Thoughts on the Arkansas Broadband Debate: We CAN Fix This

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

I have had the privilege and honor of living in Arkansas my whole life. I’ve seen a lot more of the world than I ever thought possible, but I’ve always counted myself lucky that I can come home to a place that is so open-hearted and generous. The Arkansas I live in now is definitely not the Arkansas I was born in, though. When I was growing up in Little Rock and Cabot in the 1970s and 80s the world was a huge place that existed somewhere out there. We caught glimpses of it on television (all four stations; I grew up in the country pre-cable), but by-and-large it felt like we were the backwater province that the rest of the country joked we were. My, but how things have changed.

I read Lydia Dobyns’ blog post, “With Liberty and Justice and High Speed Internet Access for All” and couldn’t help but be moved by her insight into one of the challenges that is facing my home state, providing high speed internet access and resources to all of our schools (and ultimately to all of our communities). Ms. Dobyns relates a tale of the disparity that exists here. That disparity is confounding to me; but the attention being brought to it is showing us the way to addressing it.

I am fortunate to be part of the most dynamic educational program in the world, the EAST Initiative. Like Wal-Mart and Johnny Cash, EAST is an Arkansas-born product that DSC_0062provides service to a wide and eclectic group of people. With its focus on technology driven service projects developed and led by students in grades 2-12 (and beyond), EAST programs are developing the next wave of entrepreneurial problem-solvers whose skills in both the concrete STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills and the vital workplace and higher ed skills (self-direction, commitment to purpose, positive communication and problem solving). I would say that EAST is developing the leaders of tomorrow, but the truth is that many of our students are the leaders of today. Tomorrow better watch out!

I said earlier that it is apparent how much things have changed in my time in this state. The world isn’t quite so big. We produced a President and discovered that there were Fortune 100 companies in our borders. We have (like everyone else) had the world opened up to us by that information superhighway that rolled over society before many of us knew what happened. The access to information and commerce, to education and health that broadband internet provides is staggering when you consider that it just wasn’t so long ago that the best we had at our Universities was interlibrary-loan and a floor of microfiche.

In the current debate about equity in access for our schools the thing that I haven’t heard is any disagreement that it’s necessary. Everyone seems to agree we need to do better and everyone seems to agree we can do better. I live in a central Arkansas suburb and am fortunate to be able to choose from several different providers for broadband access. I checked my home system yesterday and saw that I am currently running on roughly 50 Mbps download speed and a little over 20 in upload speed. That’s groovy but also alarming. I know schools that are running at 15 Mbps download-for the WHOLE school! I’m empty nesting so my wife and I can split the internet and still have nearly twice the access that every student in that school has combined. Everyone is right: it’s possible and it’s necessary.

What I’m currently trying to understand is why, if there is so much agreement, there’s not been any action. The Arkansas I know is one that comes together to solve problems. One that values children. One that has education written into its constitution as a priority. That’s a pretty good place.

Mom Clinton law signingMy first exposure to politics was in 1978. My mother had taken up her civic right to petition the government for redress of grievances and run with it. In 1978, the survivors of deceased police officers and firemen received a $25 monthly pension. Even in ’78 that was penury and an insult to the families of these crucial public servants. We were one of those families. My father passed away in 1976 as a patrolman for the Little Rock Police Force and left behind a stunned family consisting of a 28-year-old widow and her two sons, 8 and 6. My mom saw an issue that needed to be addressed and stormed the Capitol, and she got the law changed. Why? Because it was the right thing to do. Because it was logical to do so. Because, once pointed out, it would be immoral to ignore it. Really, I’ve always thought it’s because Arkansas is a place where when we agree to do something we work together to make sure it gets done.

Gov. Beebe ran on a platform of reducing the grocery tax (among many other things) to make life more fair for our citizens. It happened. I was in the room for a press conference where he announced that it was time to solve the problem of inequitable access to broadband. Let’s make it happen.

untitled-32I know a lot about how to motivate kids and develop service projects. I don’t know much of anything about how to connect all our schools to broadband in an equitable, affordable manner, but I know a lot of people who do. I think we should put them in a room and, since we’re past the initial agreement stage on what needs to be done, move straight to the getting it done stage.

