Mario Molina, Nobel Prize-Winning Chemist
Mario Molina was born in 1943 in Mexico City, Mexico.
At the University of California at Berkeley, Molina and his partner Sherwood Rowland studied chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), an ingredient used in refrigerators, spray cans, and cleaning solvents.
Their research revealed that the release of CFCs could destroy the ozone layer in the stratosphere, allowing a dangerous level of ultraviolet light to enter to Earth's atmosphere. It is believed this leads to an increased rate of skin cancer. As a result of their efforts, CFC production is now banned in most countries, making our planet healthier.
The Nobel Prize was awarded to this team in 1995, and Molina has also received the Newcomb Cleveland Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, and the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal.
Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice and Lawyer
Puerto Rican Sonia Sotomayor was born on 1954 in the Bronx, New York City.
Sotomayor graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and received the Pyne Prize, and then attended Yale Law School. As a lawyer she did a lot of pro bono work, which earned her a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, becoming the youngest judge in the Southern District, the first Hispanic federal judge in New York State, and the first Puerto Rican woman to serve as a judge in a U.S. Federal Court.
In 2009, Sotomayor moved up to become the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history. Some of her most memorable rulings include cementing the Affordable Care Act and helping make same sex marriage legal, changing the legal landscape of our country.
Sotomayor has received honorary degrees from more than 10 universities, was given the Outstanding Latino Professional Award in 2006, was named one of the 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century, and has housing developments and schools named after her.
Jaime Escalante, Renowned Math Educator
Jaime Escalante was born in 1930 in La Paz, Bolivia.
Escalante is well-known for his work with "unteachable" high school math students at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, California, a neighborhood with drug and violence issues. Escalante, however, was determined to make sure that his students lived to their potential, starting an advanced mathematics program. His students took and passed advanced placement Calculus test, but the testing company invalidated the scores, claiming that the students had cheated. Escalante retaliated and defended his students, advocating for his students and saying that they had been disqualified because they were poor and Hispanic. The students later retook the test again and passed, proving to Hispanic youth throughout the country that they would reach their full potential in academics.
His story was told in the widely-acclaimed 1988 film Stand and Deliver and the book Jaime Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. Escalante also received the Presidential Medal for Excellence and was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in 1999.