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Diplomacy in Action

Interview with Melissa Ledesma-Leese: Perrysburg Graduate Returns as Hometown Diplomat

Office of Public Liaison
Bureau of Public Affairs
November 3, 2008


Melissa Ledesma-Leese
Perrysburg, Ohio

By Roseanne Barker, Director Policy/Communications

[Reprinted with Permission of Perrysburg Schools Communications granted June 9, 2009]

For Melissa Ledesma-Leese the building was different, the faces had changed, but it was the same old Perrysburg High School as far as she was concerned.

The 1991 Perrysburg graduate returned to her alma mater recently as part of the U.S. State Department’s Hometown Diplomat Program. She has been employed as a consular officer with the State Department for the past three years. The Hometown Diplomat Program sends department employees home to reconnect with their community and further recruiting through their alumni network.

Ms. Ledesma-Leese spoke to Chris Lake’s social studies and Lynda Fox’s French classes at the high school. She also visited Bowling Green where she earned her undergraduate degree, and the University of Toledo, where she received her law degree.

During her day at Perrysburg High School she discussed her job in the Office of Fraud Prevention, where she was selected for detail at the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. Ms. Ledesma-Leese informed the students about careers in the State Department, as well as internships and fellowships available to high school and college students and answered the students’ questions about the opportunities available to them.

Of particular note to the French class students, Ms. Ledesma-Leese explained that the State Department requires another language besides English.

“While they will teach you, someone already proficient in another language has an edge when it comes to hiring,” she said.

Ms. Ledesma-Leese also talked about her travels to foreign countries. She has been posted to 10 countries in Africa, her area of expertise.

She shared with the students how much people in other countries know about American politics.

“They are watching us and they want to know everything they can about the United States – our clothes, our television programs,” she said. She recalled a cab driver in Africa and a woman in the market place who knew specifics about the presidential primaries this past summer and could talk in detail about a speech given by Hillary Clinton and how that surprised her.

“They know everything about American Idol, too,” she noted.

Ms. Ledesma-Leese currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Her husband is a captain in the Air Force. They met in Spain when she was studying abroad during her college years at BGSU. The couple has a six-year-old son.

Accompanying Ms. Ledesma-Leese to the high school were her parents of Perrysburg. Since the new high school had not been built when Ms. Ledesma-Leese attended the school, she was interested in touring the facility and expressed some envy of the new music wing.

“Having been a Jazz Singer under the direction of Pam Williams in my high school days, I was so excited to be given the opportunity to go back and visit her, not to mention watch the Jazz Singers rehearse. They are amazing!” she commented. “The facility they have both to rehearse and perform is leaps and bounds above what we had.”

She added, “But old building or new, it’s still the same PHS that I remembered even if the walls and faces have changed.”

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