Our students deserve it. Our communities deserve it. Everyone will benefit from the ancillary benefits of strengthening the infrastructure of the internet in the state. We can do this and I have no idea why we haven’t already. Let’s get to work. I know about 450,000 students who will thank everyone involved.

Until next time,

I’m Matt and that’s that!

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Coming Up: EAST Night Out

4bdb588db87d31cf0f191bbe4e766d57The air is starting to have a hint of chill. Friday nights have football games again and that means it’s also time for EAST Night Out. This will be our seventh EAST Night Out and every year the event seems to get bigger and bigger. This year our official EAST Night Out date is October 14 and we’re looking forward to the more th an 70 schools across the EAST world that will be opening their doors to the community that night. We have about that many schools also hosting their Night Out on other dates. This is an incredible opportunity to see what EAST students are doing and to give our schools the opportunity to make new connections. This week’s guest blogger explains the whole thing better than I ever could. She is Carmen McBride, facilitator at Don Roberts Elementary School. She and her students are great hosts, but, as you’ll see, they get as much out of it as the public.

Carman McBride

Carman McBride

My EAST students measure their year by two events: East Night Out (ENO) and EAST Conference. Conference is where you get to celebrate and show off a year’s progress, but ENO is a time to build excitement for the program and prove to parents, teachers and the community that we really are doing something special in EAST. I can’t wait.

But the excitement isn’t just for show—my students are giddy with the details. Who will speak? When do we send invitations? Who will handle refreshments? How will we display our projects? And I’m just sitting back making sure the wheels don’t come off.

I will be honest. Last year, as a first year facilitator, I dreaded the event. I felt like it was just another hurdle and I had no idea what to expect. How was I going to make sure everything happened as it should? I was still in classroom mode.

But my students pulled it off without any problem. That’s when I realized this really isn’t the classroom. This wasn’t MY event; it was THEIRS. If I had micromanaged every detail, it would have been a failure. But they seized the opportunity and made my first ENO an unforgettable event. I could not have been prouder.ENO 2012 Roberts Elementary School-006

Students were everywhere! They greeted people at the door. They handed out brochures. They gave out refreshments. They set up the technology. They made sure every person felt welcome.

That first ENO changed our program! Parents and visitors were amazed. They could not believe that elementary students could pull off such an awesome event. They understood EAST (maybe for the first time) and they wanted to be part of it!

We had a table at our ENO labeled “How you can help?” where visitors signed up to partner with us. Within days we were flooded with volunteers. Suddenly, my job became easier because we had an assortment of knowledgeable community partners. Through our partners, our students now had a team of experts to help them get full use of our technology.

And isn’t that what it’s all about? No one person can do everything but everyone can do something. And that’s what ENO is for—building that critical mass of partners, each of whom can contribute something unique to our program.

My students a_MG_8936re committed to making this year’s ENO even better than last year’s, and I am convinced they can do it. They have bought into the vision that if we can build enough excitement about EAST in our school and community and get the right people on our team, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. And here I am, just watching it all unfold on the sidelines. It is truly an incredible thing to watch.

This is the time for our students to prove what they can do. And they can do that if we’ll get out of the way and let them. Good luck!

Wow! Just, wow! Can you wait? I encourage everyone that reads this to find an event near them and be a part of the festivities. You can find details and events at I hope to see you there, but EAST students are counting on seeing you.

Until next time….I’m Matt and that’s that!

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Rapid Responder: Facilitating more than an EAST program

Kevin Shinn

Kevin Shinn

Kevin Shinn is the EAST Facilitator for Huntsville High School and is in his 30th year in education. Kevin has a degree in Emergency Administration Management and has been a firefighter for more than 30 years. He also serves in a variety of leadership roles for the American Red Cross in Arkansas.

By Kevin Shinn
EAST Facilitator, Huntsville High School

We know at some point this year a community in the United States will be devastated by a natural or man-made disaster. Tornadoes drop out of the sky unexpectedly; flood waters envelope entire communities and earthquakes lurk beneath the Earth’s surface with the potential to destroy an entire region. Beyond the ominous threat of Mother Nature lies the destruction imposed on humanity by mankind. Accidents happen as trains derail, fires consume, vehicles collide, machines fail and workers make mistakes. Perhaps worst of all, evil people with ill intent will choose to harm others; at times even our children are the targets of their viciousness.

