Your article on Latino drop-outs (Dec. 18) made me reflect on how I was able to stay in school. My parents came from rural Mexico and to their way of thinking once a boy turned 16, he was supposed to go out and start earning money. The traditions of learning and scholarship were simply not part of their background. The notion that one of their sons could be a professional was too farfetched to be considered.
Their thinking was changed by my eighth-grade principal, Bill Stocks. He took an interest in me and told me that I had ability and that I ought to go to college.
Bill also talked to my parents. The change in their thinking was dramatic. From that time on, they became dedicated to the idea of my getting an education. I was able to go on and get a Ph.D. in mathematics from UCLA. But the turning point was having one teacher who believed in my ability.
DANIEL G. MARTINEZ
Martinez is a professor of mathematics at California State University, Long Beach.