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Jessica's 'dare to do' story STEMs from innovative approach to learning

Filming the new TV advert for De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) proved an emotional experience for one of its stars, DMU graduate Jessica Okoro.

It got Jessica thinking about her higher education journey, which saw her diagnosed with dyslexia and launch a pioneering business to teach young people about maths and science.

Her story epitomises the advert’s theme of ‘Dare To Do’ – as the Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science student had to push herself to break down barriers to learning.

She’s glad she did, as not only did Jessica graduate this summer but she is also expanding her BeScience STEM business, which has already inspired around 4,000 youngsters at creative learning sessions.

These involve Jessica and a team of volunteers holding pop-up workshops in shopping centres and libraries, where young people and their families are encouraged to take part in fun science, technology, engineering and mathematics-based activities.

The sessions give youngsters a taste of what’s available to them in their homes and gardens, and include simple, hands-on experiments that they can do back at home.

Jessica said: “I’m so proud of BeScience STEM and everyone that’s been on the journey with us.

“During filming I started thinking of the really good moments, and the moments we were really stressed out.

“We’ve taken a risk and succeeded.”

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Jessica credits DMU with helping her to achieve her potential.

She said: “The biggest thing they’ve done is helping me with my dyslexia. They did the test and I got support straightaway.”

Jessica’s story, one of seven in the TV advert featuring DMU students, involved giving a short, powerful presentation. After a close-up of her peeping from the wings to look at the audience, she had to mentally prepare for her presentation.

On set, Jessica gave an engaging talk, transporting the audience back to her school days and the moment her teacher was asking her to spell ‘angle’, but she struggled.

She said: “At university I’ve had moments where I feel I’m not good enough and when I get a not-so-good-grade it reminds me of that moment, but I’ve become more confident.

“It’s been a life-changing education.”

 

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Jessica developed her business to help young people overcome similar challenges and has even presented evidence in Parliament to help shape how children are taught STEM subjects in school.

She won a package of support with DMU’s Pitch2Win competition, run by the university’s Enterprise Team to help kick-start or develop a business idea. This will enable her to concentrate on her business over the coming year.

Jessica wanted to be involved with the TV advert as it was an “exciting opportunity to share BeScience and my dyslexic journey”.

The filming saw her once again step out of her comfort zone.

Jessica said: “It was really nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.

“The team, such as Max the director, have been amazing. I really enjoyed working with them.

“Max and I have our own handshake now and just having that moment with him and other members of the team, I just feel like I’m part of a family.

“When the TV advert comes out I’m going to be really nervous because of how nervous I was during the filming, but it’s going to be really exciting seeing how I look and how the audience were responding to what I was saying.”

DMU was rated as number 1 for graduate employability and in the top three for teaching excellence in a preliminary study of teaching quality by Times Higher Education magazine and this scene in the advert represents a young person stepping in to the professional environment.

We encourage students to defy convention and to be entrepreneurial through designated support for start-up businesses and funding opportunities for those who want to develop their own business, such as our Innovation Centre and regular Pitch2Win competition.

Although it isn’t clear in the advert, the talk is about dyslexia, a personal challenge that Jessica faced and has received support for throughout her studies.

DMU has a dedicated student support team to provide academic support, disability support and advice on a range of topics including health and wellbeing.

Our Centre for Accessibility Needs has recently been launched help with the Disabled Students’ Allowance process and our support services have been commended by students.

Posted on: Monday 05 September 2016

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