Professional Development

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Bringing STEM Engagement to Young People Through Community-Based Organizations

Monday, 25 April 2022 08:05

Many young people consider community-based organizations, like yours, a home away from home. Whether your organization is local or within a national network, you give students a safe place to go after school, on weekends, and during summer vacations. Today, organizations are increasingly incorporating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities into their program offerings and providing opportunities for students to grow new skills. Community-based organizations like the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, Girl Scouts, 4-H, and local nonprofits can introduce young people to STEM ideas and engagement activities that are not always available in their homes and schools.

Through working with afterschool service providers in underserved communities to implement our PreK-12 robotics programs, FIRST® has identified some lessons learned to help any community organization open STEM pathways for all students.

  • Remove barriers for students who lack resources: Funding for snacks, after-school travel,
    and other expenses can allow disadvantaged youth to participate in team-based opportunities meaningfully.
  • Connect students who are new to STEM areas with experienced students for peer-to-peer or near-peer mentoring: Creating opportunities for young people to teach each other builds skills, confidence, and relationships among both mentors and mentees.
  • Link students to the larger community: In FIRST, we find building strong bonds with FIRST teammates, coaches, mentors, corporate sponsors, and partners can be rewarding — and open doors to jobs, internships, and higher education.
  • Provide training and resources to coaches/ facilitators: Providing in-person and online training in fundraising, team safety, building, and coding, among other topics, can give confidence to inexperienced coaches.
  • Engage students in programs year-round: Community organizations, which operate year-round, are ideally positioned to keep young people engaged by extending programming into the summer months.

Read more about these tips for bringing inclusive STEM engagement to young people in your community.

At FIRST, we are committed to bringing our team-based PreK-12 robotics programs to the students who can benefit from them the most. We’re constantly developing new strategies to create greater, more equitable access, and to help every child succeed. For more on our commitment to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, visit

Contributed by: Vinnie Rodino, FIRST Director of School Engagement