US company Ciena backs Newham-based work to close gap in STEM fields

Academy Achievers founder and CEO Paulette Watson outside Manor Primary School and Nursery

Academy Achievers founder and chief executive Paulette Watson. - Credit: Ken Mears

A US company is supporting a Newham organisation to help close a "digital and educational gap” among young people interested in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Ciena, which specialises in networking systems, services and software, has partnered with Academy Achievers in the initiative, which aims to create learning opportunities and inspire young people to explore careers in STEM fields.

As part of its digital inclusion programme, Ciena will donate 400 laptops to 20 selected schools in Newham and Lewisham.

It will also work with Academy Achievers to create mentorship sessions with Ciena volunteers, and host hands-on training opportunities at its London offices and lab facilities.

Vice-president and EMEA leader Virginie Hollebecque said: “Ciena’s digital inclusion programme seeks to bridge the digital connectivity, access and skills divide that exists in our communities.

“Working with Academy Achievers allows us to advance our shared mission to provide necessary digital skills for today’s world, while promoting equity and opportunity for students.”

Academy Achievers helps under-served young people from diverse backgrounds to socialise, learn and work together to critically solve problems through its programmes. 

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The not-for-profit organisation is committed to equipping these students, especially women aged 14 to 19, with the confidence and skills needed to thrive in a digitally connected environment through educational equality.

The collaboration with Ciena aims to allow these young women to explore STEM-related careers.

Academy Achievers managing director and founder Paulette Watson said: “Giving all children the opportunity to receive a quality education is the main goal of Academy Achievers.

“We work hard to provide our students with the tools and guidance they need to be confident in themselves, as well as succeeding in the world of STEM."

The partnership follows Academy Achievers being shortlisted for the community organisation award for age at the National Diversity Awards 2021.

Ms Watson had also been nominated for entrepreneur of excellence at the awards. 

The awards, to be held at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral on February 4, recognise nominees in fields of diversity including age, disability, gender, race, faith, religion and sexual orientation.

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