#PeopleofSTEAM is an ongoing blog series that highlights diverse voices in our community and the impacts they are making on the world of FIRST®, the world of STEAM, and/or in their own backyard.
Tristan (he/him) is a FIRST alum and veteran volunteer across all FIRST programs. He is also a board member of The Rainbow STEM Alliance, an organization dedicated to helping make FIRST and other STEM spaces inclusive and safe for LGBTQ+ individuals. He continues his involvement with FIRST by mentoring local students in his home state of Michigan and serving as a Master of Ceremonies for many FIRST events. As for his day job, Tristan is a Benefits Navigation Specialist at Elder Law of Michigan. Continue reading to learn more about Tristan, his experiences, and his impact in the world of STEAM.
FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills in your everyday life?
Tristan: I’ve always been quite candid about the fact that I’m not an engineer. For most of my FIRST experience, I’ve been more of a translator, taking something that is highly technical (sometimes unapproachable) and making it accessible to people of all backgrounds. Most of my day-to-day job now is navigating technological barriers for older adults. As our world automates, it’s important to consider the folks who might get left behind. Accessibility should be a consideration at every step of the innovation process.
FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Tristan: It’s okay to take up space. By that, I mean that your voice, your presence, your skills are not an inconvenience. The perspective you have on the world has value. As AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) people, we’re often societally ingrained to make ourselves smaller to accommodate others. Our experiences need to be a part of the conversation, and I wish I’d been confident enough to stand my ground as my authentic self. I’ll say it one more time for whoever needs to hear it –– It’s okay to take up space.
FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?
Tristan: There’s no “right way” to live the FIRST experience. Each community needs a different kind of team, so build the experience that you need and celebrate whatever victory looks like for you. The things you’ll remember in five years are not the banners. As you step into the next stage of your life, whether in further academia or the trades, the things you learned and the connections you built will matter so much more.
FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?
Tristan: I’m inspired by our FIRST students. Their drive to develop their skills and strengthen their community makes my job as a mentor easy. Mostly I get to say “yes” and help make their ideas a reality.
FIRST Staff: What is YOUR impact on the world of STEAM? What are you doing now, and/or what do you hope to do?
Tristan: More than anything, I try to be visible. As the current political climate increasingly threatens the safety and wellbeing of queer and trans folks, it’s important that our FIRST participants see themselves reflected within our community. Everybody needs a seat at the table if we’re going to tackle the world’s biggest problems, so my priority is making sure we have enough chairs.
Looking for resources for supporting LGBTQ+ youth? FIRST partners with Project THRIVE, a multi-year, collaborative effort of many national organizations led by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation to create more equitable, inclusive, support systems and communities for LGBTQ+ youth. For resources, including webinars, parent guides, training, and more, visit the FIRST ED&I Resource Library Page.
Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at email@example.com.