October 6, 2008

Passaic High Grad Touts School in TV Ad ; Cancer Doctor Picked for NJEA Campaign


The viewing public was introduced to Passaic High School and one of its alumni thanks to the New Jersey Education Association. The teachers union purchased cable and network affiliate airtime to tout the success of urban education.

The NJEA selected six graduates to feature in an ad campaign because they excelled professionally. Among them is Dr. Jose "Manny" Esquilin, who graduated from Passaic High School in 1997.

Esquilin's achievements are now known to many in the tri-state area. His TV spot -- which shows him in front of Passaic High, wearing a physician's white coat and explaining how public education worked for him -- aired on cable and on the New York affiliates of CBS, ABC and NBC. The public service announcement, temporarily suspended, will start running again after the Nov. 4 presidential election.

Esquilin, 29, is in his first of three years of post-graduate training at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital at the New York Presbyterian and Columbia University Medical Center, where he treats children with cancer.

He gives credit for his success to the opportunities afforded him during his school years -- the advanced placement courses in science and math, for example, which he needed to begin his medical studies in college.

He also says that his alma mater's diversity helped prepare him to enter the medical field, where he is called upon to treat a wide array of patients. His class included more than 1,000 students from Latin America, India and the Middle East, as well as blacks from varying backgrounds.

"My best friend was a Filipino," he says. "On the road to becoming a physician, you become part of people's lives, and they come from various backgrounds. I'm aware of those differences so I have my foot in the door for becoming a doctor."

After finishing high school he graduated from Drew University and Columbia University, then obtained a fellowship at Yale University in pediatric oncology.

Robin Holcomb, who heads the Passaic teachers union, says that NJEA selected the cities to be featured in a series of ads intended to demonstrate the success of public schools in urban areas.

Esquilin's aunt, Luz Esquilin, is an officer in the union and she contacted her nephew. His mother, Aida, also works with the district and appeared along with her husband, Jose Luis, in the TV spot. Both are graduates of Passaic High School.

Kathy Coulibaly, associate director of public relations for NJEA, says the ad is part of the union's Pride in Public Education campaign. Since 1994, the union has conducted a statewide effort to share success stories with the public. The goal, Coulibaly says, is to build strong community support for public education by focusing on personal stories rather than simply on facts about urban districts' achievements.


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