INSPIRATION IS EVERWHERE

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I donate to help FIRST build a better future.

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Pam Wong

FIRST Alum, Donor & Volunteer

Pam is a FIRST® alum from FIRST® Robotics Competition Team 1257 “Parallel Universe” in Scotch Plains, NJ. After high school, she earned a degree in psychology with an education minor and now leads a team of analysts and researchers as Director of Performance Metrics and Research at the NYC Department of Education. Her FIRST experience not only inspired her career path in the education sector but also her desire to volunteer and donate to FIRST to help the next generation gain access to life-changing inspiration and community.    

"FIRST demonstrated to me how life-changing educational access and experiential learning can be to a student’s trajectory and how it can set the next generation up for success,” Pam said. “Initially I started volunteering to stay connected to the FIRST community and to pay my own experience as a student forward. The longer that I have volunteered, the more important the mission of FIRST, and therefore supporting it financially, has become to me. I’ve come to understand the variety of ways that FIRST is having an impact on students’ trajectories and how important it is to give back."

What did you do after becoming a FIRST alum?
After high school, I went to university where I earned a degree in psychology, with an education minor. Currently, I’m the Director of Performance Metrics and Research at the NYC Department of Education, where I lead a team of analysts and researchers who develop statistical models to quantify how much students are learning and growing in New York City.

How did your FIRST experience impact your career path?
My experience with FIRST is one of the reasons why I have pursued a career in the education sector. FIRST demonstrated to me how life-changing educational access and experiential learning can be to a student’s trajectory and how it can set the next generation up for success. During my time on my FIRST team, we were a young team, so we all wore a lot of different hats. For me, I focused on helping build, managing our budget, and coordinating travel logistics, and I was our Safety Captain. All that experience has been directly applicable to my career.

How have you stayed involved with FIRST since high school?
Initially I started volunteering to stay connected to the FIRST community and to pay my own experience as a student forward. The longer that I volunteered, the more important the mission of FIRST (and therefore supporting it financially) became to me as I’ve come to understand the variety of ways that FIRST is having an impact on students’ trajectories.

This year I’m especially excited to support the Equity and Access grants for teams that are serving underrepresented/underserved youth. Particularly being in the NYC region, I meet a lot of students who wouldn’t have had the STEM exposure or experience to envision a career path for themselves without their FIRST team and a number of those teams financially struggle to return every season. Those grants, and the companies and individuals who help fund them, are critical in keeping those teams competing and providing opportunity.

What advice would you give future FIRST alum on how they can maximize their FIRST experience and put it to work for them after graduating?
Leverage the network you have from the FIRST community. Every year I hear about some new innovative job or company because a mentor, volunteer, or alum now works there, and everyone I know would be more than happy to share their experience and offer guidance to a FIRST alum.

Also, be sure to have your FIRST experience on your resume and social media because you never know when you’ll encounter someone with a FIRST connection. I’ve had it randomly happen several times, and it’s always a really fun icebreaker, plus I think it tells someone who knows what FIRST is some things about you without you having to say them.

What advice would you give to other alum on the importance of giving financially?
I see it as a way of recognizing how formative my own experience as a student on a team was to me and acknowledging that I wouldn’t have had that experience without the generous giving of other people.

Also, if you do give, find time to come out to a competition, even as a spectator. It’s awesome to walk into a FIRST event and see what your giving, no matter how large or small it is, is doing to make FIRST happen around the world, and the impact that it’s having for teams and students.


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