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New London High School senior has adapted to adversity, excelled in pursuits

New London — This is not the way Francesca Melynda Ledoux envisioned her New London High School career ending.

No prom. No senior trip. No opportunity to say proper goodbyes and reminisce with family, friends and classmates.

“We’re fighting through all of this together,” said the 18-year-old, who will be attending a virtual graduation ceremony on June 22.

But Ledoux has learned to adapt to adversity and said the COVID-19 pandemic — and everything that goes along with it, including the social distancing and distance learning — is one more thing to adjust to.

Ledoux left her home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, when she was 6 years old, swept away to the United States with her family for their own safety. Haiti was in a state of political unrest at the time. The impoverished country had faced food riots. Young children were being kidnapped for ransom at an alarming rate.

Ledoux’s father worked at the U.S. Embassy and that made her family a target. Her parents, Nadine Belgert and Martial Ledoux, wanted to start a new life for their children.

“Our lives were in danger,” Ledoux said. “Our parents didn’t want to raise us in that type of environment.”

Ledoux left with her mother to stay with family and friends in New London. Her father and siblings followed. She has few memories of that time period. “All I can remember is waking up early in the morning, getting dressed and just saying goodbye to everybody,” she said. “Then I saw I was in a new place.”

The family, which at the time included her older brothers, Stanley and Jamison, stayed in New London for a year before moving to Montreal, Canada, where the family spent the next five years.

The transition to the culture in Montreal was a bit confusing at first but Ledoux said she found it to be accepting. The French language was familiar, as she had grown up speaking French Creole. She fondly remembers her time there.

But it was time to move again in 2013, in part because of her sister, Widberry Jeneffer, had health needs that were best addressed in the United States. It was to be another new start in New London.

Ledoux said she had picked up English by that time and settled into what she described as a diverse and welcoming community and school environment “surrounded by really good classmates.”

She excelled and through her time in New London became both an academic and athlete. She was part of student government, a multicultural club, a Bible study club and a biomedical club, among others. She was also at one point a student representative on the Board of Education.

New London High School interim Director Laurelle Texidor called Ledoux a “great young lady, focused, diligent and persistent.”

Speaking about her many extracurricular activities, Ledoux said, “I want to be involved in my community and like to be surrounded by new people.”

She played tennis, soccer, ran track and joined the boy’s swimming team with a handful of other girls in her sophomore year. Religion, Ledoux said, is important to her and her family. She attended Family Church of God in Norwich every Sunday.

She was named the most valuable player of the tennis team and worked two different jobs, one as a food service assistant at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and another in retail at the Crystal Mall.

The hospital job, she said, was a small step towards her future goal of entering the health care field. She will be attending Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall and plans a career perhaps as a registered nurse or physician’s assistant. The career is another way to give back, she said, while helping to improve the quality of life for patients.

She will be the first in her family to attend college, a great source of pride and made possible, she said, by a scholarship covering her tuition.

“God has taken me very far. He has blessed our family. People have helped me. I want to give back in some way,” Ledoux said.

Ledoux said she supports the Black Lives Matter movement and is proud to see the that locally it is the youth leading the charge to improve lives of residents. “Our voice matters. Youth voices really matter,” she said.

And while being a person of color has led her to “keep my guard up” in certain situations, Ledoux said the high school has always been a place where race and ethnicity never really seemed to be an issue.

In her free time, Ledoux said she continues to pay tennis with her brothers, both of whom are New London High School graduates, and enjoys cooking with her mother.

Ledoux said she hasn’t been back to Haiti but does plan a return visit someday and remains fiercely proud of her native country, which she is quick to point out gained freedom from slavery and independence from French rule in 1804 to become the first independent black nation in the Western Hemisphere.


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