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A Big Team Effort


Outgoing FIRST in Texas Executive Director, Patrick Felty welcomes the new Executive Director , Jason Arms.

Dear FIRST in Texas Community,

As recently announced  by the Eric J. van Gemeren , Chairman of the Board of Directors, as of February 5, 2021 I will be stepping aside from my role of Executive Director and President of FIRST in Texas.  I have worked with the Board on a transition plan and welcome Jason Arms as the Interim Executive Director.

Jason has overseen the robust growth of FIRST programs in the Rio Grande Valley as the South Texas Program Delivery Partner.  More recently he moved into the role as Field Operations Director for FIRST in Texas.  He is an accomplished leader and will make a fine Interim Executive Director during this transition as FIRST in Texas moves into its next decade of existence.

It has been an honor to serve as the Executive Director and President of FIRST in Texas as well as in my previous roles as Development Director and Regional Director of the Alamo region prior to that.  FIRST gets into your DNA, so I will always be part of the FIRST community.  

But as I wrap up my role with  FIRST in Texas, I want to share some final reflections on my time leading this organization.  Personally, I will miss working so closely with our incredible staff and partner community – people who are deeply passionate about the mission that Dean Kamen set more than FIRST® 30 years ago and who are eager to continue advancing that mission.

My pledge to you when I took on the statewide leadership role was,

Patrick Felty Executive Director FIRST in Texas Opening Ceremony Remarks at Austin FRC District 2019 event photo by Dave Wilson“FIRST in Texas is a team effort and we’re going to make it big…”

Which is what we did together.  To grow a unique organization like FIRST in Texas to have the impact and reach it does could only have been accomplished by working together toward a common goal and navigating challenges as a team.

Some of the biggest challenges we faced as a statewide organization also brought out some of our biggest wins and memorable moments.  A few of the notable accomplishments during my time at FIRST in Texas, that you all made happen, include the transition of our FRC program to the District mode of play.  It took many years of planning and the support of statewide FRC leadership, volunteers, and teams to make it happen, but by April of 2019 our inaugural FRC District season was in the books.

Another accomplishment was to bring together the entire statewide ensemble of FIRST programs into a stronger alignment.  This was demonstrated when our FTC Program Delivery Partners (PDPs) came together to collectively design a never-before-done statewide FTC Championship.  It was a big team effort and marked an important milestone moment when FIRST  accepted our proposal. This statewide collaboration and commitment to the mission of FIRST is the essence of FIRST in Texas and you all make a difference every day for our students.

Several innovative ideas and strategic plans that were implemented over the last few years have resulted in a steady growth of teams across the state.   Several key partnerships such as the one with the Texas Workforce Commission has enabled FIRST in Texas to distribute millions of dollars in team grants along with collaborative relationships with organizations like UIL and several well-known diverse community organizations have contributed greatly to our student involvement.   All of this was a team effort.

One of our most proud accomplishments, and at the heart of inclusion, is a newly formed partnership with Special Olympics of Texas which will help FIRST in Texas serve an even greater community via a new FIRST Access program focused on students with special abilities.  This was a great team effort.

You know the mission of FIRST is real and is working when you see student formed and lead groups like SACOT (STEM Advocacy Conference of Texas) setting the pace for many students across the state.   This is a great team effort that is making a real difference and giving a voice to many young leaders.   I am proud that FIRST in Texas was a founding supporter of the important work that this group does.

I am incredibly proud of what we saw achieved and demonstrated in a year like no other.   We saw teams rise up to support their local medical communities by utilizing the tools they had and the skills they had learned through FIRST.  We saw innovation at work when students and mentors collaborated on new respirator designs and other unique medical care devices.  While some may have looked at an interrupted season as a loss, I clearly saw the resilient spirit of FIRST  participants shine brightly.  It is a moment in time I will never forget, and I know it was a team effort.

Although some plans had been put on hold, I am delighted to know that FIRST in Texas is moving forward with implementing a Mentor Advisory Council.   FIRST in Texas leadership had worked with numerous mentors around the state in early 2020 to form the charter prior to the shutdown and tremendous progress has been made recently.

Thanks to all of the work done over the last few years, FIRST in Texas is in a good position financially.   Although the pandemic has caused many slowdowns and delays in our normal funding cycles, FIRST in Texas has been able to maintain a very healthy cash position over the last 12 months and has a substantial fundraising pipeline in place.   We have been able to identify multiple new energetic and generous funding partners around the state and new programs being launched soon will continue to add to that portfolio of support.  All of this could not have been possible without the great team effort at FIRST in Texas.

Patrick Felty volunteering at FLL Event with fellow referee holding bags of Jolly RanchersI will continue to contribute to FIRST  by supporting my local area (Central Texas) through volunteerism.  I ask that all of you continue the great work that you have been doing and know that FIRST in Texas is in good hands.

Lastly, I am so grateful to each of you for your passion, support, and contributions to our organization and community.

I believe that FIRST  in Texas is and will continue to be a team effort and it will only get bigger and continue to be a recognized leader of STEM focused community engagement in Texas and beyond.