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Note: For part one, click here.

…My escape route emerged like an early Christmas present.

I was always getting called to the office for Student Body business or some club function.  At times, when the office staff was short-handed, I would be called in to help run the switchboard, which I had done since my sophomore year.  One day, about two weeks after the Junior Miss Pageant,   I was called in to see Mr. Cordova in the office.  It didn’t seem like a big deal to me so I went to the front office to see the Assistant Principal in charge of Student Affairs, which in my case meant my Student Body job.   I liked Manny Cordova.  He was one of my “pals” at school, although I didn’t know him as well as I knew some of the other administrators and teachers with whom I had positive relationships.  Manny Cordova’s  office door was always open and he always said the kindest and most appropriate things to me.  He was the only Latino administrator at the school and as such, he was often the only one who understood me and my family and the cultural aspects surrounding us.

I walked into the outer office and Mr. Cordova stood there with five or six other students, all Juniors.  I was the last one there and they were waiting for me.  He told us all, “I know this is short notice but I have a couple of recruiters from Stanford University in my office.  They want to talk to our best students and you’re it.  They’ll talk to you all together then to each of you separately.  I’ve already given them your transcripts so just go in and listen and ask questions.”

The others started to walk into his office but I hung back waiting to talk to Mr. Cordova.  “Mr. C, I’m a Senior.  This is a waste of time.  It’s too late for me to apply.  Besides, they only want really smart people there and it’s too expensive.  My family doesn’t have the money for Stanford.  I don’t want to talk to them.”

“Go listen to them.  Please.  As a favor to me.  It’s not too late.  The deadline is January 5.  That gives you the Christmas break to fill out the application.  Your counselor and I will help you, even over the break.  And as for money, haven’t you ever heard of scholarships?”

I shook my head.  I didn’t want to waste my time.  Mr. Cordova persisted. I couldn’t believe it.  He was usually so easy going but now he was actually kind of strong arming me!  “Come on.  I’ll make a deal with you.  I know you don’t like P.E.  If you go in and talk to the recruiters, I’ll give you a pass so you can get out of P.E. for the rest of the week.  Deal?  That’s three days of no P.E.  Okay?”

“Okay.  You’ve got a deal!  I’ll go in but I’m telling you, it’s a waste of time.”

Within half an hour, the recruiters, who were both current Stanford students, had called the Admissions Office at Stanford and the January 5th deadline to turn in the admissions application had been extended to February 15th and the fifty dollar application fee had been waived.  I still wasn’t sure it was worth my time and effort but I did take the application packet home.  I did not really intend to apply but I had promised Mr. Cordova that I would take it home and look it over. That evening my mother saw the application materials on my bed with all of my books and homework.  She asked me what I had to do to apply and if it cost any money to apply.  I answered her questions.  She said she wanted me to apply.  In fact, she said, I had to apply.  She wanted me to have the opportunity to go to Stanford.  We lived in San Jose, a half hour away from Stanford and we had often driven on to the campus in the past, admiring the buildings and the beauty of the school site.  My mother said she had always dreamed of one of her children going to Stanford.  If I got in, we would somehow find a way for me to go.  Even if she had to sell the house, she would find a way for me to go.  She made me promise to fill it out.

My escape path pursued me and in April of 1974, I got the two most important pieces of mail.  One, the welcome to the Stanford Class of 1978 and the second telling me I had been awarded a full scholarship that would cover 100% of the tuition for my four years.

And escape I did.

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