An Olympian is leading a dive into STEM

A new partnership gives access to young students

Students in grades 3-8 are being encouraged to take the plunge. Katie Ledecky, a 3-time Olympian and 7-time Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer wants kids to get excited about STEM. Ledecky, in partnership with Panasonic North America and Discovery Education, has launched the STEM Forward educational initiative.

“[STEM Forward is] going to provide students, educators, and families with dynamic digital resources that will help them explore how technology improves lives and makes the world a better place,” says Alejandra Ceja, vice president, office of social impact and inclusion with Panasonic North America and executive director of the Panasonic Foundation. “The initiative includes activities for families and students, and tools for teachers.”

Alejandra Ceja of Panasonic North America/ Panasonic Foundation (Photo: Panasonic)

Shortly, there will also be a virtual field trip available. “It is a behind-the-scenes of innovation centers. And it brings some of our engineers, some of our scientists from Panasonic talking about the different components that exist in a STEM career.”

The partnership with Discovery Education ensures that the content continues to expand and stay relevant, notes Ceja.

Ceja says Ledecky’s passion for STEM is inspiring. “Katie talks about how STEM influences her swimming. We’ve seen her in action with students breaking down how STEM influences her competition.”

Creating Access and Equity

Ceja says key to the company’s initiatives is advancing educational equity. “The work that we’ve been doing is making sure we can talk about access, making sure we can work with communities of color. What does it mean to have an equity agenda in a school district? We are looking to partner with nonprofit organizations that have the pulse in the community that help us reach students that need to have access to STEM education.”

Ceja continues, “I think the pandemic really proved that education goes beyond the classroom. We have to do more to better leverage technology, reach students, and connect them to the world and the workforce that they’re going to shape and transform.”

“We want to make sure that students have access to information that’s critical for them to make a decision on whether or not they want to pursue a certificate program, a two-year degree, or four-year college education. At the end of the day, as a company, we want to do our part and have great initiatives that will inspire students and help close that opportunity gap that we know exists.”

Filling the Talent Pipeline

“There’s a current and future demand from the labor workforce when it comes to why we need to do more to promote STEM education, to promote the lifelong learning, to ensure that people keep up with STEM skills,” says Ceja.

“As a tech and innovation company, we know our future is directly connected to the ability to hire top talent in the STEM fields. We know the fastest growing jobs of the future are going to require strong literacy in STEM proficiency. It is important that we keep the lens on ‘how do we strengthen those pipelines?’”