Alum Michelle Fadlalla-Leo: Director of Marketing at Simon & Schuster

Photo courtesy of Michelle Fadlalla-Leo

Sarah Kearsley

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Prior to gaining success in her career as the Director of Marketing, Education, and Library at Simon & Schuster, alum Michelle Fadlalla-Leo, attended our very own Hawthorne High School.

Fadlalla-Leo graduated HHS in 1993 and then attended Fordham University in the Bronx. There, she double majored in French and Communications. During her senior year of college, Fadlalla-Leo won a Fullbright Fellowship to teach English in France. She said, “I taught American culture and conversation in a French high school in the southwest of France for the 1997-1998 school year. It was absolutely one of the best years of my life. I was completely immersed in the French language and culture and had the opportunity to travel throughout Europe.”  She graduated Fordham in 1997 as the valedictorian.

While in college, Fadlalla-Leo had many internships in media/entertainment, which helped her gain her interest in the field. She worked at a radio station, for a magazine, and at a major movie studio. Fadlalla-Leo said she loved planning events and marketing, so naturally she ended up in the publishing field. She added, “It’s not surprising that I ended up in publishing because my parents are both librarians, so I think books have always been in my blood. If I wasn’t working in publishing, I might have been a teacher, so I am grateful that my job allows me to work daily with teachers and librarians, while also allowing me to use my creativity and marketing skills.”

Fadlalla-Leo is currently the Director of Education and Library Media for Simon & Schuster, Inc. As the director, she is responsible for promoting children and adult books to teachers and librarians.

Fadlalla-Leo is thankful for all of her “wonderful memories” at HHS.  By taking advantage of the many activities offered at HHS, she was able to gain a lot of experience for her future. Leo said, “Anyone who took advantage of the diverse offerings couldn’t help but graduate the school a more well-rounded individual.  I ran track, did statistics for the baseball team, performed in the variety show, worked on the school paper and yearbook, was involved in Student Council and the Peer Counselors program, and participated in SHARE.  I had excellent teachers at Hawthorne High School who truly cared about my academics as well as my personal well-being. Thanks to them I had a good sense of self and was confident about my ability to do well in college and succeed in whatever path I chose for a career. I also had a real belief that it was important to serve and help others, and I try to live my life that way today.”

Recently, Fadlalla-Leo arranged for Simon & Schuster to donate 52 books to the HHS library Media Center to thank Library Media Specialist Theresa DiGeronimo for her participation in Simon & Schuster teacher focus groups.  These books consisted of primarily young adult literature, which were mostly fiction, along with a few nonfiction and memoirs. Some of the books donated were Making Hope Happen by Shane J. Lopez, Cracked by K.M. Walton, and Fallout by Ellen Hopkins. Within only one week, several of the books had already been quickly signed out.

Fadlalla-Leo said, “I was delighted to give back to my hometown high school with a donation of our bestselling, new, and classic teen books. It is my hope that the students will enjoy these new additions to the HHS Library collection for their reading pleasure.”

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