you have a Spanish speakers, I know you speak Spanish beautifully, you can have other people available that can communicate in Spanish?

Tom Tollison: Not only that, all our materials will be translated into Spanish, so they'll have the benefit of the spoken Spanish language and the written Spanish language.

Josè Càrdenas: How significant are these problems for the Hispanic communities?
Tom Tollison: Extremely significant there. Was a big push from the federal in the private sector to pass down loans and credit to the Hispanic community? And those were efforts that have been accumulating over the last 20 years. With the loss of jobs and the economy, Hispanics particularly Hispanics within the middle class and even the working class have been hit hard. These are individuals, people that while they still may have a job, are teetering on the verge of foreclosure and bankruptcy, teetering on the verge of credit card default, and we want to let them know that there is a lifeline that there are people out there that can help them and point them in the right direction, because the truth is, under federal and state law we do have consumer rights, and that's what this program is going to be about, to help those people and give them a lifeline.

Josè Càrdenas: Now, as evidenced by the participation of U of A law students, this is a statewide program.

Tom Tollison: Yes, it is.

Josè Càrdenas: Your partners you're working with, are they local Hispanic attorneys or organizations?

Tom Tollison: Yes. We're going to reach out to all organizations. I think the more the merrier. But we have a strong commitment from people of different organizations here, we also have a commitment from other nonprofits that I have actually sat on and been involved with, and they are all on board about helping this effort.

Josè Càrdenas: Tom, last question. Going back to the national organization, HNBA, anything more about specific initiatives that they're undertaking or just a general philosophy in terms of their relationship to the Hispanic community?

Tom Tollison: I can tell you, and I'm proud to tell you I was also part of my membership of the HNBA, one of the lead drivers of the Dream Act initiative that we had with the HNBA, and part of that initiative was to draft a model resolution to get to state senators across the United States in support of the dream act. So immigration reform, the Dream Act, street law program and other initiatives are taking root, and we're going forward with them on a national level at the HNBA.

Josè Càrdenas: Tom Tollison, regional president of the Hispanic national bar association. Thank you joining for -- thank you for joining us on "Horizonte."

Tom Tollison: Thank you Josè.