Alumni Bio : Lauren Jefferson
How did you get involved with FIRST and what was your experience like as a team member?
I started on FRC 1124, the ÜberBots from Avon, CT as a sophomore. I had a few friends on the team and friends from other schools that were involved, so I decided to stop in on a meeting. One of the team mentors brought me over to help tap aluminum and I felt welcomed enough that I decided to join. My first competition was Suffield Shakedown 2008 and I was completely blown away by the atmosphere. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time and it was great to be in a positive competitive environment where I could make friends with people I was competing against. Throughout my time as a student, I was involved with the spirit, fundraising, outreach, scouting, programming and drive teams.
In my senior year, I was one of the founding members and vice-captain of FRC 3125, the Pirates of the Pythagorean, at the Greater Hartford Academy of Mathematics and Science in Hartford, CT. The push for our relatively small magnet school to have a team was mostly driven by a couple of students from different teams in the area, so our team was very student-run. The process of starting a team, getting all of the resources necessary to build a robot, attending our two chosen Regional events, and traveling to Championship when we qualified was both exhilarating and overwhelming. A defining part of our rookie year experience was the outpouring of support that our team received from several other FIRST Robotics Competition teams in New England. I can say definitively that our team would not have survived without them, and the FIRST community continues to inspire me
How did FIRST impact your life and career choices beyond high school?
I was lucky enough to be accepted into MIT with the intent of majoring in 6-7, Computational Biology. I ended up switching to 15, Management Science, as a junior because I was really interested in the way organizations work and being in a field that allowed me to connect more directly with people. Towards the end of my college career, I realized that I wanted to dedicate my time to working with students and helping them figure out their own career paths.
From August 2014-August 2016, I was a FIRST AmeriCorps VISTA member in Connecticut. The FIRST VISTA Program has about 40 members across the United States and the program mission is to help start, support and sustain FIRST teams across all four levels in low-income and low-resource areas. Essentially, I was lucky enough to have the chance to dedicate my life to making FIRST possible for more students for two years. It was an incredible experience to get to immerse myself so deeply in the FIRST community and I highly recommend it. Additionally, the experience solidified my desire to pursue a career that helped me make opportunities like FIRST possible for more students.
I’m currently a first-year graduate student in the University of Connecticut School Counseling Master’s program. My job as a future school counselor is to make sure that every single one of my students achieves success and has the opportunity to explore their possibilities. Even in the span of a single meeting, I’ve seen kids go from completely doubting their abilities to experiencing the thrill of even solving part of a problem and wanting to do more. I’m a firm believer that programs like FIRST that build confidence and allow students to experience a new way of thinking should be available to all students. The more that every kid can see how their education can lead to something greater, and the more kids can have the opportunity to apply the concepts they learn in class, the more engaged they will be.
Have you or do you plan to stay involved with FIRST and if so, how?
STEAMworks will be my 10th FIRST Robotics Competition season! In addition to being a VISTA, I’ve been a volunteer since 2012 and a mentor of FRC 181, Birds of Prey, since 2015. I attended 15 Stronghold competitions this year, 7 official and 8 off-seasons and had the privilege of getting to interact with the majority of teams in New England to some degree. While I won’t be able to volunteer as much in the next couple of years due to schoolwork, I’m looking forward to still being involved with the wonderful FIRST community we have here in New England!