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Cisco’s Webex bridging the gap to reach diverse students in STEM effort

Melinda Guravich, Staff Writer

Empowering students from diverse backgrounds is a passion for Lymari Ames, a project delivery lead at Cisco Systems, Inc., who herself came from a Hispanic background.

When she talks to students about STEM careers, Lymari tells them that her job is to break things and then fix them. Kids relate to her personal story which included entering college as an undeclared major, graduating with a degree in electrical engineering and working on the cutting-edge technology that we know today as text messaging. 
Watch Lymari at one of the camps
As Cisco’s Tech Titans advocate, she is a familiar presence at STEM initiative events at North Texas school districts, from emceeing numerous “Successful Women in Engineering” and “Everyone Can Be an Engineer” diversity panels to speaking at STEM camps. Watch a video featuring Lymari at one of the camps. 

Cisco is a long-time supporter of the STEM initiative. They’ve hosted the STEM video judging competitions and campus tours for students. “Giving back is part of Cisco’s culture. The company is an advocate of its employees serving the community,” said Lymari.

Time, treasure and Webex
Now Cisco is helping Tech Titans deliver STEM inspirations virtually through its Webex collaboration tool during the most challenging of times. Continuing to provide these STEM events is critical for ISDs: in-person volunteering and mentoring opportunities are off the table right now.

Webex has the capability of replicating virtually the Tech Titans programs typically conducted face-to-face, from small discussion groups to panels with large audiences. That includes speed mentoring. “We’re able to leverage breakout rooms, divide students into groups and rotate volunteers between rooms to answer the kids’ questions,” said Lymari. Additionally, Webex’s security component is an important feature for schools.

“We still need to engage with students, create opportunities for them to feel connected and be mentored,” she said. “We continue to give them that hope for their futures and the encouragement they may not receive outside of the classroom. Teachers do an amazing job. We compliment that experience by serving as STEM career role models.”

Volunteers also demonstrate to students how important it is to be adaptable to circumstances. “We can definitely be flexible and productive while working in a virtual setting,” Lymari said.

She refers to student response and feedback as paychecks of the heart. “There’s tremendous satisfaction in these volunteer experiences and the evident energy it creates in students.”

Relationships and engagement = impact2

The STEM initiative represents a great networking opportunity with like-minded professionals from Tech Titans member companies—Lymari Ames
“Tech Titans brings us together,” said Lymari. “Paths cross that otherwise would not. I’m now connected with peers and leaders from companies like State Farm, Texas Instruments and Qorvo. I wouldn’t have met them if not for this initiative.”

“Many of those involved in the Tech Titans STEM initiative at area ISDs are also engaged with their local schools,” said Lymari, who serves as president of the Wylie Education Foundation. “Because of our hands-on experience with effective programs and best practices, we’re equipped to support our own ISDs.”

Jacob Day, PhD, Wylie ISD board member, said “Lymari gives high school STEM students a glimpse into the corporate world through Tech Titans diversity panels and company tours. She is an absolute champion for the students of Wylie ISD and an integral part of STEM outreach within the district.”

The STEM initiative is always looking for new participants and supporters. Taking these programs virtual has made it easier than ever for Tech Titans members to participate.

“Spending just an hour of your day as a panelist or mentor makes an impact,” Lymari said. “How can you not want to be a part of it?”

Looking for an opportunity to inspire STEM education and career pathways? Contact Dave Galley at dave@techtitans.org.

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