Local Hero: Sal Castro

Sal Castro

"I am a concerned American who wants our country to live up to its promise of equality, liberty and justice for all."

Sal Castro, a life-long educator, is well known for his role in the 1968 "Blowouts," the student protests against unequal conditions at schools throughout the Southern California area. His passionate activism and commitment to improving educational opportunities for Mexican-American students has defined his entire career.

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Castro was born in East Los Angeles and received his early education in Los Angeles and Mexico. After graduating from Cathedral High School in Los Angeles, he served in the United States Army during the Korean War. Upon his discharge he attended Los Angeles City College and LA State. While at California State University at Los Angeles, he was active both in campus politics and politics in general. He served as the student Co-chair in the 1960 Viva Kennedy presidential campaign. He was also a member of the Mexican-American Political Association (MAPA), as well as one of the founding members of AMAE (Association of Mexican-American Educators).

As a graduate student at LA State, Castro organized meetings with fellow Mexican-American college students that resulted in a network of educational activists and the formation of the Mexican-American Youth Leadership Conference. The first conference, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, took place in 1963. Castro still organizes and presents these conferences, now known as the Chicano Youth Leadership Conferences, Inc. Student participants at the CYLC Conferences have an eighty-four percent graduation rate from four-year colleges and universities.

He began his teaching career at Washington Junior High in the Pasadena City School system in spring, 1962. While teaching at Belmont High School in fall, 1963. A group of students asked him to assist them in their quest to gain election to student body offices. While the students were giving their election speeches, they were disciplined for addressing the crowd in Spanish. Castro intervened on their behalf and found himself summarily transferred to Lincoln High School from Belmont. At Lincoln, the East Los Angeles student protests occurred. He found himself under indictment of thirty count of felony conspiracy, but all charges were eventually dismissed by the California State Supreme Court citing the United States Constitution First Amendment's "Right of Redress of Grievances".

Castro has been honored by numerous organizations including the Los Angeles City Council, the National Hispanic Media Association, the California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE), Association of Mexican-American Educators (AMAE), and the Moviemiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MECHA). Even though he is retired after 42 years as a high school teacher, Castro continues to advocate for culturally relevant education, systemic reforms that place students on track for higher education, and youth leadership. He forever will be a teacher, and he is the proud father of two sons, who have given him two grandsons.

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