High school students at FIRST robotics event

FIRST® Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiatives and Grants

A vital part of our strategic intent is to serve an inclusive and diverse audience, reflecting the population of the communities we serve. FIRST® is actively engaged in developing strategies, collaborations, grants, and initiatives that remove barriers and ensure greater access to FIRST programs so that all youth can participate.

STEM Equity Community Innovation Grant

The STEM Equity Community Innovation grants supports communities with underserved and underrepresented students and help them develop new, innovative approaches to tackle the education gap.

FIRST launched its STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants program in 2016 to provide historically marginalized students across the globe with hands-on learning and creative problem-solving opportunities. From 2016-2022 grants ranged from $5,000 to $50,000, with an average of $45,000.  In 2023, grants increased to an award range of $30,000 to $70,000, with an average of $58,000.  These highly competitive grant evaluation criteria include community need, population of students served, increases in diversity, execution strength, track record of reaching all students, and the value of the activities proposed. To date, FIRST has awarded 83 grants totaling $3M to grantees around the world.

Team Support and Training Grants ​

We have supported school districts with majority populations of underserved, underrepresented and vulnerable youth by providing small grants for establishing and expanding their FIRST programs.
These small grants were used to directly support teams through registration fees, robot kits, project materials and transportation for team meetings and events. They were also used to support teams through regional coach and mentor trainings.

The grant application is not open at this time.

AmeriCorps VISTA

The FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) Program seeks to expand the vision of FIRST by working in areas that have been deemed underserved.
FIRST VISTA members work in a full-time capacity with their local site supervisors. They often work to build the capacity of FIRST by focusing on impacting underserved and underrepresented populations in the following ways:
  • Track and report out on specific performance milestones and measurements.
  • Supporting the recruitment of teams, mentors, coaches and volunteers with an emphasis on securing and sustaining support to the low income/underserved
  • Identifying specific underserved schools and communities as locations to establish FIRST teams or sustain and grow existing teams
  • Raising awareness of grant, funding, and scholarship opportunities among underserved students, schools or teams
  • Developing and executing strategies to support the needs of local organizations that support FIRST teams in low income/underserved areas

Learn more about FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA Program

Youth Advisory Council

The FIRST ED&I Youth Advisory Council (YAC) was established in December 2018.
The Youth Advisory Council develops ED&I projects and outreach initiatives. The committee was designed to uplift youth leadership and youth voice at FIRST. To date, the YAC has played an instrumental role in creating an ED&I Youth Animation Video and three training modules and outreach plans to connect with youth at FIRST. The last cohort of members served through June 2022. Learn more about past members of the YAC.


Gender Equity

At FIRST, we are actively developing ways to address the overall issues and barriers, particularly in managing and allocating resources, programs, and educational opportunities fairly to all gender identities.

We are committed to creating a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community for all participants. Girls and women play a critical role in the advancement of STEM – but a significant gender gap remains within STEM careers. This initiative focuses on the participation and advancement of girls and women in STEM, without being exclusionary of the contributions of boys, men, and those that may identify differently. To enhance the contributions of girls, as well as those of other underrepresented and underserved youth in STEM, we must invest in them at all stages of their development, including their access to FIRST programs and experiences on teams.

Impact FIRST has on female participants

Additional resources can be found on our training page

Disability Inclusion

As part of our commitment to removing barriers to access and participation so that any student, anywhere can participate we have partnered with Kids Included Together (KIT) to better understand the needs of students, coaches and mentors with disabilities when participating in FIRST programs.
FIRST is committed to ensuring that coaches, mentors, volunteers, students and parents all have access to resources that provide a better understanding of challenges and needs for students with disabilities, and how to create a more welcoming and inclusive team environment. 
Project THRIVE Partnership

We have partnered with the Human Rights Campaign’s Project THRIVE in order to reinforce our commitment to ED&I at FIRST and the importance of allyship to support LGBTQ+ colleagues, mentors, volunteers, and student participants, and to celebrate our differences.

Our commitment to embodying inclusion is to ensure that all members of the FIRST community feel a sense of belonging. Achieving this means our organization must be supportive and vocal about welcoming all people in the FIRST community and using our platform to raise awareness and highlight voices.

As a youth-serving organization, our commitment to inclusion is in service of helping all young people find belonging and thrive as part of our robotics teams and community. In June 2021, FIRST joined Project THRIVE, a multi-year, collaborative effort of many national organizations led by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to create more equitable, inclusive support systems and communities for LGBTQ youth. Each supporting organization is committed to identifying opportunities within their own sphere of influence to increase awareness about and provide resources to address the unmet needs of LGBTQ youth and to highlight best practices and success stories from our respective fields. Project THRIVE will build the skills and capacities of all youth-serving professionals to better meet the needs of LGBTQ young people.

To enhance the contributions of underrepresented and underserved youth in STEM, we must invest in them at all stages of their development, including their access to FIRST programs and experiences on teams.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement

FIRST is committed to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion. We embrace and encourage differences in race, ethnicity, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, age, religion, income, language, learning difference, or any other characteristics that make our adult-force and students unique.

Exploring, developing and implementing strategies to become more inclusive and ensure access to our programs to all students (as well as access to key supports) is critical for FIRST to reach its goal and mission. ALL young people should have the opportunity to become science and technology leaders. FIRST will remove barriers to program participation for underserved, underrepresented students. Pursuant to that end, FIRST Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion is a concerted, organized effort to develop strategies to make its programs more accessible and inclusive.


FIRST and Project THRIVE logo lockup

FIRST Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Team

Non-Discrimination Policy