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Overcoming poverty through focus on science and math

LA School Report | May 7, 2015

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LA Weekly

By Jill Stewart

One of Emilio Pack’s most vivid childhood memories is that of his Cuban immigrant single mom, desperate to hold together her extended family amid the poverty and street violence that gripped their chosen new city, performing illegal dentistry in the bathroom of their crowded Elysian Park home.

To young Emilio, it was thrilling and heroic. His mom had been a respected dentist in Cuba, “but of course she couldn’t practice here without the right degree.” Her crimes seemed a mere trifle in an L.A. neighborhood overrun by armed gangs.

Appalled by the failing Elysian Park schools, where Los Angeles Unified School District teachers union leaders took the firm position that adults couldn’t teach proper math and reading until poverty itself was beaten, the Pack family plotted another escape — to wealthy San Marino, 25 minutes away.

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