FIRST, the international, K-12 not-for-profit organization founded to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, and its local affiliate NYC FIRST, gathered the nation’s most passionate STEM-education supporters at the 2017 FIRST Inspire Gala last week in New York City.
The third annual fundraising gala celebrated work advancing the mission of FIRST and inspired further action to ensure that all children have access to creative, hands-on problem-solving opportunities that instill a lifelong love of learning and adaptability in the workforce.
Some of the most pressing issues facing businesses and communities – cultivating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) skills and digital literacy in young people, and fostering diversity and inclusion – took center stage at this year’s event.
“As a global community, we have a responsibility to help kids become well-rounded citizens and critical thinkers who can collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds and respect each other,” said Donald Bossi, president of FIRST. “As we look at where the world is headed, that work is just as essential as providing our kids with the hard skills they’ll need to secure jobs in the future economy.”
Each year the FIRST Inspire Gala honors outstanding individuals who have positively impacted STEM education and helped to further the mission of FIRST; this year’s honorees were former U.S. President Barack Obama and FIRST Alumnus Chelsey Roebuck.
- President Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, received the “Make It Loud” Award for his significant contributions to raising awareness about FIRST among the general public and helping spread the mission and impact of the organization. Obama has been instrumental in supporting FIRST for nearly a decade. At the start of his first presidential term in 2009, Obama launched the “Educate to Innovate” campaign to support hands-on STEM education. He began the tradition of the White House Science Fair, where he honored FIRST students at each annual event. His commitment to the mission of FIRST has continued post-presidency. The Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance is inspiring youth in STEM education and helping provide clear pathways to opportunity.
- FIRST Alumnus Chelsey Roebuck received the Evelyn Kamen Rising Star Award for his accomplishments in leveling the playing field in STEM for underrepresented populations. As a high school student in Philadelphia, Roebuck participated on FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1218. In 2010, he graduated from Columbia University with a degree in mechanical engineering. Through these experiences, Chelsey developed a passion for education and international development that led him to co-found the nonprofit Emerging Leaders in Technology and Education (ELiTE), which uses STEM education as a vehicle to empower low-opportunity students to realize their academic and career potential. Since 2009, ELiTE has pioneered hands-on STEM and computer science programs in low-income communities in New York City and throughout Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. In 2016, Roebuck was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Proceeds from the FIRST Inspire Gala go toward making FIRST programs more widely available to underserved students in New York City, throughout our country, and around the world.
This year’s event also helped fund FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants – grants designed to ensure more underrepresented and underserved students, and their communities, are exposed to creative problem-solving and hands-on learning, and are educated about future career opportunities available to them.
FIRST STEM Equity Community Innovation Grants awarded in 2016 and 2017 are helping dozens of communities develop new and innovative approaches to address equity, inclusion, and diversity inequalities in STEM.