Summit Summit Disrupt Summit


Matt Dozier, CEO and President
The EAST Initiative

I promised last time that I would report back on what I learned during my sojourn up into the Boston Mountains, but I’m not sure that I can relate it all in a single blog post. Over the course of two days my brain got filled and refilled with information, inspiration, and moments of absolute puzzlement (because I met some super smart people that know things). It was enough to make my head spin — but in a really good way.

To an extent, my time in Northwest Arkansas was an interesting call and response. The first summit was the Arkansas STEM Coalition’s. This full-day meeting focused on identifying the issues that our communities are facing in cultivating and sustaining the ecosystem that fosters growth of the critical skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and demonstrating what is being done to address this.

I’m not going to lie to you; there are some pretty significant gaps between perception and reality, between preaching and practice, and between deciding on a solution and actually acting on it. Keep in my mind, these are observations from my eyes; they are not the opinions of any sanctioned body (or necessarily even right). But I see teachers and students every day (inside and outside of EAST) that are doing great things; using technology and tools in innovative and exciting ways and building their capacity to think and create and all the things that people talk about schools needing to foster. The real gaps I see are that they are not done in a coordinated fashion and that we are not doing what we need to do institutionally to make sure that everyone knows what these things are.


Courtesy: Arkansas STEM Coalition on Twitter

But, my favorite part of the STEM Coalition meeting (because I’m biased) was the presentation over lunch by the students and administration from Springdale’s School of Innovation. Dr. Jim Rollins, Springdale’s Superintendent, talked about his drive to make sure that students have the opportunities to realize their potential using technology both as a tool for learning and as a springboard to learning. To prove his point, two of the School of Innovation’s students presented their work. One is prototyping a drone that can swim in the stormwater system and relay video in real time so that trash can be monitored and dealt with. He and his team are working with the University of Arkansas and the Tobacco Free Coalition to refine their ideas and model. Another student presented how she and her team were developing some sophisticated hydroponic and aquaponics systems so that the school can have an agricultural program that is as progressive as the rest of the school. The School of Innovation’s principal and the district’s EAST coordinator then tied all of the presentation up by explaining how the things the students were doing fit into a continuum in their education in ways that tied them to educational goals across the curriculum and to real world experiences working with local industry. It was really powerful, and I encourage you to learn more about the work that they’re doing. They’re onto something.


Scenes of STEM

Other cool things: The team at the Amazeum are, in fact, pretty amazing and they understand what my good friend Ms. Lavita Wills-Hale preaches every day, “the learning shouldn’t stop because the formal learning institutions do.” They also understand that some of the best learning happens in the gaps between being given a task and being asked to present your finished product. If you’re anywhere close and need to recharge your energy, enthusiasm, and creativity, I recommend that you do what my friend Sam Dean recommends: “put on your princess costume, don your eye goggles, and go take apart a van at the Amazeum.”

The STEM Coalition meeting was a great setup, then, to the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit, which was held the very next day. This one-day meeting featured some insightful presentations and discussions. I would say they showed us the future, but most of what they showed us was already happening. So, in a lot of ways, they just made sure we got to see the now, or at least a fraction of it.


Dr. John Cohn

The Tech Summit kicked off with a real eye-opening presentation by Dr. John Cohn who is an IBM fellow and a self-professed “mad scientist.” He was unafraid to bring the Internet of Things right into the Grand Ballroom while he encouraged us to grow and evolve with the future. We see it becoming more and more present, but our things are getting more and more connected and what we’ve seen over the past six or seven years is just the beginning of the beginning. Soon every science fiction movie you’ve ever seen will seem quaint, as it has to when your bathroom mirror will do a personalized health diagnostic for you every morning.

From there we broke out into so many session on so many things that if I tried to tell you about all of it, this post would run in chapters. My favorites were the demonstration of some of the technologies Arkansas Children’s Hospital is using to fulfill their mission; an overview of where we are now with drones (the flying ones, not Springdale’s swimming ones) presented by the good folks at Garver; cybersecurity concepts presented by Metova, a company based in Northwest Arkansas; and an update on the Fayetteville Innovation Lab and Robotic Center (which is analogous to one of my favorite places near home, the Innovation Hub).


Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson

When you combine all of this with large group session where Max Oglesbee of Intersection showed us all how to retrofit a large metropolis’ infrastructure with web-enabled public access portal and our friends from the Amazeum (again) blowing things up and the Vice Chairman of Citadel, Mr. Kevin Turner, coming back to Northwest Arkansas (where he got his start) to let us know that “the future belongs to the fast” and encourage to do, do, do. Oh, and Gov. Asa Hutchinson spoke, too. What a day!

Now that I’ve had a few days to try to process all of the things I saw, I can report that there are some great things going on from the classroom, to the research center, to the makerspace, to the boardrooms of technical and technology-based organizations in the region. We are so lucky to have so much opportunity in front of us, and I am personally excited to know that EAST is helping to provide the pipeline that can keep this innovative thinking and development happening.

Until next time,


Posted in EAST®, Letters from the President/CEO, Matt Dozier, Northwest Arkansas, STEM | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here’s What is Happening

Hello, It’s Good to Be Back



Matt Dozier, CEO and President
The EAST Initiative

Well, I know that it has been a while since we last met here on the blog, but we here at EAST have been busy “dreaming up” a more coordinated communications strategy and have spent quite a bit of time trying to make sure that all of the pieces fit together the way they need to so we can do the best job possible in telling our story. If you’ve been keeping up with us over the years, you know that’s it’s only one of the coolest stories ever: real students in real schools taking an active role in building stronger communities while learning the sorts of things that make them the captains of their own destiny and prepared to lead us all in the years to come. The more concise way to say that is, “Wow! That can be done?!?”




EAST Quarterly Summer 2016

Rather than flood your inboxes and overwhelm your newsfeeds, then, we’ve been carefully looking at how to share these stories in the best venues. We now have a website that is visited over 400,000 times a month, a digital magazine that reaches thousands across the globe, all the social media that’s fit to print, this blog, and other avenues to share the accomplishments happening every day in EAST. We’ve got the plan, and you’ll start seeing more and (hopefully) interesting information on this blog that you won’t get anywhere else. I hope you find it inspiring, thought provoking, and useful.



EAST is Happening!

Speaking of useful, EAST is happening and making a difference! We’ve settled into the new school year and our fall training is in full swing. It’s great when we have facilitators and students in our headquarters. We feed off their excitement and love watching them learn new things. This week it was Phase Training (Phase II) and Motion Graphics (with students as young as the fourth grade). Meanwhile at our Fayetteville Training Center, our good friends at CAST were leading a training session in Reality Capture technologies; cutting edge stuff. Our online trainings and classes are getting robust participation, too.

Last week, we opened our doors and invited the world to Encounter EAST! Over 300 guests stopped by to learn more about the work of the EAST Initiative and to see great examples of that work through the work of our students and facilitators. We are especially thankful to Harrison Junior High, Wynne High School, Greenbrier High School, North Little Rock Middle School and Pinnacle View Middle School for volunteering to share their work. And there was an ice cream truck…it was a blast.


EAST at North Little Rock Middle School students demonstrate a VR project at Encounter EAST.

Encounter EAST was the kickoff for our recruiting efforts and we’re pleased to announce that our Vision Building meetings have begun. We held the first one of the year this week and half of the schools that came to learn about EAST have applied for the Arkansas Department of Education grant already. If you know of a school that is interested in learning more about how to start an EAST classroom, the information for the next set of these is here.

Speaking of things to come…


Upcoming Activities and Northwest Arkansas Events


We are only a few weeks from EAST Night Out! Encounter EAST allowed the world to come into our headquarters and see the big picture of what we do; EAST Night Out is an opportunity for all our EAST schools to invite their community in and see the work they do at the local level. On behalf of our schools, we invite you to find an event near you and go see the amazing things happening in your area. The EAST Night Out website has gotten a fresh look. Feel free to admire it while you find an event near you (just click the link). We have more than 50 schools registered today with new ones being added almost daily. We’ll be on the road visiting as many as we can and hope to see you there, regardless of where “there” is.


