Hi. You may or may not recognize us from Instagram, but there’s actually another account that I want to talk about on here. @dearfirstrobotics has become a platform for FIRST participants to tell their stories, and while the entries are saddening to read, they’re extremely relatable to many of us. It’s become really clear now: minority groups experience a lot of trouble within the program, and too much of it can be attributed to mentors and volunteers. I highly encourage you to read the stories on this account.
Not all of minorities’ problems in FIRST come from mentors and volunteers, I’ll make that clear. However, it’s still a troubling number. Yes, some high schoolers may be ignorant because of their youth and they’re a part of the problem, too, but mentors and volunteers are where it can be contained and stopped. They should listen to the problems of minority groups and know how to act accordingly because they drive the program and are our role models. Mentors are the backbone of this program, so they need to be closely monitored and trained.
Between Inspiring Youth Voices training and Inspiring Success training, FIRST actually does a pretty good job of explaining what equity is for a FIRST team. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the content in Inspiring Success. There’s still a problem, though.
The current Youth Protection Program required for mentoring does not include the in depth training that Inspiring Success training does. Mentors are currently not required to take this course, and the training modules are not featured nearly enough in FIRST’s newsletters, websites, and social medias. FIRST’s resources are good, but they need to be in the forefront of the program, not tucked nicely away.
FIRST’s core values include equity and inclusion. They have a good starting point, and I have to believe that they’re genuine in their sentiment. They’re just not pushing these great resources enough, and I think that many others agree, from the few stories I’ve read so far. We have to keep pushing forward.
We’ve recently released equityfirst.carrd.co to feature a petition to sign, people to email, and a template to start off with. I believe in this community and this effort, and my love goes out to everyone who has written to dearfirstrobotics, as well as everyone else who relates.
(P.S. Here’s the equity FIRST discord server for anyone wanting to chat about this effort, get help with becoming a part of it, or just needing support for any reason. To my fellow girls in stem, here’s a girls in steam discord server for us to support each other.)