Naturally, we hope when these tragic events occur, the best-trained emergency responders, armed with the best equipment available, will respond quickly to mitigate damage and save lives. Experience, however, tells us this is not always the case. Far too often, the scale of the disaster is too great for the emergency resources at hand, or responders and their equipment are caught up in the devastation themselves.

Some events to consider:

Statistics show floods are the number one natural disaster in the U.S. All 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods. Flash floods often bring walls of water 10- to 20-feet-high yet even just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. A car can easily be carried away by just two feet of floodwater. Flash flooding is the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the U.S. with approximately 200 drownings per year. Of those, just over 50 percent are vehicle-related.

Roughly 17 million people live in what is known as Tornado Alley, an area that spans across eight states in the middle of our country. Although it covers just 15 percent of the U.S., this area suffered nearly 30 percent of all confirmed tornadoes between 1950 and 2012 averaging 268 tornadoes per year. There were 5,587 confirmed fatalities during that period with 1,110, or about 20 percent, occurring in Tornado Alley. Statistics for tornado-related injuries are even higher. For the same period, there were 64,054 injuries reported across the U.S., averaging approximately 1,000 per year. Twenty-four percent of those injuries occurred in Tornado Alley. While only two percent of tornadoes were deadly nationwide, some were hugely destructive.

Youth Tragedies
An average of 16,375 teenagers aged 12-19 years died in the U.S. every year from 1999 to 2006. The leading cause of death among teenagers was from accidents (unintentional injuries), accounting for nearly one-half of all teenage deaths. As a category of accidents, motor vehicle fatality is the leading cause of death to teenagers, representing over one-third of all deaths.

Our hearts remain tinged with grief when we hear names like Sandy Hook, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Jonesboro and the list stretches on like that long, black train. Every year, somewhere in this country, school violence will claim the lives of our children, teachers and others in a senseless attack.

National Service Project
One constant that holds true in all of these situations is that with proper planning and preparation lives can be saved and suffering reduced. It is with this reality in mind the focus of this year’s National Service Project (NSP) is so significant: “Ready, Set, Plan: Emergency Planning and Preparedness.”nsp

The untapped potential of our nation’s youth is a renewable resource waiting to be utilized in making our world a better place. EAST provides our young people an avenue to not only explore their potential but to realize the fruits of their own labor and we are all the richer for it. The student-driven, project-based focus on solving real world problems is an excellent forum for our students to step out of the classroom and into their communities to make a difference.

Teaching people to recognize the threats they face in their everyday lives and arming them with informed options empowers them to make life-saving choices that make a difference when time counts.


Photo courtesy of American Red Cross

Unfortunately, we cannot always have the best-trained emergency responders armed with the best equipment available when disaster strikes. By unleashing our students and their vast capacity for problem solving, they can make a difference. This time next year, we will be sharing stories about our students from across the EAST universe who made a difference in their communities by saving lives and reducing suffering as a direct result of their innovative approaches and hard work.

I have had the honor of being the state chairman for the American Red Cross Rapid Response Team Project in Arkansas for the last decade. In this role I have had the distinct privilege of witnessing hundreds of high school students from across our great state being trained in emergency management skills who go into careers in emergency services or the medical field, or who find themselves in circumstances using their skills to help others. In case after case, I have watched what young people can do when they are motivated, educated and dedicated to make a difference. It is inspiring.

My father, Harry F. Shinn, was a career educator and a volunteer firefighter who would often say, “Education is not a passive experience.” He believed it was essential fredcross-logoor educators to engage our students in their own learning because when they take ownership of it, they have pride in it and in themselves. He was right and this year’s National Service Project is an excellent example of that philosophy because it empowers our youth to make a significant contribution with their talents and skills to help others.

President John F. Kennedy said, “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”

Whether through community education presentations, training young people in emergency response skills, collaborating with members in their community to develop shelters or warning systems or bringing awareness to their peers about the dangers they face and ways to stay safe, EAST students everywhere will be changing the world for the better.

