ASU mathematician steps up for mentor

<p>Erika Camacho is one of many former students of the legendary Jaime Escalante who have gone on to find success, in great part, no doubt, because of his influence.</p><p>Today, Camacho is an assistant professor of mathematics in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University’s West campus, and was recently named an “emerging scholar” by Diverse magazine. She is at the top of her game, yet she admits that when she was a teenager entering Escalante’s algebra class, her only plan was to become a cashier. That goal changed when Escalante revealed her keen mathematics aptitude and encouraged her to pursue it to its fullest.</p><p>As she recently told CBS News, Camacho felt she owed it to Escalante to succeed because he gave so much of himself as a teacher that she had to pay it back.</p><p>One of the ways she does that is through her work with the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center, overseen by another of her mentors, Carlos Castillo-Chavez, a regents’ professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Camacho is affiliated faculty in the center and research faculty in its Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute summer program, which serves students from the high school to postdoctoral level. In addition, she mentors center and institute students throughout the academic year. She says that working with these students “helps me stay better connected and keeps my drive to help those in need focused.”</p><p>Camacho is quick to give tribute to the man who inspired her to reach her potential and give back to others. She is among several of Escalante’s former students who are now stepping up to assist him as he battles end-stage bladder cancer. Just as he was there for his students, now those grown students are coming through for him. They have already raised $19,000 to help pay mounting medical bills from treatment not covered by his insurance.</p><p>Escalante rose to fame in the late 1980s, following the release of the film Stand and Deliver and the book Escalante: The Best Teacher in America, based on his experience teaching advanced math to inner-city youth at Los Angeles’ James A. Garfield High School. He has received numerous accolades, including the U.S. Presidential Medal for Excellence in Education, the Andrés Bello Award from the Organization of American States, and several honorary doctorates.</p>Article source: CBS News

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