Graduation Cords

I am not one to want to jump on the bandwagon and I dislike drawing attention or needing praise to justify my values, however something bothers me a bit. We received an email from our school admin that specifies what cords can be worn for graduation. Its suppose to be “Academic” . I am ok with that since you cant have people wearing cords for everything however as time goes by this approved list gets bigger and bigger. It becomes more inclusive of things I would not consider purely academic. For example the International Thespian Society I don’t consider purely academic, or music. I am not discrediting these subjects, but I don’t see them as being more academic than FIRST. Other teams in our county have approached the Board of Ed and Principals and have gotten the same response, “No” Again I don’t take offence to it because I view cords as petty in some ways especially since 75% of the grads have at least one. On the other hand I recognize people work hard and deserve to stand out. My issue is we give out cords for 17 different groups or reasons and FIRST does not seem to be “important” enough in our county to warrant approval, even though they talk a big game about promoting STEM. So is it lip service? Or are school systems like mine really committed to changing peoples perspectives about STEM?

Man, American High schools seem to really take this graduation stuff seriously. At my graduation you could wear a paper mache head of Dean Kamen if you really wanted too.

Could you really not get away with wearing a FIRST cord anyway? It’s pretty close to the French Honor Society and the National Forensics league cord anyway and there’s nothing “inappropriate” about it. Worst case I assume is that they tell you to take it off. Having all the FIRST students wear one might be a good way to quietly protest the decision.


From past experience, 99% of things change in schools because parents pushed (politely) for it. This goes double for things that are inertia-prone like graduation regalia. Find an appropriate cord (here’s the official one)](, find some seniors that will wear it well, and make the case. (Oh, while you’re at it: get medals on the list too. You’ll appreciate it when you win your first. :slight_smile: )

Two years ago, our assistant principal of activities and sports declared that Academic Clubs would be allowed to wear cords at graduation. Before that, the only cords or other decorations were for academic distinction (grad with honors, magna and summa cum laude). Since Robotics is an officially chartered academic club (as opposed to the anime club), we were psyched. FINALLY SOME RECOGNITION IN PUBLIC!

Three weeks before graduation he reversed his decision. No doubt because everyone wanted their club/activity/sport/whatever to be recognized too. In the interest of keeping things simple, the cord privileges were revoked.

Yet, the school ASB students were allowed to wear large sashes with “ASB” embroidered on them. And they pretty much just make posters all year long.

Since FIRST will be selling cords at Champs, I’m planning on lobbying for my seniors to wear them at graduation this year. For some of them, it would be more important than any other honor or recognition.

i tried to talk with my school about using the FIRST graduation cords and they are only giving out 5 types of cords as far as i know and refused to acknowledge any other club besides National Honor Society and Music and Language Programs. One of my friends and alum from the team tried to wear a little FIRST pin on his gown last year and was told by our principal to remove it.

For the team I graduated from we didn’t really ask as we said, “These are the cords we are wearing, It would be appreciated if you put them in the program.” And they did. Our coach even didn’t want us to because it was “too late” and we needed to “figure out who earned them”, but we all wore them anyway.

Just got word back from my principal: robotics cords are OK because it is academic.

I checked on this for our seniors and was told that only honor societies at our school (National, Hispanic, and Thespian) are allowed to wear them. When I pressed the issue, I was told the requirements that need to be met are:

  • National charter with a constitution, by-laws, etc.
  • Has established charters throughout the U.S. that follow the national organization’s by-laws
  • School membership at beginning of school year, with Administration approval
  • Community Service and Leadership emphasis
  • Representation of our school mission a TOP priority

And I think that all except the first one are easy to explain. Does FIRST have bylaws? They have a Mission Statement and Board of Directors. I think we will get hung up because it’s not technically an honor society.

FIRST is a 501(C)(3) non-profit, which are required to have bylaws.

On 192, we wore 1/2" galvanized steel chains as our “cords” and loved it. I still have that chain. No idea what the official policy on the matter was, it was already a tradition by the time I was going through graduation.

I can see how some schools might frown on that (I don’t think I could get it approved at RHS for 841), so it’s nice FIRST offers an Official Option. I’ll have to look into doing something for our seniors.

But where does one find them? They don’t seem to be on the web site.

Ask your principal, which has been said. And I know MoCo School system is pushing for more recognition and support of FIRST programs as a result of advocacy made by teams in MoCo. Feel free to PM me if you have questions.

Just an FYI I did just order cords for our graduating seniors. the Brandit website has pulled the purchasing of the cords from the website because of high demand at championship. They are worried about selling out, if you do want to order them you can still call in and they will hold them for you. That is if supplies are still available!!! so order soon!:eek:

I’m a junior but I have dealt with this stuff before. Parent pushing on the administrators, with just about anyone on the school board to back them or even a teacher to advocate for the cause and at the very least prove the academic equality if not more than for the other programs. Basically show the true value of FIRST and the time and effort we all see but average Joes do not.
Not recommended as a solid or smart plan, but in dire situations I have seen classes that have new clubs take a stand against admins and wear their sashes/cords anyway. If nothing seems to work, a good sob story to drum up some sympathy for the graduates always helps for some convincing.

is FIRST Doing this again for the 2018 season?

+1 Many of our past grads have told me that they wear FIRST cords with more honor because they worked much harder to earn them. Billfred is right, get parents to show at Board of Ed meetings to voice their concerns. BTW, if a student slips the cord on as he/she is “walking” who would dare stop them?

Is there a source for the official FIRST Robotics cords? The website that sold them last year is not working.

Aussie chiming in here, I’ve never seen a graduation cord in my life.

Our school had a uniform (leather shoes, pressed pants, collared shirt, tie and blazers for some students) which we still wore at our graduation, with nothing extra. In recognition of participation in extra curricular activities most students wore a pin/button/badge on their tie to recognise that they are involved (eg: student council, winning sporting competitions, student executive/prefects, music etc.). In some cases ties were given out as recognition for achievement.

Since there were quite a few things you could attach onto your tie, I often wore FIRST award pins on my tie. I don’t believe I wore a FIRST pin on my tie when I graduated, but I definitely could have without anyone making a fuss.

The Marketplace for FIRST used to sell the graduation cords. The graduation cords came out in 2016, but were sold out at Champs. We wanted to get them for our graduating seniors.

This pinterest link has an image of the cords, if you haven’t seen them.

Our school district is also very strict but also not very observant. During my son’s graduation he and his fellow graduating team member all wore the First cords. No one noticed. The fact that they look almost identical to the French Honor Society cords helps. The people doing the check-in are too busy to even give what color cords a student has a second look.

My suggestion, put them on. Worst case scenario they ask you to remove them.