"FIRST is all about students"
May I go off on a slight tangent for a moment? The quote above has been thrown about quite a bit - several times already in this thread, and many, many times over the past few years. And I keep wondering to myself "where is this coming from?" Because, with regard to the statement itself, I have only one comment to make - bullcrap
Can anyone show me a single piece of FIRST documentation, or show a piece of FIRST literature, or quote a public statement by a FIRST founder, or cite a reference by any senior FIRST official, that sources this quote? Can you show me anything in the FIRST charter that says the programs is "all about the students"? Can you find anywhere in the FIRST vision statement that makes that claim?
No. You can't.
Why? For one very simple reason - FIRST is not that narrow-minded. If you think that FIRST is "all about the students" and therefore only
about the students, then - to be blunt - you just don't get it. Look at the vision statement from FIRST. Listen to the way that the founder of the program describes FIRST when he talks about it (in particular, if you can find copies of Dean's kick-off speeches from the late 1990's, they are very direct and on-point about this). Attempt to understand the perspectives of the members of the FIRST Board of Directors, the major suppliers, and the founding sponsors, and what they are trying to accomplish.
The idea that FIRST is "all about the students" is an urban myth that has grown in the community, and allowed to florish because it has been unchallenged. Well, I think it is time to stand up and challenge it. Because it is much too limiting. It is forcing us to look at the world through much too narrow of a viewpoint.
about changing a culture. Yes, a big part of their implementation plan involves affecting the perceptions and appreciation of students, and having them carry the message out to the cultural mainstream of this country. They want students to be inspired. But they don't stop there. It is not just
about affecting the students. Inspiration happens at many levels, and cultural change can come from anywhere. Students, mentors, schools, corporations, teams, and communities are all affected by this program (or should be). And every team that limits themselves to "just students" automatically limits themselves in their ability to have an impact on a larger community.
Ask any mentor that has worked with this program for more than a year "have you been inspired?" Ask any sponsor "why do you support our team, year after year?" Ask any supporting corporation "why do you dedicate your organizational time, resources and employees to this?" I am willing to bet that most of them will come back and say that it is because they are just as inspired by the program as the students, and they have reached a point where they just have
to participate. They get just as enthusiastic and supportive of the mission of FIRST as any of the students. And they are just as critical to successfully fulfilling the vision of cultural change as the students.
Students, mentors, schools, corporations, teams, and communities - they are all
critical to the success of FIRST. Can you help the process along by only focusing on one of these sub-cultures? Maybe. But you are be nowhere near as effective and productive as if you include them all. And to ignore the advantages of the resources they can bring to help address the problem is - bluntly put - really dumb.