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The Educator
A DEDICATED TEACHER honors her parents and remains loyal to her roots.
Laura saLdivar Age: 28 Hometown: San Antonio roots: Mexican
They may not have college degrees, but Laura Saldivar’s parents do understand the importance of education. “[Even] if it takes us working five jobs, you are going to college,” they told her. As executive director of Teach for America–San Antonio, Saldivar is working hard to keep that dream alive for students. In a heavily Latino city with high dropout and teen pregnancy rates, she oversees 100 recent college grads brought in to meet the district’s need for better math, science, special education and ESL instruction. “We can use this opportunity to advance Hispanics across the country,” Saldivar says. “If we don’t get this right, it will hurt us as a nation.” She understands the challenges they face. Though she graduated second in her high school class, Saldivar found Georgetown University academically daunting at first. “I was very, very far behind compared to my peers,” Saldivar says. “It put a lot into context for me about the quality of education in San Antonio.” After graduation, Teach for America beckoned, eventually leading her back to San Antonio. Needless to say, her parents approve. “They’re proud,” Saldivar says, “because not only is it a leadership position, it’s also in our hometown, helping, as my father would say, ‘our people.’ ” —Damarys Ocaña

Marquez at work in her lab

The Scientist
samantha marquez Age: 15 Hometown: Richmond, VA roots: Spanish/Venezuelan
Like a lot of high school sophomores, Samantha Marquez likes hanging out with friends and going bowling. Unlike them, however, she has her name on six patents and travels over 500 miles from home every few weeks to conduct research on cell structures at Harvard University. As a seventh grader, Marquez read one of her chemist dad’s scientific papers and came up with a novel approach to his lab’s work in a new field called synthetic biology. They were using artificial crystals to reproduce celloidosomes—
2 6   LATINA .COM  AugusT 2011

Still in braces, this LABORATORY WIZ has already fostered a breakthrough at Harvard.
particles that may eventually help reconstruct muscle and bone and help diabetics generate insulin. Her thought: Why not use living cells? “To me, the important thing is not finding the answers, but asking the right questions,” Marquez says. The approach worked and has led to promising new avenues of research. Although both her parents are scientists— Marquez’s mom is a chemical engineer—the lab prodigy has her eye on a different field: politics. “My heroes are people like [California congresswoman] Loretta Sanchez and [New Mexico governor] Susana Martinez,” says Marquez. “They really showed me that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

Saldivar with two of her students, and with Aurelio Cruz at his 2010 graduation (above).

P h O T O g r A P h s , f r O M L e f T: C O u r T e s y O f s A M A N T h A M A r q u e z ; C O u r T e s y O f L A u r A s A L d I vA r ( 2 ).