We’ll also be traveling next week for the Arkansas STEM Coalition’s regional meeting Thursday in Rogers, which will be a think tank for business, education and community partnerships. Sounds right up our alley!

2016_nwatechFinally, we’ll finish out the week at the Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit. This looks to be an incredible opportunity to hear some phenomenal national leaders from the tech world—names like Microsoft and IBM. We can’t wait to hear them, and of course we’ll be sharing our vision of technology and education with attendees as well.

Check back here for a full report on these last two! We’ll have it to you very shortly after the events. We’re excited about the goings on going on and can’t wait to tell you all about them.


EAST…it’s what’s happening!

Posted in Central Arkansas, EAST®, Letters from the President/CEO, Matt Dozier, Northwest Arkansas, Open house, STEM, What is EAST? | Leave a comment

EAST and the Inaugural Afterschool STEM Summit

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

I recently had the opportunity to network with several new (to me) people and organizations working hard to provide significant opportunities for students around the country. The Inaugural Afterschool STEM Summit was hosted by the Noyce and C.S. Mott foundations and brought together more than 500 people from all 50 states to share their concerns, their successes, and, most importantly, their creativity, all squarely focused on what is sometimes called non-formal educational programs that focus on STEM.

I was there as a guest of the Arkansas Out of School Network, one of the 50 Statewide Out of School Networks (SANs), funded by the C.S. Mott Foundation, charged with identifying, supporting, and advocating for practices and policies that expand opportunities for students during the Out-of-School Time hours.

If you’ve been following the news, the research, the literature, or this blog, you are aware that STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is a critical area of education that our academic systems and institutions sometimes have a very hard time keeping up with. But STEM is a hot topic. The educational pendulum began to swing back towards more significant learning in these fields a few years ago because there is a massive disconnect between what students are studying and what the vocational needs are in business, industry, and government. The reality is that there are lots of jobs in STEM fields that are going unfilled because there are not people to fill them.

STEM Summit

That lack of students seriously pursuing STEM learning threatens to hamper America’s innovative capacity. We’re the country that invented the internet, the personal computer, and so many of the technologies that permeate our everyday lives… but we’ve started to become primarily consumers of those technologies and seem content to let someone else do the “heavy lifting” of engineering and programming and developing the next generation of technologies and scientific breakthroughs.

If we’re going to put astronauts on Mars or eradicate cancer or just create the most immersive virtual world for collaboration or entertainment, we’re going to need people to do these amazing things. Real, normal people. For me, there is a great deal of satisfaction knowing that, for two decades, our EAST students have been setting these kinds of goals. And yet, that very pride points to the reason that I found myself in the nation’s capital at a summit that was focused on developing these skills and providing these opportunities OUTSIDE of the school day.


Though EAST officially started directly supporting afterschool projects and programming in 2000, local programs have been doing projects that take place after school hours and away from the classroom since its earliest days. It’s only natural. As students work to solve problems, their projects have to meet those problems where they are — and that often isn’t in second period. So much of the world does not adhere to an arbitrary bell schedule.

So for a long time EAST has been a bridge between the standard curricular world and the out-of-school real world, but it is only in the past three years that we’ve begun, as an Initiative, to stress partnerships with organizations that are dedicated to afterschool work. You may have read about our work with the Arkansas Innovation Hub, or perhaps the People Tree, or the Arkansas Discovery Network, or other organizations better established in the afterschool environment. We’re doing this because we know how powerful it is to have strong relationships with all sorts of organizations that want to help our students build their skills and passions.

Imagine a world where learning opportunities surround us from first light to the end of the day from the first day of school to the last day of summer. Wouldn’t that be amazing? Well, you don’t need to imagine it; it already exists. The internet alone guarantees that much, but many of our students are also taking advantage of other opportunities and seeing great benefits.

One of the points brought out at the Summit was that sometimes, more learning happens outside the classroom than in it (a point that EAST is squarely in agreement with). Why? I think it goes back to engagement. When students choose to take part in something, they are more likely to commit to the learning that goes on in the activity. If they see that it has real world outcomes or consequences, then the learning is even more powerful. The non-formal educational programs are built around students choosing to participate and choosing how they participate.

