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A tribute to Sal Castro’s legacy of educational leadership

CSULA alumnus honored with school naming

Recognizing the legacy of an educator and activist who championed quality and equality of education, a new middle school in the Los Angeles-Westlake district was recently named the Salvador B. Castro Middle School.

Pictured (l-r): Sal Castro along with performers Carmen Peralta and Lorenzo Moraza at the new middle school’s ribon-cutting ceremony. (source: YouTube video) Picture of Sal Castro (c) with high school students during the 1968 walkouts. (source: historical archive photo)

Castro Middle School—located on the existing Belmont High School campus at 1575 West 2nd Street—was officially dedicated Saturday, June 5, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Sal Castro, who received his bachelor’s degree in social studies from Cal State L.A. (formerly L.A. State College), is acknowledged for his history-making role in the 1968 East Los Angeles high school walkouts. Also referred to as the “Chicano blowouts,” they were a series of protests against unequal conditions and the quality of education in Los Angeles Unified School District schools.

His efforts in changing the course of public education were portrayed in a 2006 HBO-film, Walkout, directed by CSULA alumnus Edward James Olmos. He was also honored by former President Bill Clinton at a White House ceremony in 1996.

Castro has taught social studies at LAUSD schools for 43 years. In 2003, he retired from teaching at Belmont High School, but he continues to advocate for educational reform in Los Angeles schools.

Picture of Sal Castro in 1961.
Sal Castro’s graduation portrait in 1961 yearbook of L.A. State College (now Cal State L.A.).

In response to the school naming, Castro said, “This is actually an honor to the bravery of all the students who walked out 42 years ago, protesting the conditions of the schools and wanting to improve education. It was unselfish on their part to make schools better for future generations. It was a historical moment; a remarkable part of the American civil rights movement.”

Castro shared, “Cal State L.A. helped prepare me to become an educator. I had an enjoyable experience at what was then L.A. State. I had great professors. I was part of the Young Democrats club at L.A. State, and I served as a volunteer advanceman at the John F. Kennedy presidential campaign in 1960.”

According to CSULA Social Work Professor Rita Ledesma, “Mr. Castro has been an impassioned leader on educational issues affecting Chicano/Latino communities for more than 40 years. He provided support to students during the 1968 student walkouts at the four local high schools; and he championed the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference (CYLC), which aims to promote higher education for Chicano/Latino students.

“I personally benefitted from Mr. Castro’s advocacy and support,” said Ledesma. “I attended CYLC in spring 1968 and UCLA Upward Bound in summer 1968, when Mr. Castro served as an administrator in the program. Over the last several years, I had the great honor to be invited to CYLC to speak to high school students about the importance of higher education and community service.”

To open for classes in the 2010-11 school year, Castro Middle School will accommodate more than 550 students from grades 6-8.

For more about Sal Castro, the school naming, and the 1968 walkouts:

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Last Update: 07/12/2010