Question: You grew up in what many would call the barrio in Boyle Heights and ended up going to Yale. How did that happen?
Answer: Very simply, Yale recruited me. Remember, this was the late 1960s. I had done well in school, was valedictorian in my high school class and Yale was looking for diversity.
Q: Were you the first in your family to go to college?
A: Yes. I was raised by my mother, who never went beyond the second grade. So when I got to the third grade, I could say I was the success of my family.
Q: So what motivated you to excel?
A: My mother and grandmother who raised me were really strong women. They had incredible drive in their limited world. They instilled a sense of hard work in me, which translated into the classroom. At first, I had a little trouble with the English language, so it took me a little while to grab hold of schooling. But I had great role models at school, including my high school English teacher, George Crook.
Q: Your mother must have been very proud.
A: That reminds me of a little story. When I was attending Yale, and some of my old friends would come around my mother's home in Boyle Heights, they would ask where I was. She would say, in her broken English, that I was "at jail." What she really meant to say was "at Yale." That of course caused some of my old friends to wonder where I really was.
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