Software consultant

Software consultant aims to close the wealth gap with STEM education

In 2020, Ciandress Jackson founded the ‘Be Great Foundation’ to teach STEM education to Latinx and Black students from low-income families.

GREENSBORO, NC – Someone over the years may have told you to “be awesome” in some capacity whether it was at work or playing a sport or maybe you didn’t. . There are so many dark-skinned young boys and girls who never heard the words “be great” until they crossed paths with Ciandress Jackson, the founder of “Be Great Foundation.”

Cyria McKoy is one of those people. He’s not your typical 9-year-old. She is intelligent. She is curious. She is an app developer.

Cyria’s knowledge comes from an influential source: Ciandress Jackson.

Jackson started this nonprofit in 2020 to give a STEM education to low-income minority teens who are not college-bound and often wayward.

“Seeing people I care about wrestle was really my powerlessness to start this and the wrestling isn’t necessarily their fault,” Jackson said. “People have two, three jobs and are still trying to make ends meet.”

Jackson has a passion for change. This passion erupted during his college years.

“When I got into the University of Virginia (UVA), one of my best friends who was a white man told me that I only got in through affirmative action, so I carried that for my first two years at UVA,” Jackson said.

Then one class changed their perspective.

“It was an African American studies class whose name I forget,” Jackson said. “We discovered great figures in African American history from Civil Rights to the Nile, Kush and Olmec civilizations, and learned about the inherent brilliance in everyone, but often we have the impression that this is not the case in us as African-American people.”

Jackson says being awesome is in her students’ genes and she often reminds them of it.

“We want to help kids be great and achieve greatness and I believe there’s a genius in every kid,” Jackson said. “We just need to tap into that.”

After 15 years in technology as a software consultant, Jackson says it was time she used her knowledge to help people in her neighborhood. She’s also ready to expand to help more kids excel.

“Similar to the Boys and Girls Club or YMCA model, how do you know exactly what you’re going to get and what to expect when you go to those spaces, we want to have ‘Be Great Foundation’ or ‘Be Great’ center, be a place where you can go, learn about these technologies, develop your skills and get your certifications and all of these things,” Jackson said.