Who was Manuel Esqueda?Manuel Esqueda was born in Strong City, Kansas on June 16, 1922. At the age of 2, his family moved to Santa Ana where he attended Delhi Elementary which later became Monroe Elementary. Mr. Esqueda quickly learned English and developed an appreciation for the British school Principal, Ms. Fanny Bragg. He recollects that she installed the first bathroom and a shower for the school.At a very young age, since Manuel's father was no longer around, he worked in a lima bean field where South Coast Plaza is now located. He knew that getting an education was the best way to earn a decent living so he continued his education in Los Angeles. He also got involved in boxing with Raoul Solisas, his coach. He won many fights which allowed him to buy his mother her first house.After high school, Mr. Esqueda joined the Navy as a Yeoman Second Class. In 1944, the ship on which he was stationed, the USS Princeton, was attacked by the Japanese and sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Mr. Esqueda, afloat for more than three hours before being rescued, prayed for his life to be spared. His promise was to serve mankind in a community effort.
After leaving the Navy, Mr. Esqueda worked for Bank of America and eventually worked his way up to become the first Hispanic bank manager. He clearly understood the importance of education and the serious lack of Hispanic youth attending college. As a result, he stared the Gemini Club to generate funds and provide scholarships to Latino youth. He also created partnerships with the then Angels owner, Gene Autry, and established Serafines de Orange County. Money from corporations, donors and Mr. Esqueda himself have funded more than $900,000 in college scholarships for nearly 1,200 Orange County students. Among those helped by these scholarships were Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, Superior Court Judge Fred Aguirre, and Manuel Gomez Chancellor of University of California, Irvine.Mr. Esqueda received much official recognition from the city, state and federal governments. He was instrumental in the completion of the Delhi Center in Santa Ana. His contributions did not go unnoticed and the Santa Ana Board of Education named our school after him for all his hard work and accomplishments. Sadly, Mr. Esqueda died on the opening day of school, September 6, two days before the dedication ceremony. He will be fondly remembered at Esqueda for his dedication to children and the community.