Movie Recap: Stand and Deliver

Stand and Deliver is one of my favorite movies of all time. It takes place in my hometown, East Los Angeles, and it’s based on real events. Stand and Deliver shows math professor Jaime Escalante and his journey on teaching calculus to high school students. While growing up, I’d often hear fellow classmates and teachers talk about this film. My mother, one day, sat me down to watch the movie. She explained the importance of this film within our community. On my first day of high school, I was ready to meet Mr. Escalante and express my admiration for his dedication to students like me. My bubble was instantly burst when I discovered that he was no longer teaching at Garfield High School, but there was a classroom in his honor. Outside of this classroom, was a huge banner dedicated to Professor Escalante. I luckily had my math class (freshman yr only) in that particular classroom, and that’s the closest I’ll ever get to Professor Escalante.

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A reason why this film is one of my all-time favorite movies, besides the obvious reasons, has to do with the opening montage. It gives you a mini-tour of East L.A via the highly intersected streets showcasing some iconic places. We see Professor Escalante (portrayed brilliantly by Olmos) arriving at Garfield High School asking which class will he be teaching. An essential element that works in this film is the relationship between Escalante and his students. He genuinely wants the students to learn regardless of the challenges the students put him through. Garfield High School is having problems with accreditation so Jaime decides to teach his group of students calculus so they can successfully pass the A.P. exam. A math department professor finds it difficult to believe these kids (entering high school with 7th-grade knowledge) are capable of learning calculus. There is a group of seven students this film focuses on, and we learn a little bit about their personal lives. It doesn’t shy away from showing the difficulties in how barrio kids are raised. For instance, one student is the oldest child and carries the responsibility of caring for her younger siblings. Another student is brilliant in school, but her father decides to pull her from school so she can begin working in the family business. Another student is involved in gangs and spends most of his time consuming drugs, getting into fights even though he is one of the smartest in the group. Angel (Lou Diamond Phillips) is my personal favorite student from the group. He won me over the moment he requested three textbooks, so his “homies” won’t see him carrying them around. Many of these students come from low-income families and can’t afford health care.

Professor Escalante manages to teach the students calculus and are now on their way to taking the AP exam. They all pass, and for the first time in the past couple of years, they get to enjoy summer. Sadly, their joy is cut short when they all receive a letter invalidating their exam scores due to suspicion of cheating. The students had the same questions answered incorrectly, which appeared suspicious. Two men are sent to investigate (a young Andy Garcia is one of them). Only to be confronted with an upset professor who accuses them of racism. Escalante claims that the men were sent to investigate simply because of the student’s background. Eventually, they would agree to retake the exam.

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I remember watching this movie 3-4 times a week while I was taking a calculus course in college. Inspiring me to work harder in my class and keeping my hopes alive. I adore this film and can’t recommend it enough. By the way, this movie has some of my favorite one-liners that I still quote today.

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