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Honors-PLUS Grad Helping Others To Follow His Lead

Date: June 5, 2002
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Photos by Lisa Ventre
Archive: Profiles

If you're looking for a story of hope in Cincinnati, inspiration to believe in a brighter tomorrow, Stephen Lett is your guy.

Lett graduated from UC June 7 as a member of the inaugural graduating class in the College of Business Administration's Carl H. Lindner Honors-PLUS program.

Stephen Lett at the ICS Center

His is exactly the kind of success story the program envisioned for its graduates: he'll begin work later this month as a systems analyst for Procter & Gamble, meeting the program's primary goal of developing Cincinnati's best high school graduates into the next generation of leaders for the city's business community.

But there's more than just a good job making Lett's story noteworthy.

The best news about Stephen Lett is that he's from Cincinnati, he's made his educational dreams come true in Cincinnati, he's going to benefit from a great job in Cincinnati and that he's already giving back to Cincinnati.

In short, he's the kind of success story that Cincinnati (and every other large American city) needs more of.

Lett was 15 when he first became hooked on computers. His family bought their first one and, in an effort to make it go faster, he eventually tore the whole thing apart.

His interest piqued, he ended up at a special computer program at Hughes High School, right across the street from UC's main entrance to West Campus. There, he made a number of key acquaintances, including girlfriend Stephanie Jones - who became Lett's wife six months ago - and buddy Andrew Craig.

Lett thought he might want to pursue law school, but ended up learning about Honors-PLUS through Craig. They both applied to the program and were accepted. Now, they will graduate together, with Craig having lined up a computer job with Chiquita International.

All along, though, Lett harbored a dream - a desire to share his fascination with computers with others like him. "It was something I had always wanted to do," Lett says. "One of my plans coming into college was to get some sort of program started. I had originally thought about developing a layaway program for low-income families to buy computers, but then the question came up: If they got a computer, would they know how to use it?"

Arrival at that realization foreshadowed the birth of Inexpensive Computer Solutions Computer Learning and Ownership Foundation (ICS), a program started two years ago by Lett and a friend from his church, William Tolliver, a graduate of UC's College of Engineering.

"We were looking for what we could offer as a blanket overall coverage for the area, particularly to economically depressed or low-income families," Lett says. "We did a lot of research to find out what grant money was available."

ICS ended up landing a contract with the City of Cincinnati that calls for the training of 100 teen-age students from within the city. A well-equipped center with three classrooms was set up at a site in Over-the-Rhine and students began receiving instruction in March 2001 in a special Microsoft skills certification program.

Stephen Lett working with ICS clients

"One of our top goals is to get these students' grades dramatically improved," Lett says. "They come in earning Ds and Fs in school and have a low desire to improve. We administer the pre-Mouse software training program to help them understand what kinds of questions they would be required to answer if they are to go on further with computer (work)."

ICS also plans to begin offering business background courses for its students this summer, and has picked up a contract to offer its computer training services to up to 30 students who live outside of the city limits.

Lett's experiences with Honors-PLUS and in developing ICS have made him a changed individual. "Even when I started my freshman year, I did not see having this kind of outcome," he says. "I was really nervous and timid, not at all sure of myself.

"What's happened for me shows things definitely can go right in public schools. And then UC has been such a big help in so many ways."

Click here to read about other UC graduates.

To meet other UC people, go to the profiles archive.

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