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Summer Reflections

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

“You sit around getting older
there’s a joke here somewhere and it’s on me
I’ll shake this world off my shoulders
come on baby this laugh’s on me”—
Bruce Springsteen

As I look out into the very sparsely populated parking lot here at EAST HQ, I am acutely aware of the impending start of the 2014 – 2015 school year. Yes, it’s time for the Class of ’15 to assert their temporary dominance of the high school cafeteria, and it’s time for those of us who know better to let them. Even though Senior Year is not all it’s cracked up to be, I guess they have to find that out for themselves. We did, right? Just like we discovered that summer never lasts as long as it used to.

Today’s musings are wrapped tightly in that bittersweet nostalgia that comes about at the beginning and ending of things and is heavily influenced by the immutable law that each age gives way to the next and that every generation discovers the world anew.

I want to recap and share some of the best of the summer of ’14 with you, but before I do, I want to put you into my own personal way-back machine and tell you about a world far, far different from the one we live in: one so foreign that it was all but lost to memory to me until the beginning of this summer when I had a Proustian madeleine moment. I was in the car driving home and (as I am wont to do) listening to “old people music” (you know from back when I was young and music was music and not all this noise and hippity hop). The radio station (a satellite radio station!) was celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen. There I was on the highway, weary with traffic and the end of the day, when I heard one of those magical spells that can transport us away:

6f4fa9dfea7ba894c6f2f9dcb9d534c8“Now young faces grow sad and old, and hearts of fire grow cold
we swore blood brothers against the wind.
I’m ready to grow young again
and hear your sister’s voice calling us home across the open yards.”—
Bruce Springsteen, Never Surrender

I spent the rest of my commute, much of the rest of the evening, and – really – a goodly portion of the rest of the summer reminiscing about one of the pivotal times in my life and in trying to reconcile that time (the summer of ’84) against this time. Looking back it makes no sense whatsoever that today is even possible. If you weren’t there, or if you don’t remember let me set the stage…in general.

The summer of ’84 was the summer of Born in the USA and Purple Rain. It was the summer of the New Orleans World’s Fair and the Los Angeles Summer Olympics (in June no one knew who Mary Lou Retton was; by the end of July she was as American as apple pie…and still is). It was the summer that Spock came back to life, Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell and Charlie Sheen would beat back the Russian invasion of America, Robert Redford would be the greatest baseball player ever and everyone knew if you needed to call anyone, you needed to call the Ghostbusters. There was a Presidential race underway but no one was paying much attention (Pres. Reagan would go on to all but run the map in the fall). The Macintosh computer had been on the market for about six months but computers were still on the periphery of our day-to-day lives.070cb75d822970d2ee90107cf2948256

To be much more specific, I was getting ready to be a junior in high school and had been “loaned out” to my grandparents for the summer. My brother and I were the sons my grandparents never had (quite literally, they had six daughters). They were old-school serial entrepreneurs in Branson, Mo.—it was almost the Branson we know now, but not quite. Unfortunately for my brother and me, their business savvy in Branson was not in the entertainment or tourism business but rather in the farming, trucking and cemetery business. So while other kids our age were finding all kinds of gainful employment in the burgeoning tourism trade in Branson (Silver Dollar City and White Water and the Go Kart Track and a thousand other “fun” jobs), my brother and I were being drug out of bed at 4:30 in the morning to go count cows or wait at granaries for the commodity prices to be posted. The afternoons were spent mowing and weed-eating the cemetery and doing the zillion other “small jobs” that seem to be built in to the life of a farmer, a trucker and a small businessman.

Now, contrary to what my grandmother might report (she’s 88 years old and still chasing those cows), it was a pretty good deal for her. She swears that we ate every dollar of profit she made that summer but I seem to remember it more in the vein of enforced child servitude. Whatever it was, I know it was hard to get into any real trouble because by 3:30 in the afternoon we would be begging to go back to the house and collapse in our beds.

