[Reprinted with Permission of Perrysburg School Alumni Newsletter, granted July 24, 2009]
The building was different. The faces had changed. But for Melissa Ledesma-Leese, it was the same old school. The 1991 Perrysburg High School graduate returned to her alma mater this school year as part of the U.S. State Department’s Hometown Diplomat Program. Ledesma-Leese has been employed as a Consular Officer with the State Department for the past three years. The Hometown Diplomat Program sends State Department employees home to reconnect with their community and further recruiting efforts through their alumni networks. Ledesma-Leese spoke to Chris Lake’s Social Studies and Lynda Fox’s French classes at the high school. She also visited Bowling Green State University where she earned her undergraduate degree, and the University of Toledo where she received her law degree.
During her day at Perrysburg High School, Ledesma-Leese discussed her role in the Office of Fraud Prevention where she was selected for work in the Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center. Ledesma-Leese explained to students the career options available to them in the State Department, as well as internships and fellowships available to high school and college students.
Students in the French class learned the State Department requires knowledge of a second language. “While they will teach you, someone wh o is already proficient in another language has an edge when it comes to hiring,” said Ledesma-Leese.
The diplomat spoke of her travels to foreign countries and noted she has been posted to 10 countries in Africa, her area of expertise. Ledesma-Leese shared how people in other countries follow 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. The Hometown Diplomat recalled how a cab driver in Africa and a woman in the marketplace knew specifics about the presidential primaries and could talk in detail about a speech given by Hillary Clinton.
Accompanying Ledesma-Leese to the high school were her parents, Abraham and Marty Ledesma of Perrysburg. The new high school had not been built when Ledesma-Leese attended, so she was quite interested in touring the facility and expressed envy at the new music wing. “Having been a Jazz Singer under Pam Williams, I was excited to go back and visit her and to watch the Jazz Singers rehearse. They are amazing!” she commented. “The facility for rehearsals and performances is leaps and bounds above what we had! But old building or new, it’s still the same PHS that I remember… even if the walls and faces have changed.”
Ledesma-Leese currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Her husband is a captain in the U.S. Air Force. They met in Spain when she was studying abroad during her college years at Bowling Green State University.