My previous blog about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) highlighted examples of how Cisco IT is supporting STEM initiatives through mentoring, IT training, and job programs with schools in local communities. Here I’d like to spotlight the Boys and Girls in Leadership and STEM program, which aims to motivate middle school youth to consider STEM careers and to find their inner leader.

A large group of Cisco IT volunteers, led by four talented and motivated females, implemented this program over the course of three months. Originally it was intended to reach only girls and promote STEM and leadership, but the organizers quickly concluded that true positive impact would be best achieved by equally reaching out to both genders. The approach follows a systematic, scalable framework that immerses these young minds in technology, leadership, teamwork, and the art of the possible.

A summary of the program:

  • Two San Francisco Bay Area schools participated: Canyon Heights Academy and Saint Frances Cabrini (8th and 7th grades, respectively).
  • 86 students participated.
  • Students received a STEM presentation and attended a leadership workshop at our Cisco campus in San Jose
  • Working in groups, they participated in a contest to build the City of the Future. This hands-on learning directly ties in with the Internet of Everything and Smart and Connected Cities.
  • Two winning teams from each school visited Cisco headquarters (in San Jose) and presented their projects via telepresence.

Here is some feedback we received from parents and staff at Saint Frances Cabrini:

  • “My daughter came home and could not stop talking about the technology. She always said she wants to be a fashion designer. Now she wants to work at Cisco.”
  • “When I got home, my daughter showed me her future self, and it was great because it got her thinking about a roadmap of how to get there.”
  • “Thank you so much for all your hard work in giving my kid an opportunity like this.”
  • “It’s a great learning opportunity for these kids to see the corporate environment.”
  • “This would also be great for my 9th grader. I wish they had this opportunity at her school.”
  • “A couple of the kids came up and told me they want to work at Cisco [one of them was the girl who said she wants to be an engineer].”

Both schools want to continue participating in the program.

Special thanks to the Women in IT and Early in Career who helped make this program possible. The overall STEM program’s success is the result of commitment by many Cisco IT employees.