0e2f7b3fb3d4f9352c955803c426a0bbWhen there was downtime (and occasionally there was), I would spend it with my Walkman blocking out the Ozarks with my nose planted firmly in one book or another. That was the summer that Bruce went from big to HUGE and Prince took over the radio. The Jacksons would launch their Victory tour in Kansas City and the Springfield TV stations treated it like it was the biggest story since the moon landing. It was the summer I discovered Ziggy Stardust and Ernest Hemmingway. I spent too much time writing pained mash notes to a young lady back home who was far, far out of my league, but she was a good pen pal. I daydreamed of going to Los Angeles and convincing Jane Wiedlin to turn to me for support and comfort (that’s a song joke, look it up).

Being 16 and stuck in Branson in 1984 was hard. I think being 16 in general is difficult regardless of place or time. But I vividly remember feeling (as Bruce explained), “[T]here’s something happening somewhere baby, I just know that there is” and that I was as far away from it as you could possibly get.

620b2e7b346dc11825d0a99be4453319Part of the isolation was of course that communication was so limited. Once upon a time if you wanted to make a phone call out of town you had to check your budget. There was a thing called long distance and it was (as my grandparents explained constantly) EXPENSIVE. When you put that expense up against the fact that the party to which you were speaking actually had to be home, it made for a depressing situation. I was a great letter writer but those conversations were measured in weeks and not minutes. Branson only had four TV stations, and only one radio station that played anything that didn’t prominently feature banjos. The world was a much, much smaller and more proscribed place, and quite honestly, I couldn’t conceive that it would ever be otherwise.

Flash forward a little over a decade (summer ‘95) and the seeds for a little program called EAST were just being sown in Greenbrier, Arkansas. Greenbrier! A town that made Branson look like New York City! The world had shifted so much in such a short amount of time that the old one was beginning to be unrecognizable. Heck, an Arkansan was in the White House and who saw that coming?

Where was I? I was bopping along as the dad of a little one, a novice teacher and (once again) I thought that life was a straight line of what I saw in front of me.

One more jump on the timeline. It’s the end of the summer of 2014 and I’m listening to the radio and it all folds back on itself.

This summer EAST has had the incredible privilege of helping to train over 75 teachers and facilitators in our Phase and Tier trainings. We got to spend three incredible days with over 200 of our best friends at Summer Seminar in Arkadelphia. We’re all but done with the installation of 14 new EAST programs around Arkansas and just this week added the 15th member of the EAST Class of 2014 – 2015 (thank you Springdale School of Innovation!).DSC_0597

It’s a smaller world, but it’s also a bigger one. The changes that we’ve seen since I was trying to get those Herefords to stand still long enough to get an accurate count are massive but the opportunities to kids in Cabot and Armorel and Springdale and Fairless Hills are larger still. It has been an incredible journey. In 1984 Journey tried to explain that to us:

“Another night in any town
You can hear the thunder of their cry
Ahead of their time
They wonder why
In the shadows of a golden age
A generation waits for dawn
Brave carry on/Bold and the strong
Only the young can say
They’re free to fly away”

…and I hope it will ever be so.

It’s the end of the Summer and time to pack up and head back to school. That’s some serious business and we’ve got some serious work to do this year, so before we totally abandon the reverie of summer can I encourage you to follow the Purple One’s advice and, “Look for the purple banana, ‘til they put us in the truck.”

Until next time,

I’m Matt and that’s that!





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How EAST Equipped Me to Take on Anything

I hope you’re sitting down for this week’s blog post; it’s a doozy! This week we feature guest blogger, EAST alum and biological scientist, Shelby Paschal. Shelby has had an exciting summer and wanted to share her thoughts on how these sorts of opportunities happen.

Shelby Paschal EAST Alumni

Shelby Paschal
EAST Alumna

How EAST made me a better engineer:

I suppose I should start by clarifying that statement.

EAST hasn’t technically made me a better “engineer,” because I’m not quite finished yet. I will receive my degree in Biological Engineering from the University of Arkansas later this year, so for now, I will start with “how EAST made me a better scientist.”

Science is what I love and thankfully, it is what I get to do. I have spent most of the summer at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Maryland, as an environmental chemistry intern assisting in monitoring the water quality and light availability in the Chesapeake Bay.