None of this makes formal education less important. To be honest, I think it makes formal education more important. Because the opportunity to study a subject in a structured way fills in the gaps of what experiential activities leave behind. It allows for a fuller understanding…and maybe, just maybe, a career path (or at least a lifelong love of something that you never appreciated until you were steeped in it).

In this, STESS FrontM is just like other learning. I think it’s a cart and horse thing. To really appreciate anything, you have to do it. You roll up your sleeves, stick your hands in, and get the squishy bits between your fingers. Neither science nor Shakespeare were meant to be pondered until you understand them; they’re meant to be experienced so you can begin to ponder them. Math means more when you’re using it to solve community problems, not the odd numbered problems in chapter five. To fully understand a subject, including STEM subjects — to think like an engineer or to become a technologist — you have to mix the structure with hands on opportunity.

What I learned at the Afterschool STEM Summit is that there are a whole lot of people who are committed to providing opportunities to spark curiosity, wonder, and the joy that is learning. They know we can’t leave it up to the schools to do it all. They have lots of strategies and ideas and programs that build on the structure students get between bells. They want to be part of the solution and help bring balance back to learning. They want to provide opportunities for all students to find their passion. In short, I learned that there are many more people who believe exactly what EAST believes. That makes me happy.

The EAST Initiative and the EAST model were both founded to provide students with opportunities that they weren’t getting anywhere else. The commitment of the hundreds of organizations that met at the Afterschool STEM Summit is the same. We all want to make sure that students are having the opportunity to have experiences that will build them and give them more choices in life, not fewer.

It was a great Summit, and, as I rode the plane home, I couldn’t help but think that the only thing better than meeting people as passionate as you are about something is meeting people as committed to that passion as you are.

Until next time, I’m Matt and that’s that!


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Introducing EAST Night In

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

For the past eight years, the EAST Initiative has coordinated the efforts of local EAST programs in a National Open House event we call EAST Night Out. EAST Night Out is designed to be a fall event that is a great way to reconnect with community partners and build excitement for the coming year. Through this event EAST programs across the country open their doors to thousands upon thousands of guests and can springboard this one evening into a year of great projects and student growth.

Like most things EAST, EAST Night Out is often a student-driven project in and of itself. The students plan their event, prepare the activities, invitations, and logistics of welcoming the community into their classroom for a night of sharing and celebrating.

The staff at EAST particularly loves EAST Night Out because it’s an opportunity for all of us to go out into the schools early in the school year, especially staff that doesn’t often travel to the schools. We also coordinate the travel of some of our Directors and other VIPs when schools ask for them. All told we travel a few thousand miles to celebrate with the students, the facilitators, and the communities. When my jokes aren’t too bad, I even get invited back later in the year from time to time.

Students in northeast Arkansas presenting during EAST Night Out 2014.

Students in northeast Arkansas presenting during EAST Night Out 2014.

We love EAST Night Out, but we’ve always wanted to build on it. This year we are with a new event we have christened EAST Night In. EAST Night Out is formally set for Tuesday, October 13, but twelve days earlier we are planning on opening the doors of the EAST Headquarters for our very own Open House at EAST Night In! Yes, we will be including and showcasing the work of many of our programs and their students, but we wanted to take an evening and share with the world the work that we are doing supporting our schools and being a bona-fide educational success story in our own right.

On Thursday, October 1 from 5:30 to 7:30 I am extending my personal invitation to you to drop by and celebrate this incredible Initiative. The EAST staff will be on hand to demonstrate some of the new technology we are putting in our schools, share the work that we do in Site Support, Professional Development, Beyond the Bell, and a dozen other things you may or may not be familiar with. Like I said earlier, we’ll have students on hand demonstrating some of their mind-blowing projects and we hope to have a wonderful crowd from our community to celebrate with us.


Yes, there will be some food and snacks, but there will be more networking and collaboration than you can shake a stick at. There’s not a formal presentation or program, we’ve built it so that everyone that comes can spend time celebrating with us and thinking about ways we can all work together to bring more opportunities to our schools and students.

