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Why this superintendent chose FIRST to boost student engagement

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Heidi Sipe

FIRST Volunteer, Oregon; Umatilla School District Superintendent

In our rural, northeast corner of Oregon, we have a shortage of both industry and opportunity, and too few of our kids attend college.

About five years ago, I learned about FIRST and brought it to my school district. FIRST has been amazing! It provides our schools with the perfect combination of interest (robots), drive (the competition), soft skill building (Gracious Professionalism®), hard skill building (programming, designing and building, electro-mechanical systems), and marketing, along with access to STEM professionals and universities. It also allows my students to dream new dreams. I go from watching them be students who lack vision, skill, and confidence, to becoming leaders who believe they can do anything. The effort is worth it; 25 percent of the kids in our district are now on a FIRST team, and 100 percent of our team’s seniors have both graduated from high school and gone into college.

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