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Alumna of the month: Jessica Okoro

Since she graduated from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) in 2016, Jessica Okoro’s charity, BeScience STEM, has gone from strength to strength with its engaging teaching inspiring thousands of students worldwide to enter a career in the STEM industries.

Alongside her day job as a MI-GSO PCubed Consultant, project managing for Motorola, Jessica works as the director of BeScience STEM, the social enterprise, she founded while studying an undergraduate course in Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science at DMU.

Jessica Okoro 1

Last week BeScience STEM hosted its first virtual summit, which reached over 2500 young people from schools across the UK. It featured speakers from a variety of high-profile organisations such as Deliveroo, HSBC, Google, Gymshark and ASOS alongside a keynote speech from Joe Foster, the founder of Reebok. The speakers helped inspire the young attendees to consider a career in STEM and help them realise their potential in the industry.

Whilst the move to virtual summits was a response to Covid-19, as with many other businesses, BeScience STEM have realised the benefits of hosting online events. Jessica commented: “Through virtual events, we are able to reach many more students in a more agile way. Having hosted it online, we were able to be in more than 20 classrooms at once, which is a very scalable way of giving young people insight into the varied roles in the STEM industry.

“Next year, we have a very bold mission of visiting over 50 schools and hosting skills workshops to help them transition into the STEM workforce. We’re partnering with 10 organisations to bring the skills workshops to life with corporate volunteers sharing their journeys and hosting hands-on workshops to show students how they can build specific skills like communication, networking and presenting.

“Young people usually already have these kinds of soft skills, but they’re not normally aware of how they can strengthen them between now and joining the corporate world and starting their jobs. What we’re helping them to do is become more employable by honing their skills earlier on.”

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Next month, BeScience STEM is holding an in-person summit in Ghana, similar to a previous conference they held in Sierra Leone in 2019. These summits help work towards Jessica’s next goal for herself and BeScience STEM to expose 1 million young people to the STEM industry by 2025.

These conferences and summits are a huge highlight for Jessica’s career so far: “Since starting the charity while at DMU, I’ve had multiple highlights. I’ve hosted conferences abroad with vice presidents as my keynote speakers and had children cheering in stadiums. I’ve been fortunate to do a TEDx talk and have been endorsed by multiple prime ministers. We’ve worked with thousands of volunteers and helped people get into work based on their volunteering experience.

“I think the biggest highlight for me actually would be the fact that I get the opportunity to see our impact. Sometimes it’s just seeing someone realising they understand a fundamental scientific theory they never thought they could. It’s the lives we touch, and that’s what keeps me doing it after all these years. Seeing families from low-income backgrounds whose children wouldn’t usually have access to these kinds of educational experiences benefit from what we’re doing. It is very rewarding.”

Jessica Okoro 3

While studying at DMU, Jessica was supported by lecturers and staff to help her realise her academic potential and dreams of starting BeScience STEM. Through the support of initiatives like DMU Square Mile and the Crucible Project, she was able to set up the charity and have her first conference sponsored by DMU.

“I came to DMU through clearing, and I had really low self-esteem in relation to my academic ability and educational competency.” Jessica said. “But I found it was a very cultivating and encouraging community at DMU, and I was supported to try new things and exercise my skill sets, which is how BeScience STEM was born. I was given the space, resources and support to leave DMU more confident than when I started, with my social enterprise established and ready to support other young people in their education.”

One lasting piece of advice Jessica has for young people and DMU students looking to expand their careers is: “Expose yourself to as much as you can. Being open to different opportunities that didn’t seem aligned to my career or what I wanted to do after university and building relationships by having conversations has really given me the opportunity to do a lot more. DMU offers a lot of opportunities like placements, apprenticeships and volunteering, and all these things help to build your portfolio of experiences which is a great toolkit for when you’re ready to start in the working world.”

Posted on Friday 26th November 2021

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