The EAST Initiative is a powerful team of smart and energetic people who love the opportunity to help our schools. Please come by and learn more. I promise you’ll leave inspired!

Before I sign off on this blog post, I would be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to extend thanks to our great friends at First Security Bank who will be providing much of the yummy food for this event. They have been strong supporters of EAST for over fifteen years now and can always be counted on to support the real mission of EAST. They believe in our students and in our model, too, and they’re incredibly fun to work with. We are blessed to have supporters like them on our team.

Mark your calendar now. We hope to see you at EAST Night In… and then we hope you go see your local school on EAST Night Out.

Until next time,


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Forge IDEA Challenge

Editor’s Note: The following a guest blog by Darrell Henderson of Forge Arkansas, organizers of the Forge IDEA Challenge. I’ll let him tell you a bit about this unique contest and the concepts behind it and hope EAST students will take up the challenge:

Darrell Henderson

Darrell Henderson, Forge Arkansas

The world of startup businesses is highly caffeinated, rapidly paced, and maneuvers aggressively toward bold and decidedly innovative solutions. What would the startup sphere look like if it transplanted the most inventive thinkers to the moon?

The Forge IDEA Challenge is a startup competition that asks students exactly that, and will inspire them to “Innovate Under Extraordinary Circumstances!”

The Challenge

The Forge IDEA Challenge places 11th and 12th grade EAST students in the northeast Arkansas area on the moon in 2035. At this time the moon has been the target of a popular Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game that allowed players to control lunar rovers as characters to engineer a sub-surface human habitat. Now, after five years, the top 50 most innovative players have the opportunity to live in the lunar base they have worked so hard to create.

As part of the challenge students build a startup that solves a problem on the moon. They work through the lean canvas model to identify and develop a plan to execute a solution. There are several real-world takeaways from this fictional world that give just the right kick in the pants to send these students on the fulfilling path to entrepreneurship.

  • Experience Startup Culture – The startup culture is unique and high octane. A taste of this exciting world would inspire a career as a serial entrepreneur.
  • Encounter Challenges in Entrepreneurship – Getting your hands dirty in the challenges that arise for startups is an excellent experience.
  • Network with Entrepreneurial Students – The Forge IDEA Challenge connects students from all over the northeast Arkansas area and requires them to collaborate with like-minded individuals.

Where, When, and How?

The Forge IDEA Challenge will be in the new Nettleton High School STEM wing, on October 3rd.  We are looking for Innovators, Developers, Entrepreneurs, and Artists (IDEA) who want to explore the startup world. We are limiting participation to 50 students for the first year, and students can apply at


Until next time,


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Welcome Back!

Wow! Has it been a long time since last we visited. As I sit here writing, we haven’t put out a blog post for over seven months….SEVEN! Ouch. So let me begin by apologizing. I should be doing a better job than that in keeping the content coming and letting you know what’s going on in the EAST World.

The silver lining here is that we have a great new Communications person who has promised to make sure that I keep myself on track when it comes to sharing some of the stories and happenings in the EASTverse. He’s also a former inky wretch (that’s newspaper speak for a newspaper person), so he has mad skills in getting content developed and published on deadline and on message. His name is Spencer Watson, and you’ll be hearing more from him and reading an awful lot more about EAST because he is focused on making sure we are telling our story. Everyone here at the Intergalactic Headquarters is glad to have Spencer here, because we’ve been missing the voice of communications in our planning and meetings. Several staff members have been working to keep content coming over the past few months while we were looking for Spencer, but it’s just not the same. If you’re curious as to why we needed Spencer, I’ll tease the new edition of EQ that will be published very soon. We’ve got a special note from Blake that tells the rest of the story, too.