To be completely honest, it has been a crazy summer! I have learned to write a grant proposal, got a boating license, been enlightened on how complicated the water chemistry in an estuary can be and learned from the top experts in my field (and played volleyball with a couple of them!). It’s an experience of a lifetime for a girl who wants to devote her life to ensure high water quality across the globe, not to mention it is a pretty far cry from what I thought I would be doing when I was in high school.


During my years at Mammoth Spring High School, my main EAST project was helping maintain our school website but I mostly dabbled in whatever my awesome facilitator, Mrs. Joy Underwood, would let me. The options of software to learn and projects to work on and things to do was overwhelming. My senior year, I spent much of my EAST class time prepping to be a conference ambassador and that was easily one of my favorite memories of school. But this all has nothing to do with what I’m doing now, right? Or does it?

IMG_4425The beauty of my experience with EAST is that while I was learning some of the most valuable lessons of my career, I didn’t even realize it. Who knew that troubleshooting HTML scripts to fix minor problems on a school website three years ago would make the code for statistical analysis on my nutrient data in MATLAB easier to understand just last week? Or that communication skills I learned as an ambassador in 2011 would be what helped me land my dream internship this summer? Not to mention the fact that I would use GIS mapping skills every day to make the trends in water quality and nutrients seen through an entire watershed to document changes as the water flows?

Science isn’t just about the experiments anymore, it’s about communicating those results and making connections on a larger scale. In many ways, every career field is looking for people to make those connections and solve problems in innovative ways to make a difference. Unfortunately grade school and even most colleges aren’t preparing us for those bigger tasks, and that’s where EAST comes in. The EAST classroom isn’t just a class where you learn a certain subject; it’s a program where you learn how to think. It is not about the projects themselves, it’s about the brains behind those projects. When I was in EAST, I thought the biggest achievement for a program would be a project that impacted the community in a positive way (and we had those!). Instead, what Mrs. Underwood and all those wonderfully sneaky facilitators were really offering was the opportunity for us as students to be impacted in a positive way. EAST taught me personally how to start a project from scratch, learn what needed to be understood to complete that project, stick with it even when I didn’t always want to and then communicate the results or ask for help if it really needed improvements to move forward.

And if we are going to be completely honest here, that’s not just how EAST made me a better engineer, or even a better scientist; it is how EAST made me a better student. And that means being equipped to take on just about anything!

- Shelby Paschal

Do you have goosebumps? I do. Thank you Shelby, you’re exactly what we talk about when we talk about the capacity for education and EAST to help develop the next wave of STEM professionals. I am so proud of what you have done but more excited about what you will do. Congratulations!

Until next time,


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Connecting Youth to Technology and the Real World

This week’s guest blogger is EAST’s very own Angela Kremers, Sr. Director of Corporate Strategy. Dr. Kremers is a passionate advocate for the work being done throughout EAST and has been since before she came on staff.

Dr. Angela Kremers Senior Director of Corporate Strategy, the EAST Initiative

Dr. Angela Kremers
Sr. Director of Corporate Strategy – EAST Initiative

Ask most teenagers in Arkansas what they think about school and I am guessing you will hear comments like “it’s boring, it doesn’t apply to anything,” or “I don’t feel connected.” Yet youth today can navigate social media and the latest technology with ease. The reality is a disconnect between what teenagers are interested in and how they learn. This has a direct consequence on what motivates students and the typical school experience. This is a critical issue considering the American Legislative Exchange Council, among other national indicators, rank Arkansas education at or around 45th in the nation.

Schools need to bridge the gap between what motivates students to learn and how that will impact the education system, busuntitled-32inesses and communities. To do this, we need to get youth connected to learning through technology and application to real world problems and solutions. There is a clear and direct link between educational attainment and poverty. Rural states such as Arkansas work hard to compete for a talented workforce because we lack a strong pipeline of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) prepared employees. So how do we fill this pipeline? We start in our local schools with programs like the EAST Initiative.

