Arneqka Lester

Student Story: Meet Arneqka Lester

August 8, 2023

It Doesn’t Matter Where You Start

Arneqka Lester grew up on Cincinnati’s west side and knows her experience with high school will sound familiar to many students. That’s why she’s so open about sharing it.

“I struggled when I was younger. I had complications throughout high school. I was a troubled child, hated school, and misbehaved. I was a runaway. I came across Lighthouse Youth & Family Services one of the times I ran away. And that’s what got me thinking that I might want to help people in group homes or shelters.”

However, she’d have to continue with school to become a social worker. At the time, Arneqka was attending Dohn Community High School, catering to students at risk of not graduating. The principal told her about a small community college in Over-the-Rhine, where a self-described shy, “anti-social” student might find a home.

Chatfield Changed Me

Arneqka was nervous about starting at Chatfield – she was never into books and had never thought about college – but she wanted to run her own group home, so she decided to give it a shot.

“Chatfield turned me around 100 percent. I fell in love with school, and the work came easy to me. What I was learning related to social work just resonated within me.”

Arneqka graduated from the former Chatfield College with her associate degree in December 2022 and now attends Mt. St. Joseph University, where she expects to graduate in 2025 with her bachelor’s degree.

“Mt. St. Joe’s is not easy, but it is coming to me. I’m capable of it and love it so much, I want to keep trying,” said Arneqka.

Joining The Chatfield Edge

Arneqka initially didn’t realize that she qualified for support from The Chatfield Edge.

“I thought it was only for up-and-coming students – those who hadn’t earned an associate degree yet. But I was struggling and needed help, so I contacted Dave because he helped me in the past.”

David Hesson is the current interim director of The Chatfield Edge, who formerly served as the Associate Dean for Chatfield College.

“Everyone needs someone in their corner, and that’s why we exist,” said David. “Particularly for students like Arneqka, who is working three jobs, raising a family, and going to school, The Chatfield Edge can connect our students to resources for scholarships, financial aid, financial management, and self-care that can break down the barriers to education that life sometimes puts in their way.”

For Arneqka, education is giving her the chance to do what she loves.

“I love the work I do. I didn’t think I could make it through school, so the fact that I’m in an honor society with a high GPA, and have so much going on in my life, makes me very proud.”

Arneqka’s goal is to run her own group home within three years of graduating. She is currently working at Lighthouse to help prepare her for her career.

“I worked at McDonald’s for 9 years. It was just a job to me. Just clock in and clock out. Get money to pay my bills. My career is more than that. It’s my life and I’m excited to see where it leads.”

If you are a non-traditional student like Arneqka, wanting to return to school to pursue a career, please talk to us. We are here to help students like you gain success in life through education. If you have questions, contact David Hesson at or 513-875-3344.