So how do I catch everyone up on the last seven months? The simplest answer is that EAST has been on hyperdrive doing the things we do. We’re here at the beginning of a new school year with 15 new programs starting their EAST journey. They are:

  1. Gentry Public Schools (Gentry School District)
  2. Central Junior High School (Springdale School District)
  3. George Junior High School (Springdale School District)
  4. Greenbrier Middle School (Greenbrier School District)
  5. Hackler Intermediate School (Mountain Home School District)
  6. Heber Springs High School (Heber Springs School District)
  7. Hot Springs Intermediate School (Hot Springs School District)
  8. Kiamichi Technology Center – McAlester Campus (McAlester, Oklahoma)
  9. Lincoln Middle School (Lincoln School District)
  10. Nettleton 9/10 (Nettleton School District, Jonesboro)
  11. Quest Middle School of West Little Rock (Public Charter)
  12. Riverside High School (Riverside School District, Lake City)
  13. Southside Junior High School (Southside School District, Batesville)
  14. Southwest Junior High School (Springdale School District)
  15. Wynne Intermediate School (Wynne School District)

We have come off an incredible Conference and a Summer Seminar that was unlike any that we had ever had before. We have trained more than 250 facilitators this summer, either through Phase Training or at the Seminar. This training came in many forms: interactive hands-on technical training, previews of new and emerging trends in education and technology, sharing best practices, sharing common struggles and, on one damp evening, a train ride.


Additionally, we have unveiled a new set of trainings for non-EAST teachers called Education Unleashed. For years we have fielded calls from teachers that weren’t facilitating EAST classes who wanted to come to training, and we didn’t have much to offer them. Our Phase Training is incredible, don’t get me wrong, but its purpose is to prepare the classroom teacher to facilitate an EAST class. There’s a lot of good information and professional development that can be applied outside the EAST classroom, but at the end of the day, that component is dwarfed by the amount of professional development and training that is specific to an EAST class and, thus, not a good fit unless you were on the facilitation track. That has changed now.

We spent the better part of the 2014/2015 school year distilling the best parts of EAST professional development, adding in some technical training that can also be universally applied and stirring it gently with the EAST “touch” for how to deliver this training (very, hands on, very practical, very powerful…very EAST-like). We are developing four discrete trainings:

  • Leveraging Soft Skills
  • Engaging Community Collaborations
  • Classroom Logistics
  • Creating Authentic Projects

This work will be manifest in next summer’s eight course offerings, which will include include:

  • Google Basics
  • Google Intermediate I
  • Google Intermediate II
  • Google Classroom
  • Experience Based Education
  • Digital Mapping for Teachers
  • 21st Century Skills
  • Community Engagement

Since we started this new program, Education Unleashed has been offered to over 150 teachers from over 100 different schools. By the end of the current school year we anticipate more than 300 more teachers will participate.

If you’re keeping count, since last I posted in the blog we have offered training to more than 400 teachers in many of the very things that the educational system needs more and better professional development in. Put it all together, and the EAST Initiative has developed into one of the premier trainers of educators. What’s more, educators love participating. We got our strongest reviews this year and are proud to be helping prepare the modern educator to better equip their students to succeed.

So that’s what’s happened. Now let’s talk about what has yet to happen.

The 2015/2016 school year marks EAST’s 20th anniversary. This is cause to celebrate, and do we ever plan to. This year we will be looking back and sharing stories of the EAST alumni who are doing some pretty wonderful things. We will be looking to take the lessons of the last two decades and use them to build on the next two decades.

We estimate that this year we will have approximately 29,000 students participate in an EAST class. We estimate that over the course of our history more than 175,000 students have taken an EAST class at some point in their education. That’s a lot of power and a lot of innovation. It’s a lot of projects and more hours in STEM learning than I can count.

We started with a room of Pentium 1 class computers and some CAD and GIS software: 20 students with little expected of them and a teacher that believed in them more than they believed in themselves. Today we are proud to provide our students with access to technology in dozens of sophisticated and emerging fields. We’re 3D printing and developing in Virtual Reality. We’re coding and developing apps. We’re looking for solutions to problems and offering up an army of passionate and excited people that want to help themselves by helping others.

We call it EAST. And we’re back!


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Conference Excitement from the Leadership Team

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

Matt Dozier, EAST Initiative President and CEO

I hope everyone is as excited about the EAST Conference as we are! We are within a month of the big event and our Leadership Retreat will soon be in full swing. The Leadership Team is integral to the success of the Conference and has developed over the years from a handful of true volunteers (students with a few minutes or just a desire to help out) to an interconnected team of over 40 students from across the EAST universe who provide an undergirding of support that sets the event apart….and makes it AMAZING!

