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Volunteerism: Your Chance to Change a Student’s Life (And Your Own)

Texans love volunteerism. It’s easy to see why: most volunteering opportunities are satisfying and positive. You get to help others and strengthen communities.

But only a select few volunteering opportunities are so unique and extraordinary they can be described as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity. In the world of volunteerism, it’s not often you get to:

  • Have a direct role in transforming the lives of students who will become the future leaders of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  • Change the lives of these students while being surrounded by LEGO® bricks, robots and other fun gadgetry
  • Experience the unforgettable thrill of a robot competition, which is something like a sporting event, a robot 
parade, and a loud dance party with friends and family all rolled into one

There really is no other volunteer opportunity that combines all of these elements in one package, but that’s exactly what you get with FIRST in Texas.

The best part:
 Anyone can volunteer. You don’t need to have STEM expertise or be working in a related field.

Whether you are an employee of a company who sponsors our events or if you are interested in supporting STEM young programs, we need you. Volunteers like yourself are the lifeblood of one of the most unique STEM-focused, youth-building programs in the nation. The national headquarters of FIRST® has a staff of only around 175 people running a program with 400,000 students. Each year, they rely on 230,000 volunteers nationwide who give 17 million hours of their time.

In fact, the FIRST® Championship in Houston, can easily use between 1,200 to 1,300 volunteers of all skill-levels and backgrounds. These volunteers do everything from inspect robots to help with the basic set-up of the event. Then there’s all the coaches and mentors needed to guide each team throughout the learning and building phases long before they bring their robot to a single competition.

With almost 4,000 high schools, Texas is a significant part of those national statistics. Just one regional event in Texas uses over 100 volunteers. When you’re talking about a state that has teams across seven major regions from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande Valley, you’re talking about a huge need for volunteers who are excited to change the lives of Texas students.

How Corporate Employee Volunteers Support their Local Communities

Booz Allen Hamilton - San Antonio FIRST LEGO League Block Party Dec 2017

There are many ways FIRST in Texas Partner employee volunteers support teams and events in Texas. For example, in the fall after every FIRST LEGO League kickoff, there is a high demand for field pieces to be built in preparation for league and qualifier meets. The solution? “FLL Block Parties” where corporate employee volunteers get together to build the LEGO® game pieces. In years past, partners like Booz Allen Hamilton, National Instruments, and others have come together for these interactive block building parties.

The Importance of Long-Term Vision

In a TIME magazine article, astronaut Scott Kelly shared how he went from an apathetic, struggling student to a student on fire for science. What was the pivotal moment that changed everything? He wanted to become an astronaut and learned how STEM was involved. Even though he was “a bad student” the idea of going to space became such a powerful motivator he changed his study habits and did everything he could do to master challenging STEM subjects. He eventually achieved his goal of going to space. He was very clear: it was the end-goal, the long-term vision, that moved him to become a better student.

That’s exactly what FIRST programs are all about: using the excitement of STEM robotics, the bond of teamwork, and the fun of science-based competitions to give students a thrilling picture of their future–a motivating end-goal and vision of where STEM subjects could take them.

The data shows that it works:

FIRST® participants are twice as likely to major in science or engineering. 88 percent are more interested in doing well in school.
 90 percent plan to take a more challenging STEM class.

When students see what amazing things can be done with LEGOs or how STEM can do amazingly cool things like build flying robot dragons, it opens their imaginations to a new world of possibilities.

But to unlock that new world for them, we need volunteers–the ones on the ground at events who make it all happen for these students. Even if you’re not sure how you could contribute, FIRST in Texas can find a place for you.

Here’s a glance at the different roles volunteers play in the process.

Event Volunteers

These event-focused roles include robot inspectors, judges, referees, event set-up (load-in, load-out), team escorts, team activities coordinator, floater (general assistant who helps as needed throughout the event), closing ceremony volunteer, and others. There are many tasks to be done big and small at these events, and we will make room for you.

Mentors/Coaches

You have many great opportunities to impact the lives of students as a mentor or coach. In the FIRST® LEGO® League or FIRST® LEGO® League Jr., you facilitate team meetings and orchestrate their work, support the learning process, help the team set realistic goals, and many other important tasks to ensure your team of grade school students get as much out of the experience as possible.

In the FIRST Tech Challenge and FIRST Robotics Competition, you provide an overview of the project to your team of high school students, guide the team through the project life cycle, and assist with technical or non-technical aspects.

In the non-technical category of mentoring, you can be a:

  • Project Management Mentor
  • Scholarship Mentor
  • Marketing Mentor
  • Finance Mentor

In the technical category, you can be a:

  • Robot Programming/Software Engineering Mentor
  • Electrical Engineer Mentor
  • Mechanical Engineer Mentor

Whether you have a heart for mentoring teams of grade school or high school students, we will find a place for you and provide the training you need to get the job done.

A Special Message to Parents Who Attend FIRST in Texas Events

If you are a parent who already attends FIRST in Texas events, you’re in a prime position to help out. We have a special need for volunteers like you. With your familiarity of events and your understanding of what the students experience throughout the different phases of their projects–including the challenges and adversity they must overcome on their way to the big day of competitions–you have a valuable insight to the process that we need.

If you want a vivid example of how much fun it is for parents to jump in as volunteers, just read Kasey Tross’s story–proud mom and volunteer who found herself donning the red shirt that volunteers wear and loving every minute of it.

An Invitation to Corporations and Community Organizations

Lockheed Martin Employee Volunteers at Dallas FRC 2017It’s not just parents who join the volunteering effort and discover they love the experience. Some companies will send employees to multiple events across many areas of Texas. Corporate partners such as Lockheed Martin, and many others have been sending large groups of employee volunteers to FIRST in Texas events for years.

Not only do they get the rewarding experience of making a big difference in the lives of kids, they give their companies positive visibility as volunteers. Because our volunteers play such a crucial role in the process, they are often highly visible and seen by the community. It not only boosts employee morale, it makes a lasting impression in the community and creates a positive association with the company or organization’s brand.

CPS Energy Employee Volunteers at Alamo Regional 2017

It can also make a big difference in the local community where your company is based. Some partners, such as CPS Energy, focus solely on San Antonio where they have their headquarters. Year after year they send a team of employees to support events in the Alamo City. Dedicated employee volunteers, like these, make a big difference for local events which has a lasting impact on students across the state.

No Experience Necessary: Contact Us Today to Start Changing Lives

If you’re still not sure you’re ready to jump in, consider this: we train all volunteers in whatever role they are interested in. No experience is necessary. We’re ready to work with you.

If you’re ready to work with us, connect with us and let us know more about you, your background, and where you’d like to volunteer. If you’re interested in
 becoming a mentor, someone who helps the coaches and guides the overall process of teams, contact us here.

Take the first step today toward changing the life of a student by volunteering. Your support of STEM-based events in Texas and programs like FIRST is the driving force inspiring students to become the next generation of leaders and innovators.