INSPIRATION IS EVERWHERE

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FIRST inspires community heroes

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Terri Willingham

FIRST Volunteer, Coach, Mentor, Florida; Former FIRST Regional Director

“In today’s world, the advances in STEM are booming, creating opportunities for today’s youth like never before. Terri Willingham will tell you these are only tools. If children aren’t educated in these fields, the advances mean nothing. So for the last 12 years, Terri has been volunteering to fully engage students of all ages with the STEM fields, introducing them to robotics, coding programs, digital asset development, and more. To date, her STEM efforts have positively impacted tens of thousands of young people across Florida. She’s worked tirelessly to inspire the next generation of leaders, builders, and dreamers to build better communities for tomorrow. And that’s why you, Terri, are our hero.” – Braydon Coburn, Tampa Bay Lightning

During the 2017-2018 season, the Tampa Bay Lightning honored Terri Willingham as a Lightning Community Hero. Willingham was recognized for her work providing guidance to schools and communities in the development of FIRST programs, as well as her work developing the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation’s Advanced Manufacturing and Robotics Center (AMRoC). Seeded by an Argosy Foundation grant, the center will be a FIRST hub for Central Florida and provide a training and talent pipeline for STEM careers in the area, giving youth a clear pathway to a high-paying future and adults an opportunity to improve their own earning potential.

Willingham, who received $50,000 from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, donated $35,000 of the award to the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI) for the ROBOTICON FIRST showcase and off-season event, as well as AMRoC. She donated the balance to other area nonprofits, most of whom partner with FCDI in the development and organization of local FIRST related programs and events, including St. Petersburg College Foundation, Tampa Bay Robotics Foundation, Metropolitan Ministries for their FIRST Tech Challenge team “Coding Hope,” and Central Florida Robotics via Polk State College Foundation.

“While I am deeply honored for the recognition, no one can be a community hero in a vacuum,” says Willingham. “The organizations I shared the award grant with are the real ‘community heroes’ – the people who believe in the long-term power of mentor-driven, character-based STEM education like FIRST offers. They see the big picture: how meaningful adult engagement that helps youth learn and succeed today makes a brighter future possible for all of us tomorrow. None of the great projects and programs I've been part of would be possible without the amazing community army of which I’m so grateful to be a part.”


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