INSPIRATION IS EVERWHERE

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FIRST transforms students into community leaders

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Anika Yardi

2016 FIRST Dean’s List Winner, Maryland

I started high school insecure and unsure of what my passion was. I wasn’t really interested in typical after-school clubs like newspaper or debate. When I went to the interest meeting for FIRST Tech Challenge, I almost chickened out. My life would be a profoundly different thing if I hadn’t had the courage to step into that room that day of my freshman year. I found my passion in STEM education.

Robotics allowed me to transform into someone I don’t think my middle school self would recognize. I’m much more outgoing and confident in myself. I’m really comfortable speaking out, asserting and advocating for my own ideas, and taking on leadership roles. I also think that’s really important as a girl in STEM that I’ve learned that lesson, and I’m all the more the grateful that I discovered FIRST for that reason.

I’ve learned that the worse thing someone can tell you is "No." I’ve been able to create a lot of STEM programs that have helped a lot of people, just because I asked. For example, a five-minute conversation with a director at a robotics camp turned into the development of a 10-week robotics program for children of low-income families.

I’ll always remember winning the Dean’s List Award at the FIRST Championship. It was really crazy. Sometimes, it feels like someone else’s memories in my head. It has allowed me to have a lot more resources and contacts to pursue STEM outreach, which was what got me this award in the first place. FIRST welcomed me with open arms and made me the best possible version of myself. I’m focused on giving back.


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