The Leadership Team is comprised of four groups: the Ambassador Team, the Speaker Team, the Technical Support Team and the Documentation Team. Each has a specific set of tasks at Conference but taken together they are the “secret sauce” that makes the whole thing work.

group edit

We asked the team leaders to introduce themselves and share about their teams.

First is our Ambassador Team co-leaders Elise Fry and Caitlin Cothern.

From Caitlin:

My name is Caitlin Cothern, I am a senior at Jonesboro High School. I have been in EAST for six years, attended Conference five times, have been on the Ambassador team for five years, and this year I am one of the co-leaders for the Ambassador Team. I am so excited about Conference and my team this year because I get the opportunity to lead such a great group of students. Everyone is so smart and outgoing, and we all share the same love for EAST. My team is like a family to me; we laugh, we cry and we survive Conference together. I cannot wait for all the memories this Conference will create.

From Elise:

My name is Elise Fry and I am a senior at Batesville High School. I am so honored to serve with Caitlin as your Ambassador Team Leaders for EAST Conference 2015. The team this year includes 25 of some of the best EAST students, all of whom are extremely excited to help out and be a vital part of this your Conference experience. The 2015 Ambassador Team is dedicated to making Conference the best one yet by making sure all aspects of the event run smoothly. I know I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say one of our favorite parts of Conference is meeting our fellow students and learning their EAST story. Talk to us! Tell us about how you started in EAST and how you have grown. Visit with us about applying for Ambassador Team next year, it is an amazing opportunity and we would love share more about it. I look forward to seeing you all soon in Hot Springs!

Victoria Burton, a Senior from Springdale Har-Ber High, is leading our Speaker Team of four students who are the emcees for our large presentation events.

From Victoria:

I am beyond excited about EAST Conference this year and my Leadership Team because of the new bonds I will have the privilege of creating with different EAST students. I have been in EAST for three years and through this class I have developed relationships that will last a life time. I can already tell this Conference is going to be incredible because of the dedication and passion I have personally seen in the other leaders. Having the opportunity to work with students who share the same love for EAST as I do makes this experience so much more memorable. EAST Conference 2015 will definitely be one to remember

Rather than a student leader, the Documentation Team has professional mentors to make sure our video, photography, social media and other efforts are planned and executed.

The Technical Support Team also has co-leaders. This 10-member team gets a crash course in technical planning, implementation and trouble shooting. They also get a first-hand look at running in circles putting out fires and doing something I call “Whack-a-Mole Level 52.”

Returning this year is California Burmeister, a Senior at Jonesboro High School. Cali has helped to significantly enhance this team as a leader the past two years.

From Cali:

I am so excited for EAST Conference 2015! The Technical Support Team this year is going to be our best one yet. From talking to my teammates, I can tell they are going to be awesome. Conference is my favorite time of year because I get to put together and manage a team with my wonderful co-leader Justin. So much hard work and time is spent before Conference. Seeing everything run smoothly is the best reward for it all. The best part of being leader is seeing every members’ strengths and helping meld those strengths into one unit. We have got a smart bunch and we will be prepared for anything! 

Cali’s co-leader this year is Justin Martin from Cedarville High School.

From Justin:

I am excited for Conference and my team because every EAST conference I have attended has been better than the previous year. When you start out with an awesome Conference, improving every year is more than a good thing. I cannot wait to see old friends, meet new people, and make new connections. I am excited to see everyone’s projects, booths and ideas. This will also be a great year for the Tech Team. I am excited to work with Cali and the rest of the team. I believe the 2015 Conference will be the best Conference ever!


So, while you are reading most of the team is hiding deep in the woods of Ferndale, Arkansas, working through logistics, training and preparing for the thousands of Conference guests and attendees.

On behalf of the Leadership Team, the EAST staff,and the thousands of students preparing for the EAST Conference, let me extend an invitation to see the fruits of all that labor. We really hope to see you there.

Until then, I’m Matt and that’s that…


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