Inspire

Hear My Voice: Youth Leadership at FIRST

How We Can Make All Students’ FIRST Experiences More Inclusive

Jul 18, 2019 By Katie Johnson, FIRST Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Youth Advisory Committee Member & FIRST Alum

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Katie Johnson celebrates with volunteers during the FIRST Tech Challenge award ceremony at the 2015 FIRST Championship.

Katie Johnson celebrates with volunteers during the FIRST Tech Challenge award ceremony at the 2015 FIRST Championship.


My name is Katie Johnson, and I’ve grown up in FIRST programs. My parents have coached teams since I was two years old, and I always knew that I wanted to get involved as soon as I could. I joined a FIRST LEGO League team when I was in third grade, and since then my involvement with FIRST has snowballed. I am now in my seventh year on a FIRST Tech Challenge team and my fourth year on a FIRST Robotics Competition team. I have become who I am today through my experiences in FIRST. I have identified my academic interests (I intend to major in computer science because of my time in FIRST), learned about my passions, and become a strong leader.

While I am a leader within my own teams, to me the most rewarding projects that I have worked on are those that have reached a much broader audience. I am passionate about creating diverse, accepting environments, and in my time in FIRST I have created or help run numerous communities focused on diversity and inclusion. A current project that is very important to me is LGBTQ+ of FIRST, an online community that I have run alongside a few friends for the past two years. I am so proud of LGBTQ+ of FIRST because of the impact that it has -- members have said that they only truly accepted themselves or learned how to be accepting of others after joining LGBTQ+ of FIRST. I also help run FIRST Ladies, and I have participated in the #FIRSTLikeAGirl campaign. Through these projects I have learned about the importance of community and made lifelong friends, and I care so deeply about them that I plan to continue working on similar endeavors for the rest of my life.

This season, I have had the opportunity to participate in an exciting new project that FIRST started: the FIRST Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (ED&I) Youth Advisory Committee. I was particularly excited by the chance to get involved with this committee, because it combines many things that I am deeply passionate about. Through the committee, I am working with FIRST staff and six other students on FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition teams to make FIRST more inclusive for everyone. While the committee was only formed last fall, we have already worked on a number of exciting projects, and some of them are available now, including the ED&I Youth Training.

The ED&I Youth Training is available for all FIRST students. It includes an animated video and three interactive modules. The animated video and modules are each under 5 minutes to complete. We are excited to share these resources with you and hope you use them with your team and networks.

 

“Working Together” – Animation Video
This video demonstrates a FIRST team working through discrimination and bias and gaining an understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Module 1 – What are Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
Module 1 introduces a general overview of equity, diversity, and inclusion. This module provides examples and scenarios to help students better understand the importance of ED&I.

Module 2 – Discrimination & Bias
Module 2 gives an overview of discrimination. This module helps students to recognize, understand, and develop ways to make FIRST teams more inclusive.

Module 3 – FIRST ED&I Toolkit
Module 3 provides solutions and suggestions to help students advocate and begin action planning to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the FIRST community

Take the training


Nominations are now open for the ED&I Youth Advisory Committee. Are you interested in being a youth leader of change at FIRST? Are you interested in discussing equity, diversity and inclusion at FIRST? Learn more about the ED&I Youth Advisory Committee.

 

FIRST alum Katie Johnson

FIRST alum Katie Johnson

Katie Johnson is a FIRST alum from FIRST Tech Challenge Team 3595, Schrödinger’s Hat, and FIRST Robotics Competition Team 614, Night Hawks. She is a 2017 Dean’s List Finalist, and in 2015 her FIRST Tech Challenge team received the Inspire Award at the World Championship. She is involved with all aspects of her FIRST teams, but she is particularly passionate about building communities and computer programming.


If you have an inspiring story or piece of wisdom that you’ve picked up through your experiences in the FIRST community, please reach out to us at inspire@firstinspires.org and inquire about becoming a guest contributor for Inspire.

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