Esmark Inc. Announces First Recipient of New Education Scholarship, Empowers First Generation College Students in America

Heisa Bouchard Ferrer Scholarship Award honors Spanish-speaking education students

SEWICKLEY, Pa. – January 8, 2023 – Esmark Inc., today, announced Gabriela Valles Jimenez as the first recipient of the new Heisa Bouchard Ferrer Scholarship, a financial award recognizing exemplary first-generation, Spanish-speaking students, pursuing a degree within the College of Education at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC). The scholarship was established by Esmark Inc. to honor Bouchard Ferrer, HR manager at Esmark, Inc., and to acknowledge UIC’s designation as an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI).

As the inaugural recipient of the Heisa Bouchard Ferrer Scholarship, Valles Jimenez is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Urban Elementary Education, with an endorsement in Early Childhood Education at UIC. She received a $2,000 scholarship that will support her student teaching internship in a bilingual Chicago Public Schools classroom for the Spring 2024 semester.

Valles Jimenez was raised in a Spanish-speaking household, learning English as a second language. When her father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she began working to support the family’s financial obligations. Now, as a full-time student, she works nights and extra shifts to support her mother and younger sister.

“It takes courage and perseverance to be the first in the family to attend college,” said Kathryn Chval, Dean of the College of Education, University of Illinois Chicago. “Having the strength to fight adversity and seize the opportunity is an accomplishment that should be both encouraged and honored. Gabriela has fought steadfast for her education. We were moved by her story, even more so knowing that she’s studying to be an educator.”

Qualifying candidates were first-generation students with Spanish fluency, pursuing undergraduate degrees in the College of Education at UIC. They were required to have been actively involved in the Latino communities in Chicago, the Latino Cultural Center, the Latino Student Union, or other similar organizations.

Bouchard Ferrer epitomizes the importance of education and providing opportunities to first-generation college students. “Heisa’s fluency in English and Spanish, combined with her compassionate demeanor, enable her to facilitate solutions-focused conversations for the company and its employees,” said James P. Bouchard, Founder and Chairman, Esmark Inc. “A former Miss Cuba, she has grown from a beauty pageant winner to a respected manager within the U.S. manufacturing industry.”

“This scholarship means so much to me and my family,” said Valles Jimenez. “I can now focus on school and not stress about financial obligations. This truly is such a blessing.”

In the spring semester of 2024, she plans to teach during the week, in addition to taking night classes to finish her degree. “I was preparing to continue working night shifts, weekends, and holidays, but now I’ll be able to focus on my studies until my graduation in May,” continued Valles Jimenez.

Since its founding in 2003, Esmark Inc. has shown a longstanding commitment to community engagement. As a family-owned and operated enterprise, it has supported a wide range of education, recreation, and humanitarian services, benefiting thousands of at-risk children and families in the Midwest and abroad. Esmark Inc. has awarded more than $10 million in contributions and grants to aid relief efforts in New Orleans, Ukraine, and Haiti, and to support various children’s charities and educational institutions. Esmark Steel Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of Esmark Inc., is headquartered in Chicago Heights, Ill.

About Esmark, Inc.

Esmark, Inc. is a diversified, privately-held family company with a portfolio of industrial companies with strong roots in the steel industry. Over the years, Esmark has diversified its interests and operations into a number of businesses engaged in the industrial and commodity sectors. Esmark (a former publicly traded company on NASDAQ: ESMK) has focused on several key industries including steel services, oil and gas exploration, aviation, real estate, professional services, technology and youth sports development. The company is also an active corporate citizen in the communities it serves, having committed more than $10 million in philanthropic support of a wide range of humanitarian, education, family wellness and youth sports programs in Pennsylvania, Illinois and internationally.