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Miracles without borders

Miracles come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they occur instantaneously, and sometimes they evolve. For Ladislao (Lalo) Lopez, it is difficult to tell exactly when his happened; actually his might have been a series of miracles, which resulted in a transformed life.

Lalo’s miracle began with his birth in 1973 in the little village of San Francisco Hijos, high in the mountains of the Mexican state of Oaxaca. He was the second of five children in the Lopez family, who lived without electricity in the small, adobe that sheltered them in the little, cooperative farming community of 200 — over 7,000 feet up in the Oaxacan highlands.

Lalo learned early that to live, one had to work. Everyone in his family worked, in fact, everyone in the village worked. The land was owned in common, and each family tilled their part of the soil to produce the corn, squash, and other subsistence crops that kept them alive.

School was the only thing that provided Lalo with a break from working in his family’s plot. He went from kindergarten through sixth grade in the little village school. That was the only education available to him, and it was a pivotal part of his life. Lalo’s first language was Mixtico, an indigenous language of Mexico. That was all he knew until he started school. There he learned Spanish. In time, he would add English to his repertoire.

Lalo could have spent the rest of his life in that little mountain top village trying to eke out a living by subsistence farming, but that wasn’t to be. Somebody had other plans for his life. He had been given a purpose to fulfill.

In the mid 1970’sm Lalo’s life took a turn. His father began to make annual treks to the United States to work. For a decade, Lalo’s father continued to labor in the fields of California, then in 1984, his mother joined his father in the United States to follow the crops. This left Lalo and his siblings in Oaxaca for a while.

In the next year, Lalo’s father brought him and his siblings to Baja to live with an aunt. While in Baja, Lalo worked in the tomato fields. Then, his father was able to bring him to the United States.

As a teenager, Lalo followed the crops with his parents, performing field work. It was while he was working in the fields that Lalo’s life took another turn.

While the family did field work in Farmersville, Lalo was able to attend school for a short time. They placed him in the 7th grade. The next year, while they were working in Oxnard, Lalo got another chance to go briefly to school. This time, they put him in the 8th grade. After those two short middle school experiences, Lalo was never the same. He never let go of his determination to complete his education.

The next year, Lalo’s father found permanent employment on a local ranch, so he moved his family to Madera.

Lalo decided to enroll in Madera High School, but he hit a roadblock. The authorities at Madera High told him the school didn’t have room for him. Instead they enrolled him in an independent study program at Furman where he received one to two hours of direct instruction per week. The next year he was permitted to enroll in Madera High School.

While he was enrolled in Madera High, Lalo didn’t quit working. His family still needed his help. Besides working in the fields, Lalo got a job as a part-time custodian at Eastin-Arcola and found work in the library. Meanwhile he threw himself into a vigorous pursuit of competence in English.

Through an assiduous application of a God-given blend of inspiration and perspiration, Lalo graduated from Madera High School. By that time, he knew where he was headed. What followed was the rest of Ladislao Lopez’ miracle.

Lalo enrolled in Fresno State and earned his Bachelor’s degree and teaching credential. He was employed as a social studies teacher in Castroville. He remained at that position for nine years and earned a Masters degree. Then, he became a middle school counselor. From there, Lalo moved to Salinas High School as an assistant principal and then to Cabrillo Unified School District as principal of Cunha Intermediate School.

Lalo’s meteoric rise in education continued when he was appointed as principal of Webster School in nearby Golden Valley Unified School District and was named Madera County Administrator of the Year in 2018.

From there, Lalo went to Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint USD as director of educational services and human resources, and that is where Madera USD found him. Today, Ladislao Lopez is an Area Assistant Superintendent for Madera Unified. Recently, he reflected on his miracle.

“When I was nine years old, in a moment of clarity, I remember wondering what lay beyond the mountains. At the time, my reality consisted of a small village in the Oaxacan Highlands with no electricity or any of the modern conveniences we enjoy today. Back then, I only had my imagination and a sense of curiosity about the world. The expectations of me were to complete the sixth grade, work in farming, and remain in the village for the rest of my life. As I look back, I’m in shock of what my life has become and the incredible blessings and opportunities I have been provided. The trajectory of my life changed, and I am what I was not supposed to be.”

That’s the classic definition of a miracle, Lalo.

Thanks be to God.


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