•MOST PROMISING engineer - Master’s •
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products
M.S., Electrical Engineering, California State University, Los Angeles
B.S., Physics, California Polytechnic State University, Pomona
Entering first grade in Los Angeles, speaking almost no English shortly after moving with his mother and family to join his father, Oscar Ledezma struggled at first, but — after four years of ESL classes — he was fluent and fitting in with his classmates as a typical kid playing with toys and video games and watching Disney Afternoons on TV.
Little did Mr. Ledezma know back then that he would one day become a valued employee of the Walt Disney Company as a Controls Engineer at the Disneyland Resort,tasked with a multitude of projects aimed at improving the reliability and safety of the attractions that thrill thousands of people each day.
He also didn’t know back then the type of struggles he would face as an undocumented immigrant. As a child Mr. Ledezma had little awareness of his immigration status outside of an admonition form his parents not to talk about where he was from originally. It wasn’t until his family moved from the heavily Latino sections of Los Angeles to the more prosperous suburb of Diamond Bar — where his classmates all had parents with white collar jobs — that he felt the stigma of being an “illegal alien.”
Without a social security number, getting a driver’s license was impossible and, more importantly, Mr. Ledezma feared that it would prevent him from achieving his goal of becoming the first in his family to graduate college, even though he had spent practically his entire life growing up in California. Despite the discouragement of his guidance counselor, he applied to college anyway despite not knowing whether he could gain admission and, if admitted, pay for his education without financial aid only available to citizens.
Accepted at Cal Poly Pomona, Mr. Ledezma found that he qualified for the lower in-state tuition and could pay it on an installment plan. With the help of his mother’s overtime work and an after-school job he began to study Aerospace Engineering, only to learn that his immigration status would prevent him from ever getting a job in the industry due to government contracts that require security clearances only citizens could obtain.
Mr. Ledezma switched his major to physics and applied himself even harder. He got involved with the Society of Physics Students, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, and other organizations. Still uncertain about his employability as he approached graduation, his future opened up when President Obama instituted the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program which gave him a valid work permit and qualifications for financial aid at Cal State LA to start earning his M.S. in Electrical Engineering.
A decision to attend the 2014 HENAAC conference in New Orleans led to an internship opportunity at Disney World and eventually a job offer at Disneyland where he worked full time while completing his Master’s. With his positive attitude and outsized work ethic, Mr. Ledezma has a promising future at Disney where he has already impressed his co-workers with his willingness to pitch in at any opportunity.