Founder and Director of Hablo ingles

I created a summer English immersion camp led by hs students to help kids improve and maintain their English reading, writing and speaking

Photo of Mikaela Bauer
6 3

Written by

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth


Help us stay in touch!

(973) 975-7408 College: North Carolina: Chapel Hill (27514) Home: New Jersey: Long Valley (07853)

Website or social media url(s) (optional): @habloinglesprogram

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

According to the U.S. Census, as of 2014 Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority group, 73% of these U.S. residents age 5 and older speak only Spanish in their homes and only 14% of the Hispanic population have college degrees. Researching the issue, I learned that Hispanics are the least educated group in the U.S. and have the lowest rate of achieving high school and college degrees, limiting their employment and economics success.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Removing academic and economic barriers for the Hispanic population begins with learning English. Although ESL (English as Second Language) classes are offered public schools, the children still need to attend classes in science, math, and social studies, which are all taught in English. As a result, these children struggle to understand the teachers, successfully complete assignments, and test well. Particularly where English is not spoken or reinforced within their homes, by immersing children in English through the summer months, my project will benefit, and for the past four summers has benefitted, Hispanic communities in New Jersey and in several other states by improving the English skills of Hispanic children which directly bears upon their success in the classroom. With a curriculum I developed for each Hablo Ingles location with the help of the ESL teacher at my high school, volunteer high school students to lead the programs recruited through the foreign language department at high schools, and with grant funds used to purchase supplies for each location, more than 100 children have improved their English skills to date. The program now takes places beyond NJ.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

The project began while looking for a summer job in Dover, NJ - selfishly seeking to improve my Spanish speaking and comprehension skills. It was then that I realized that it was more important that the kids I met there learn English. I did some research, used resources at my high school, met the Dover librarian, and raided my craft/game closet. After recruiting students from my high school to help run the program, securing the library location and hanging flyers throughout Dover, more than 25 kids attended the program that met 3 times a week for a few hours each time. The apparent impact we made upon the kids inspired me to continue and grow the project. As a child with visual impairment, requiring help to succeed in school, I understood very well that these children needed accommodations as well; learning English was the best way to remove barriers to higher education for them.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

After working the Dover NJ location for two years, I sought to expand the program to other communities in Nj. I contacted the foreign language department of many high schools and succeeded in recruiting high school volunteers to lead locations in Netcong, Freehold and Middlesex in addition to Dover. I expanded to include Cape May, Hackettstown and Westwood, and then Indiana and Massachusetts over the past two summers. With grant funds I created a website that enables interested teens to register and start a location of their own, it tells them how to start a location and provides forms to help recruit volunteers, participants, etc. I have a group email address so that I can send and receive emails related to hablo ingles - answering questions, providing info and helping our teens so that the program they start in their community is successful.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Our program is unique because it is organized and led by teens and young adults. The "teachers" are high school students. And the kids in the program love that!! Although I thought that it would be a good idea to have an adult supervisor (who could also sign off on service hours) accessible to the student volunteers for each location, I have observed that the student leaders are very responsible and invested in the program, many returning for multiple summers, and they need little if any supervision. I am proud of those students involved in Hablo Ingles.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

I witnessed firsthand the difference the program made in Dover. Damian uttered not 1 word of English at first. After 6 weeks, Damian could identify the months of the year, counted to 20, and he knew his colors and seasons in English. Yusten now knows the difference between a verb, a noun and an adjective thanks to Mad Libs games. Amadeus won our spelling bee. Valeria understands grammar and now correctly uses the comma and period. The kids who participated in the program were enthusiastic and were disappointed when it ended. That is the feedback i have received from the directors of the other locations.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

It is my hope to get funding in order to form a non-profit for Hablo Ingles. I think it will help in be able to receive donations and to obtain locations for the program, having insurance, and spreading the word. I believe and it is my hope that Hablo Ingles becomes a nationwide program, to make the greatest impact on the Hispanic communities throughout the U.S. ps- please note that children other than Hispanic children have participated in our English immersions program. We accept any child who is learning or needs to learn English :)

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Marketing Strategy

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Youth Service America


Join the conversation:

Photo of Alison Tu

Hi Mikaela,
It's so inspiring reading about the initiative you've taken so far, and I cannot begin to say how impactful your project can be on all these kids. Wishing you good luck in the challenge, especially in the hopes of getting a chance to collaborate/work with you in the future!

View all comments