High school students at private LA school surprise math teacher with car

LOS ANGELES — It didn’t add up for a math teacher at a private school in Los Angeles. Julio Castro entered what he believed was a faculty appreciation ceremony but instead walked out with the keys to a car.

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Castro, 31, who teaches at YULA Boys High School in the Pico-Robertson neighborhood of the city, was gifted a 2019 Mazda CX-3 by his students at the Jewish private school on Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The car means that Castro no longer has to commute more than two hours one way to teach, according to KABC-TV.

Castro lives in the Santa Clarita Valley and used a scooter and bus to get to the school, the Times reported. He typically wakes up at 4:30 a.m. PDT and returns home sometimes as late as 9:30 p.m. -- long after his three young children have gone to sleep.

“He made sure I understood all of the material by sitting down with me during his lunch breaks and sacrificing his time after school where he could be getting to the bus stop going back home,” said Joshua Gerendash, a senior at the school, told KABC.

“It is roughly two hours. It depends, if I miss my bus, I wait another half hour or an hour,” Castro told the television station.

Castro’s commute was a 7-mile trip on his scooter to a bus stop. From there, the bus took 90 minutes to reach Century City, the Times reported. After exiting the bus, Castro used the scooter to reach the school.

“I made the best out of it,” Castro told the newspaper. “I always told them, ‘When life doesn’t go your way, what do you do? Don’t cry about it. Don’t whine about it. Just be grateful for what you already have, and then move on. And one day some good things will happen.’”

Castro’s students, aware of his transportation difficulties, raised more than $30,000 over the summer to buy the vehicle, according to the newspaper. They also bought the teacher a year’s worth of gasoline and car insurance, KABC reported.

Now, Castro can enjoy the dark blue Mazda with its 2.4-liter engine, in-line front-wheel drive, leather seats, Bose stereo, sunroof and only 30,000 miles, the Times reported.

“I feel surprised. I feel special. So thank you to my students. They are like my kids as well,” Castro told KABC. “Now that I have a car, I get to drop off my kids every morning. And then coming here with time to spare, I can use it on my lesson plans. Then on my way back, traffic is still bad, but I’ll be able to make it for dinner.”

“No matter what happens with him, he is gonna find some way to pay it forward,” YULA senior Charlie Leeds told the Times. “We’ve been taught certain values like empathy” and to “treat your fellow person as you’d want to be treated. Mr. Castro is the embodiment of that. With this car, with this new opportunity, he’s only going to find more and more ways to help other people around him.”