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Making ESL Our Business!

On Wednesday, October 5, nearly 60 Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) high school students participated in an Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program at the Educational Center to learn important life skills for starting their own businesses. 


The program has grown since its initial launch in 2021, now serving 11th and 12th-grade English as a Second Language (ESL) students from Aiken High School, Withrow University High School, Gilbert A. Dater High School and Western Hills High School.


“This program was conceived by CPS counselors, social workers and teachers who saw many multicultural students disengage with school and the post-secondary planning process because they don’t see the typical pathway forward as an option for them,” said Dr. Adam Cooper, English As Second Language Council Chair and coordinator of the program. 


Students are recommended by their school counselors based on individual discussions they have had regarding a post-graduation life. For some, their endorsement comes from a lack of traditional college opportunities, while for others, it’s a launch pad for their business interests. 


“My plans for the future are to go into nursing, but if that pathway is not available to me, then operating a business is something that I would like to do,” said Jacqueline Hernandez, senior student at Aiken High School. “I feel like this is something that you have to do if you want to run a business and represent the Hispanic community in Cincinnati.” 


While Hernandez is determined to pursue her nursing career, she wants to leave plenty of opportunities for other interests available for her, including a potential clothing and jewelry store. 


Jacqueline Hernandez (right) thinks of herself as a leader in her school community and plans to relay the information she learned to her friends and peers 


While the program may be focused on students learning about opening their own businesses, it also provides students with the opportunity to connect with community partners such as Cincinnati COMPASS, the Immigrant and Refugee Law Center, Liberty Tax Service, and Cincy Cleaning Co-op.


As someone who prides herself on her leadership role in their school community, Hernandez says the program is something she’ll definitely be sharing with others back at Aiken. 


“I’m going to recommend this to all my friends back at Aiken because this is helpful in so many different ways,” she said. “The presenter didn’t just talk about businesses, but immigration and that process and as someone who knows many people looking for that kind of knowledge and resources I can point them in the right direction.”


Despite expanding the program out to 2 more schools since last year, Dr. Cooper still has his eyes set on reaching even more students down the line. 


“I would love to eventually engage students at a younger age, because what we have now is really a significant population of immigrant students who, for whatever reason, have factors that really disengage them with school at a young age, Dr.Cooper said. “Right now we’re working with students in grades eleven and twelve, but eventually I would love to expand that to even younger students to engage them before they start showing a disinterest in school.”   


There are two more events slated for the remainder of the school year, one in December and the other in March.