This week, I had the privilege of welcoming 15 new Arkansas schools to the EAST family. We hosted our Pre-Implementation workshop for recipients of the Arkansas Department of Education EAST grant. These schools are:
- Batesville Jr. High
- Berryville High School
- Bismarck High School
- Clarendon High School
- Dollarway Middle School
- Green Forest Intermediate
- Gurdon High School
- Jonesboro High School
- North Little Rock High EAST Campus
- Ozark Middle School
- Pottsville Junior High School
- Springdale High School
- Strong High School
- Valley View High School
- Woodlawn High School
Needless to say it was a very exciting day! There is nothing quite like the beginning of something that you have anticipated. It’s like the day of a big trip, or graduation, or a wedding.
The school representatives we met with were engaged and enthusiastic about the opportunities they are bringing to their schools, their students, and their communities by implementing EAST programs. As well they should be; the meeting, in many cases, marked the culmination of months or even years of work by the schools and by EAST. You see, we start the recruiting process in the Fall of each school year with a series of recruiting meetings. Each of the schools receiving this year’s grant attended at least one of those meetings—we call them Vision Building Workshops—then went back to their communities and talked and planned and worked and hoped and talked some more. When they reached a consensus they sent back their grant application and then the waiting began in earnest.
This was a big year for EAST growth! Over 60 schools attended our Vision Building Meetings and over half of them applied for the grant. Because the application process includes a site tour of each prospective school, our Department of Education liaison and I traveled over 2,800 miles this spring. (That’s over a third of the way around the globe if we’d traveled in a straight line. But the highway curves, so we stopped at the schools instead). At each school we met with staff, toured facilities and discussed the specifics of implementing an EAST program.
After the school visits, EAST staff worked closely with ADE to secure the funds to implement the new programs. At the end of the process, 15 new programs were announced and we have begun procuring equipment and registering new facilitators for training. They have now become part of the EAST family!
It took a lot of work to get here, but then nothing worth doing comes easily. I look for great things from this class. I have met dozens of very dedicated and exciting educators in my travels this year and it makes me proud to be a part of education. Hearing them share their hopes and dreams for their EAST programs convinces me that EAST’s work is important in preparing our students to succeed after their schooling ends. We all share responsibility to provide the best opportunities available for our children. And shared responsibility is a great description of what families are all about.
Welcome to EAST, team. We’re glad you’re here!