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FIRST Volunteers: Meet Katlin Walsh

Guest post by Paul Keenan, FIRST® Senior Mentor, in Ontario, Canada.

Katlin Walsh is a “woman for all seasons” – all FIRST seasons – to paraphrase the title of a famous play. Dave Ellis, VP of FIRST Canada, put it best:

We are very fortunate to have many exceptional volunteers across the province of Ontario. Kate is a great example of one who is always willing to take on a variety of roles with us, including managing events, coordinating volunteers, serving on the planning committee, and more. She is fluent in all our programs, having judged and/or coached in all of them, and always approaches each role with professionalism and integrity, which makes Kate a very valuable volunteer in our organization.

Kate, now a FIRST alum, joined FIRST® Robotics Competition Team 1334 as a student and also mentored FIRST® LEGO League Explore teams while in middle school. She has never stopped mentoring since. She returned to her school, Oakville Trafalger, to start FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1374 and FIRST® Tech Challenge Team 16428. “Mentorship goes two ways – it’s a great opportunity to meet like-minded people who love volunteering with youth, but it’s also important to remember that this is the first time many participants are interacting with adults outside of school or family events,” Kate said. 

She is also fluent in French, which came in handy at last year’s FIRST LEGO League Challenge East Provincial Championship when she volunteered to judge in French for a fantastic rookie team from a French First Language school in Aurora, Ontario. She was happy to see the team compete again this year when she volunteered as a judge at the FIRST LEGO League Challenge North Bay Qualifier. And, she still has time to run student and teacher workshops for FIRST Canada and help us with the CanCode initiative, where she works with some of our national sponsors to recruit underserved teams. Even during the pandemic, Katlin has been actively supporting teams and volunteering remotely for events across Canada.

One of Katlin’s biggest jobs was to organize an off-season FIRST Robotics Competition event at the Canadian National Exhibition in the summers of 2018 and 2019. The Canadian National Exhibition is a century-old fair in downtown Toronto that annually attracts over a million visitors. Though the in-person event for the summer of 2020 was canceled, Katlin worked with event staff to simulate a free, virtual competition for the public throughout all 18 days of the fair.

John Hobbins, FIRST Robotics Competition Director with FIRST Robotics Canada, had this to say about Katlin:

I can honestly say what a pleasure it is to work alongside one of the best alumni who is truly a dedicated individual. I have had the pleasure of first getting to know Katlin in her initial role as Assistant Volunteer Coordinator at one of our highly visible events. What I recall is Katlin’s incredible, unrelenting enthusiasm at performing the role the very best. Even though the event was running extremely well, Katlin was collaborating to optimize the experience even more. Furthermore, anytime I am faced with an issue or initiative that needs the guidance of an experienced FIRST alum, Katlin is always at the front of the line offering help. She is dependable, energetic, experienced, and a true ambassador and steward of FIRST. Like many others, Katlin can always be found to be extremely busy, but she is never too busy to support FIRST and the community at large.

And she is busy. Katlin is also completing a Master of Education. During the pandemic, she has worked for an engineering firm to make and donate over 20,000 face shields to communities in need at homeless shelters in her community, Northern Indigenous Canada, and Lebanon.

Her vast experience in all the FIRST programs has made her a valuable and sought-after volunteer. If you need a volunteer role filled or advice on how to start a team, Katlin is there. We will leave the last words to Katlin:

As a FIRST alum, I started volunteering to give back to the amazing program that transformed my life! Once I started volunteering, I immediately connected with other volunteers in industries that I’m interested in. I’ve been able to form some great, long-term relationships with people who have helped me to establish myself in my growing career.

Thank you for being a FIRST volunteer, Katlin!

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