Admissions Officer, Business Liaison
by John Smith - March 8, 2016
Accomplishment is important to Israel Ledesma.
That is not to say he is focused only on personal success, as the admissions officer and business liaison with Ferris’ Extended and International Operations department has a variety of duties with organizations throughout Michigan, intended to support under-served and under-represented groups of students in their pursuit of higher education, and excellence.
“I’m able to work out in the community, make an impact, and that’s thanks to Ferris’ support,” Ledesma said. Reflecting on his contacts with first-generation, college-going students, including those who are migrants, or the undocumented, Ledesma said “Some have ideas, they need somebody to help them see it through. I’m a ‘worker bee’ helping them to be successful.”
Ledesma can empathize with the students he counsels, as he is a first-generation college student and graduate. Once a high school dropout himself, Ledesma decided to acquire training and become an electrician, then spent 14 years in that field.
While he was able to succeed in his first profession, and start a family, Ledesma believed he had more to accomplish. “I had a passion to work with youth, a complete turnaround in attitude from where I started out,” Ledesma said. “I fell in love with education.”
Ledesma worked with AmeriCorps, and later graduated from Ferris with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Ferris, and has nearly completed the university’s master’s degree program in Career and Technical Education. He said his pursuit of excellence won’t end there.
“I also intend to graduate with a doctoral degree in education,” Ledesma said.
Beyond working with students on their degree paths at Ferris, his service on the university’s strategic planning committee for diverse enrollment and its diverse enrollment team, Ledesma is president of the Grand Rapids Area Higher Education Network. He also serves with the Holland-based Latin Americans United for Progress, where the Youth Planning Committee offers presentations and conferences for up to 1,000 students, each year.
“I’ve been able to connect with a number of organizations, like the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology and the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce,” Ledesma said. “We’re working to promote a college-going culture in that community.”
Ledesma also serves Ferris’ Latino Business and Economic Development Center, working with the Society of Latino Professionals. He is also a graduate of their Latino Talent Initiative.
Ledesma has lent his skills to other Grand Rapids-area schools, as he has been a presenter for the Grand Rapids Community College Latino Youth Conference, and brought his perspective on Identity, Acculturation and ACT/SAT Scoring to Calvin College audiences. He also advocates for participation in Junior Achievement, as well as issues involving the African-American and LGBT communities. Ledesma said that he believes it is important to offer support, in pursuit of a diverse community.
“Michigan is rich with resources, but sometimes people need an advocate to help them get an understanding of the higher education community,” Ledesma said.
Ledesma’s pursuits for others have not gone unnoticed, as he recently received a Leadership, Excellence and Development (LEAD) award from the Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence (GRAPE), recognizing Young Leadership in Cultural Diversity. Ledesma said that this selection by members of the American Society of Quality is a bi-product of his passion to increase college readiness, participation and completion among various and diverse student populations. Earlier this year, Ledesma received the Heart and Soul award from Michigan Campus Compact for his outstanding student service.
“It’s not about the awards. It’s about providing opportunities to the under-served and under-represented populations,” Ledesma said.
That same pursuit of excellence has served Ledesma well in his personal life, as he is a father of six. Two of his sons live with him, and the elder of the two, Izzy, has started a career in real estate. Ledesma said that the younger, Isaiah, has prospects of becoming a Division I athlete throwing the discus, as he is set to graduate from East Kentwood High School, in 2016.
PHOTO CAPTION: Israel Ledesma, an admissions officer and business liaison in Ferris’ Extended and International Operations department, has been recognized by the Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence as a Young Leader in Cultural Diversity.
John Smith is the communications specialist for News Services and Social Media in University Advancement and Marketing.
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