“Where To Start?”

The following is a letter posted on the Huffington Post in response to a powerful article written by Kamala Lopez.  (Click on her name to read the original article.)


“Dear Kamala,

Where to start?

The problem you describe so well is extremely complex. I have been involved in it for twelve years. I continue to fight in my own way with the new company I have founded with Ruben Padilla called Learning is M.A.G.I.C.

Where to start?

I think your article underscores the complexity of the problem and in doing so it implies that there is not one answer. It is going to take a lot of work, by a lot of people, for a long time.

I think the root of the program is bad parenting. Hispanics keep crossing the border because they can’t find work in their own land. Parents from this group alone create and exacerbate the problem you so eloquently explained in your article. They don’t mean to, but they do.


Education, or the lack of it. Most of those who make it across have little or no education. The only thing they know about parenting is what they learned from their parents, who learned it from their parents, who learned it from their parents, ad infinitum. Their parental skills, if you can call them that, are at least a century old. You can’t teach a 21st century child with 19th century methods. Parents like these are perpetuating the mistakes of their great, great grandparents.

We try to address this point in our Parenting is M.A.G.I.C. program. There is a lot to do and even those who want to do it are not getting support from the districts, city, state, and the federal government. This is a question of money as well as a question of will. Even before the economy turned sour, programs like mine were not supported. Now, it is even worse.

Where to start?

I ask the question a third time because there are so many aspects to this problem: The school system, the parents, the teachers, the politicians, the geopolitical situation, the state, national and world economy, immigration, racism, history, poverty, greed – it goes on. I’m glad you wrote about it as there are many who are not aware of the depth of the problem. If they know about it, it is in some abstract way; a way of keeping it at arms length.

You are a filmmaker. I am trying to make my films. It’s a difficult and frustrating task, but film is one way to help solve the problem by exposing it in a dramatic yet entertaining way (if a subject matter such as this can be entertaining) in order to reach an audience who would rather watch “Dumb and Dumber.” How do you get funding for a film like that? How do you get it distributed, and how do you get the audience to come see it? And, once they have seen it, how do you provoke them into action?

It seems to me the world is becoming more and more selfish. People don’t want to know about these problems, let alone get involved. So I go back to the original question.

Where to start?


Tonyo Melendez
Founder & Executive Director
Learning is M.A.G.I.C.”

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