EAST programs are currently in over 200 schools in five states and a long waiting list exists. Funding limits expansion to approximately 10-15 new programs each year. Students in programs like EAST begin to feel a connection through technology and applied learning. Think about your personal experience of sitting in a classroom with desks in a row, staring at a teacher in the front of the room lecturing. Now imagine students in classrooms filled with sophisticated technology working on projects that integrate applied learning and civic awareness. EAST students engage in project-based learning with an economic impact of over $15 million annually in Arkansas alone. It is a recipe for success. a00eb9eaa2b59d8b96e3e5d8f8686546

Arkansas and other states should continue to build on the great things happening with economic development and entrepreneurialism. Legislators, municipalities, school boards and administrators should make a tangible commitment to embrace the idea that technology and talent build the STEM pipeline to impact innovation and economic growth. The Argenta Innovation Hub is a big idea that is now becoming a reality. It is a great example of building an infrastructure to connect technology, entrepreneurial and community networks to drive innovation. The startup scene in Arkansas is growing and the participation of youth is a necessary investment; especially for girls and underrepresented minorities. ar hubWhy is it so important for technology to be a greater focal point in schools? Currently, only three states include basic computer science skills, such as coding, in the required school curriculum. Yet according to the 2010 President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report, “As the world becomes increasingly technological, the value of national assets will be determined by the effectiveness of STEM education in the United States. STEM education will determine whether the United States will remain a leader among nations.”


Rural states need computer scientists and programmers; we need STEM to be a priority. Arkansas STEMWorks was introduced by Governor Beebe’s Workforce Cabinet to bring more STEM programs into our schools. Programs include EAST Core, Project Lead the Way and New Tech schools. Among these programs, the Little Rock-based EAST Initiative is the only program developed in Arkansas. It provides direct benefits to the state’s local economy, schools and communities.

States can benefit from exploring emerging technology that other cities worldwide are integrating into economic plans. Examples include predictive technology, smart street lamps, geospatial mapping, use of cameras and speed radars to inform drivers of traffic issues. Asset mapping and apps for communication with state officials would be useful to bring awareness about city and community needs or problems (e.g. location of potholes, damage after severe weather, etc.).

We know that computer science and technological skills are a key lever in the STEM equation, yet the expectation for what is capable in K-12 learning remains too low. Young students need to be introduced early in their academic experiences to opportunities that set a high bar for expectations. When this occurs, move out of the way and you will be amazed. EAST students in elementary school are launching weather balloons into space, coding and creating sophisticated GIS/GPS maps. These amazing students are no different than any other student across the nation; they were just provided access and opportunity, something all students deserve.

With the Argenta Innovation Hub, the Iceburg in Northwest Arkansas, the Big Data Centers, EAST programs and the increasing infrastructure for startups and entrepreneurship in the state, we are poised for a “tech tipping point.” We need to embrace this and shout it out to the world – technology and talent build the STEM pipeline to impact innovation and economic growth.To accomplish this, we must get youth connected to technology and the real world around them.  

By building a STEM pipeline one student at a time, we will reap the benefits with long term impact. No greater planning at the local, regional and national level can occur than to implement a culture and focus on technology, economic growth and talent. It is a great way Arkansas can improve quality of life through conveniences, safety, economic development, entrepreneurialism and fiscal responsibility. Youth really are a part of the solution.  

The time is now to invest in youth, technology and education. We hope you will join us in our efforts to make education engaging and focused on what students will need to succeed in the 21st century global workforce.

EAST is founded on the idea that we can achieve more than we believe possible if we are just given the chance. Thank you for sharing more on this Dr. Kremers.

Until next time,


Prepare and Inspire: K-12 Education for STEM and America’s Future


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Lending a Helping Hand in Crisis

Matt DozierPres./CEO - EAST Initiative

Matt Dozier
Pres./CEO – EAST Initiative

The events on the evening of April 27 left their mark in Arkansas weather history as a destructive EF4 tornado ripped through several small towns, leaving behind miles of debris in communities that looks more like a combat zones than the Natural State.

As the magnitude of storms was revealed with the morning light the following day, volunteers began to mobilize in full force, collecting donations of clothes and supplies, and gearing up to start sorting through the debris, helping to clean up treasured possessions of residents in Mayflower, Vilonia and surrounding areas in central Arkansas.

