• 4 Questions with 4.0 Schools: Mirta Desir


    Photo: Harlin Miller

    4 Questions With 4.0 is a new Q & A series with members of our Launch Cohorts and other people within the 4.0 Schools community.

    4.0’s Launch program supports entrepreneurs to bring new ventures—products, services, or school models—to life in under 60 days.

    Responding to the needs of others is one of Mirta Desir’s driving forces. She founded three companies in seven years including a law practice that focused on police misconduct and filed about 200 cases to date. Desir founded her company Smart Coos because she wanted to give parents the opportunity to teach their children a second language from birth even though they do not speak that language themselves. Desir, who does not speak Spanish or Chinese, wanted her 16-month old to learn both those languages.

    “I thought I’d just hire a nanny, but she didn’t understand why I wanted to start so young,” recalled Desir. She knew other parents who sought language lessons for their babies and didn’t want to miss out on the big opportunity when kids are able learn rapidly. Desir said that babies can start using sign language as early as six months. She grew up speaking sign language because her brother is deaf. Desir combined sign language with the foreign language for the crux of Smart Coos.

    Tell us the story behind your inspiration for this venture.

    Two years ago, when I became pregnant, I wanted to give my daughter the best opportunity from birth. My research showed that the first 2,000 days is the critical period that can permanently impact a child’s life. Learning two languages from birth has a significant impact. None of the products I found were geared towards children from birth. In addition, I have always been passionate about closing the word gap. Thus, I closed my law firm and started Smart Coos with Harold Jean-Louis.

    What convinced you to apply to the Launch program?

    The launch program seemed like the perfect opportunity to test the Smart Coos method with our target market, children age 0 – 8. Launch was very receptive to the concept of exceptionally early exposure to a second language and it’s impact on a child’s performance in education and life –for us that was exactly the type of nurturing environment we needed.

    How has being parent going through launch changed your views on education?

    Launch has supported my belief that those first few years in a child’s life are critical for future success. Specifically that the the state of our current education and socio-economic system would change dramatically if the government, private entities and parents invested time and money in very early education — starting at birth.

    What’s the biggest challenge you have now?

    Our biggest challenge now is getting Smart Coos in the hands of pregnant women and new parents. Few children from monolingual homes learn a second language by age 6. Children who speak two languages by kindergarten have larger vocabularies (closing the 30,000,000 word gap experienced by children from low-income homes, higher cognitive skills and perform better in math. They are also more likely as adults to have high-income jobs. The ease and benefits of closing the word and opportunity gap for these children lessens with time.

    Our goal is to make it easy for parents to benefit from the exposure of a second language for newborns to age eight and starting now.

    Interested in learning more about the Launch program? Learn more.
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    Think you have an idea for the future of school? Apply.