As a FIRST® employee and a volunteer for FIRST in South Carolina, Faith is steadfastly committed to spreading her love of STEAM as far as she can. In her volunteer role as Vice President for FIRST South Carolina, she is able to support a variety of programs throughout the state and specifically advocate for FIRST and STEAM at the state government level.
By working closely with the FIRST South Carolina Youth Advisory Council (YAC), Faith helps students drive change and make an impact in their communities. The YAC is a youth-led equity, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) committee that gives students the opportunity to advocate and use their creative thinking skills to problem solve.
For Faith, being a mother of four and living in a rural area has given her a different perspective when it comes to access of programs like FIRST and says that this experience has shown her the need for equity and improved access to educational opportunities. This is a major focus for her ED&I work with the YAC. She says, “What's even more inspiring is our shared commitment to making FIRST opportunities available and accessible to all students throughout South Carolina, especially in the state's rural communities.”
Keep reading to learn more about the impact Faith is making with the FIRST South Carolina YAC and why youth-led ED&I committees are having a positive impact in communities around the world.
FIRST Staff: What inspired you to be a part of the YAC in your local FIRST community?
Faith: I wanted to empower student voices and choices and support South Carolina's youth who are ambitious change-makers, seeking to make a meaningful impact in their community. When my daughter and another young woman from FIRST presented a well-defined proposal for a youth council, it was an easy decision to back their vision. This initiative allows South Carolina students to hone leadership, project management, and advocacy skills while sharing their enthusiasm for FIRST programs. Supporting an initiative driven by two amazing young ladies is crucial to attracting girls to STEM, and we still have opportunity for growth when it comes to closing the gap on the participation of women and girls in STEM and FIRST.
FIRST Staff: What is one thing you want everyone to know about youth-led ED&I committees?
Faith: An ED&I committee led by our youth enables us, the adults, to grasp the significance of their priorities to supporting and improving STEM opportunities and FIRST in South Carolina. The comprehensive perspective these students provide, in advocating for their communities, is truly inspiring. These young individuals bring forth innovative ideas and affording them the opportunity to implement these initiatives bolsters our FIRST community.
FIRST Staff: What has been your biggest learning opportunity thus far?
Faith: We have learned that developing the structure and functionality is a continuous process. The founders of YAC in South Carolina are diligently fine-tuning their bylaws and organization to meet the program's needs. As FIRST is a recognized Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO), this alignment enables teams to access additional state funding. This positive development will allow the students to host a state meeting next summer, featuring leadership workshops, advocacy training, council elections, and awards. This is a team effort; our FIRST Senior Mentors have been instrumental in supporting this effort.
FIRST Staff: What surprised you the most about working with students in the YAC?
Faith: I'm inspired by their fervor and enthusiasm for driving change, whether it's taking on significant tasks such as drafting a bill for state legislature to ensure standard stipends for all STEM coaches, or smaller, yet meaningful gestures like organizing yard games and providing popsicles at an off-season event.
FIRST Staff: How do you use STEAM skills within this committee?
Faith: Integrating STEAM skills into a committee's framework fosters a culture of innovation, problem-solving, and well-informed, multidisciplinary decision-making. It's essential to acknowledge and appreciate the distinctive inputs of members with diverse backgrounds and promote effective collaboration. This collaboration should emphasize collective thinking, technology integration, creative innovation, and the examination of our actions with empathy and an understanding of their diverse cultural implications.
FIRST Staff: Who is a “Person of STEAM” who inspires you?
Faith: Dr. Trish Hayner is an incredible mentor who serves as an inspiring role model, particularly in a challenging male-dominated professional landscape. Her extensive tenure at Bosch has molded her into a highly adept and influential leader, well-equipped to navigate and excel in demanding circumstances with a combination of grace and compassion. Her remarkable attributes not only include effective leadership skills but also a profound ability to instill confidence and resilience in those she guides. Dr. Hayner's presence in her field radiates a sense of empowerment, setting a standard for aspiring women leaders and demonstrating that dedication, adaptability, and a compassionate approach are key ingredients for success in any environment.
FIRST Staff: If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Faith: Release the pressure of perfection, welcome failure, and maintain your curiosity. Recognize that failure is not a roadblock but rather a stepping stone for personal growth. Looking back, I wish my younger self hadn't viewed failure as a dead end but rather as a fork in the road leading to new discoveries and valuable opportunities on the journey we call life.
FIRST Staff: Do you have a message you want to share for students who are participating in FIRST today?
Faith: Do not hesitate to discover your passions and pursue them. While engaging with FIRST, make it a priority to cultivate new skills and explore novel ideas. As the famous explorer Norman Vaughan wisely put it, 'Dream big and dare to fail.' This powerful quote reminds us that embracing our dreams, regardless of the risk of failure, is the path to remarkable achievements. It's an invitation to step out of our comfort zones, push boundaries, and embark on journeys of self-discovery and innovation. In FIRST, you have the perfect platform to take these bold steps, where every venture, every challenge, and every mistake is a valuable lesson in your personal and intellectual growth.
For more information and information on disability inclusion, please visit the FIRST Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Trainings and Resources webpage.
Are you a person of STEAM? Share your story with #PeopleofSTEAM on social media or send us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.