It is very hard to pick one story, but I have to settled on something from my 1st year of FIRST.
Cleon was a great athlete and also a great kid. He was good enough to be one of the lucky kids who tried out for the limited slots we had on our FIRST team and make the cut.
During the course of the FIRST season, Cleon was had a LOT of football recruiters calling him and made several trips to major NCAA Division 1 schools to check out their football programs. When he returned from one of the trips, Cleon waved me over to him during class and asked if he could have a word with me in private in the hall.
When we got in the hallway, Cleon spoke of how conflicted he was about his choice of schools and how difficult the choice was for him to make. The bottom line was that he didn’t know what to do because his coach was telling him to go here, his parents were telling him to go there, and his freinds were telling him to do something else entirely.
Cleon then said to me, “Everybody is telling me something different. Mr. Johnson, I don’t have a single relative who has been to college: not a parent, not a brother, not an uncle or a cousin, nobody… …And they are all telling me where I should go to school! Mr. Johnson, you’ve been to college, where to do YOU think I should go?”*
Chief Delphi has gone on to win the Chairman’s Award and been a Chairman’s Award Finalist twice, we’ve finished 2nd at the Nationals, we’ve won 7 regionals, we been recognized by politicians ranging from the local dog catcher up through the President of the United States, but that moment, the moment when a student asked ME what did I think he should do, remains for me for me one of the high points of my entire FIRST experience.
For me, it was validation of the entire reason I kill myself for FIRST, generally, and Chief Delphi, especially. FIRST is not about building robots so much as it is about getting me and others like me “in the game” where we have a chance to influence the outcome, a chance for our opinions, strange as they appear to our culture, to be heard, a chance to make our ideas sound not so strange after all.
*approximate quote as close as I can recall it.