FIRST Robotics Competition Blog

Pride Month Blog Response

Aug 30, 2021 Written by Frank Merrick, Director FIRST Robotics Competition




Some time ago, we posted a blog about FIRST Celebrating Pride month. We received this comment in response:


 Thank you for your continued support of the LGBTQ+ community within FIRST. If possible, could you and some of your co-workers at FIRST HQ comment on why you support these students, and what these inclusivity initiatives mean to you? Also, can you share some of your favorite resources for increasing inclusion within the STEM community?



Wow, Jon, these are some great questions! They are so great we thought the responses were worth a blog of their own, rather than just a response on the original. We’ve collected some responses from FIRST staff in answer to your first two questions “Why do we support these students?” and “What (do) these inclusivity initiatives mean to you?”, below:

“I personally think it’s important to provide a platform for students where they have the space to grow and discover what makes this uniquely them. FIRST is more than robots – it’s about celebrating what you learn about yourself, your teammates, and your community while working in an environment that can’t be replicated in a normal classroom setting. Our core values celebrate discovery, teamwork, and inclusion and I like to think that means students discovering and being proud of who they are, and team members and mentors building an environment where everyone is included and feels safe. I think it’s incredible when our community mentors support and encourage this, and it’s even more incredible when there are diverse mentors that the students can look up to!”

“Supporting LGBTQ+ students to me feels like it shouldn’t be a controversial subject. It always just made sense that we would want to welcome all students. Being an ally to the LGBTQ+ community means not only welcoming LGBTQ+ members but allowing them to be themselves and advocating for their rights and I believe FIRST is helping do this. LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.  It is critical to support these students as they are at a time where they are figuring themselves out and letting them have an inclusive environment is so crucial to supporting them. I strongly believe that with FIRST, there is a place for everyone, and the inclusivity initiatives are a step in the right direction to help ensure that there is a place for everyone to be themselves.”

““Why do you support these students?” The answer, for me, is simple: why wouldn’t I? As a member of the LGBTQ+ community myself, I was ecstatic when FIRST announced its participation in Pride Month. This was a solid step forward in showing support of LGBTQ+ youth (something that I believe should just be unquestionably done), and while it was meaningful, we must acknowledge that the work isn’t finished. I think it’s important for an organization to say “I’m with you”, and mean it, and to be very transparent about what being inclusive means in our working environment and in our community. But it’s also important to continue the conversation beyond any recognition month and for our community to continue to learn how to be inclusive and supportive of its members.”

FIRST supports all students and stands by them because we as an organization support all groups of people including myself who are a part of the LGBQT+ community and because being your best self is really what we are growing and nurturing here in our organization. The inclusivity Core Value is important because FIRST has and always be about everyone getting involved in STEM in a safe and nurturing environment. We support everyone and want them to have the best experience possible in and out. Be you! We accept you for you!”

As for resources for increasing inclusion within the STEM community, my go-to remains the LGBTQ+ of FIRST Resources Page and our FIRST Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Resources Page. Though I don’t think these resources are necessarily focused solely on the STEM community, they are many, varied, and high quality.  The LGBTQ+ of FIRST is doing great work! And you didn’t ask this, but I’m going to add it here, that one resource I would love to see added to that long and excellent list is a list of LGBTQ+-related movies and documentaries, such as the Pride documentary series on FX. I say this because some years ago I watched The Times of Harvey Milk, a documentary about San Francisco’s first openly gay supervisor and his assassination in 1978. Watching that film opened my eyes to better understand the inequities experienced by the LGBTQ+ community, and I would bet many folks would find connection and meaning in movies and documentaries on this topic.

Thanks, Jon, for the questions and the opportunity to share some thoughts!


Back to Blog

Add new comment