10312112_629739770451759_5294271980714757012_nThe storms, determined by public records to be the deadliest in the state since 1968, left behind physical damage estimated in the millions and an emotional toll that cannot be calculated. But in the days immediately following, EAST students, facilitators and staff jumped into action to serve those affected.

For the past two weeks, a number of EAST programs in Arkansas have volunteered to help communities clean up and gathered thousands of donations of clothes, water and supplies for the tornado victims.

Some of those programs and their efforts include:

Clinton High School EAST – Partnered with other school groups to fill collection bins with water and toiletries and donated the items to the Salvation Army in Conway, Ark.

Dover HS 3

Dover High School EAST

Dover High School EAST – Organized an emergency relief event to gather items to meet immediate needs of those affected by collaborating with an area chaplain.  Students created posters for both print and digital distribution, and attached encouraging messages to water bottle wraps. The first group of items were delivered to a Mayflower distribution site with plans to deliver more donations in the coming days.

Dover Middle School EAST – Communicated with Vilonia Middle School to begin planning a service project to help the victims in Vilonia.

Drew Central High School EAST – Partnered with the agriculture program to collect three truckloads of canned goods, water, clothing, and toys for people in Vilonia and Mayflower.

Greenbrier HS 1

Greenbrier High School EAST

Greenbrier High School EAST – Partnered with the Wagon Wheel Restaurant to serve breakfast to volunteers staying at the Arkansas District Pentecostal Ministry Disaster Relief Center and the Vilonia Senior Citizen Center. Following breakfast, EAST students joined volunteers in clean up efforts.

Hamburg High School EAST- Began collecting donations May 5 to send to communities.

Mansfield High School EAST – Currently collecting items through May 16 to be donated to tornado victims.

Maumelle Middle School EAST – Organized a “Donation a Day” effort to collect specific items each day for victims including toiletries, toys for children, blankets and pet items. A collection jar has been placed in the school’s office to be given to First Security bank for gift card purchases. Efforts are also being focused on assisting victims in Ferndale and Center Hill who have had minimal assistance in relief activities.

Nettleton Junior High EAST and Nettleton High School EAST – Collaborated with several school clubs and organizations, the Nettleton Public School District, fraternities and sororities at Arkansas State University and Pink Ink Screen Printing to sell HOPE for HOME disaster relief t-shirts with proceeds benefiting tornado victims through the Red Cross.

Russellville High School EAST – Accepted donations for tornado victims through its website and EAST students set up donation boxes around the campus.

North Little Rock High School East Campus EAST –Coordinated a collection site for the community to donate items for tornado relief effort that included sorting, packing, loading and delivery to Vilonia, Friendship and Ferndale/Paron. On site, EAST students helped tornado victims load their vehicles with needed items. In Ferndale the team delivered over 1,800 pounds of food to the veterinarian’s office.

Strong High School EAST – Raised $500 for tornado relief efforts in Vilonia and delivered the funds to the Vilonia High School softball team. Strong EAST students invite other EAST programs to match the funds raised.

Vilonia High School EAST- Collected and restored photographs found among tornado debris to return them to their owners. More information is found on the Vilonia Public Schools website:

Wynne HS 14

Wynne High School EAST

Wynne High School EAST – Organized donation sites in Wynne and collaborated with Vilonia High School EAST students to deliver items and assist with tornado debris clean up.

All of these efforts underscored how connected the EAST family is between communities. While many of these projects are nowhere near as sophisticated as “typical” EAST projects, they do underscore the immediate need. In the days to come EAST students will undoubtedly begin to do what they do best: look for opportunities to create sophisticated projects using their vast technological and intellectual resources to help all the affected communities recover.

EAST Staff

EAST Staff

On a personal note, EAST staff volunteered in Vilonia Tuesday, May 6, to assist in clean up efforts. Like so many others, we were directly affected by this tragedy. One staff member lost a family member and one lives in Vilonia (fortunately she sustained only minor damage to her home). Our thoughts and prayers are with the communities that were ravaged by the storm and we take comfort in knowing as terrible as it is, an opportunity has been provided to show our hearts and love to our neighbors.

A photo gallery of EAST at work in the affected communities can be found here:

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