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A passion ignited.

Women@Ciena host “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day”

Kids building with marshmellows

Women@Ciena Logo

The future is bright

At 5:15 a.m., Patricia McDonald wakes up with a smile. The energetic Ciena employee remembers the 6th grade STEM initiative that changed her life, and she’s excited about the opportunity to pay it forward. Empowerment through exposure. It’s how an interest becomes a passion. It’s how to engage the great minds of the future. And it’s how the *SPARK* S.T.E.M Day, spearheaded by Patricia and her Women@Ciena colleagues, became a reality.

The outreach program was created in support of the national “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day” to spark the interest and fuel the passion of local students in STEM education. First-generation girls and gifted bright minds from a successful but underserved public high school in north metro Atlanta were invited to spend the day with Ciena to see firsthand the impact women have in technology today, and the opportunities that a career path in STEM fields offers.

Bold for change

In partnership with Centennial High School, 30 girls were invited to participate alongside Ciena employees in a day of fun-filled activities at our Alpharetta office. Sherrod Camp, the Assistant Principal of Centennial kicked-off the event with a message, “Attack the day―don’t be passive learners. Look around you―this is your network.” The students listened to informative sessions taught by our Ciena ‘university professors’, played games, and watched interactive demonstrations including a tour of our R&D lab and truck. Patricia believes the out of the box educational experience will broaden the traditional boundaries and limitations of the girls so they’re encouraged to pursue STEM education and careers as they grow into women decision makers. Her philosophy is to be bold for change so that "these hidden gems can and will shine bright."

Sherrod Camp
Ultimately, I hope these young ladies get a chance to see themselves in this type of career, see themselves in this life, and make a path to be there if that’s what they want to do and to use this as a catalyst for it. Mr. Sherrod Camp, Assistant Principal Centennial High School

Empowering outcomes

As a result of this experience, 15 students requested mentorships from Ciena to learn more about *SPARK* S.T.E.M and careers at Ciena. The Women@Ciena Atlanta team plan to expand their partnership with Centennial High School through an ongoing afterschool club. They also plan to roll-out the program into additional metro Atlanta schools this spring. Arantza, a Centennial 11th grader reflected, "The day is empowering. It allows a lot of young girls to not box themselves into a certain compartment that they think they can only do because of gender and circumstances." Eleventh grader Kemieh summed it up best when asked why more women should consider a career in a STEM field: "We are powerful."

Spark kids cheering

*SPARK* S.T.E.M in action

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