Sharing the EAST Story

This week’s guest writer is Melanie Ridlon, Director of Training and Events for the EAST Initiative. Melanie is the guiding force behind EAST Night Out, the annual EAST Conference, and the Facilitator Summer Seminar. She has been a member of the Initiative team for eight years.

Two years ago, EAST began exploring ways (in addition to the annual EAST Conference — more on that later this year!) for local EAST programs to share their projects, build relationships and spread the word about EAST to their communities. This inspired an annual event we call EAST Night Out.

During this open-house event, EAST classrooms across the country open their doors to showcase their work for community members, special guests such as local and state dignitaries, school administration and their peers and families. The idea is to educate guests on what EAST students can do, and are doing, to help their communities. In turn, the students get to practice presentation skills, demonstrate high-end technologies and, hopefully, begin relationships with community groups and individuals that lead to new projects — projects that will provide exciting learning experiences for the students and valuable services and improvements for the community.

In 2009, members of the EAST staff had the pleasure of attending over 50 EAST Night Out events between us.  What we learned was that each event is unique. Location, setup and structure of the events all vary. But all have a common thread: students excited about learning. The EAST components of self-direction, teamwork, service and technology create a dynamic atmosphere where students are fully engaged in learning and in serving their communities.

Over 200 schools participate in EAST. This year most will host their EAST Night Out on Tuesday, November 9. We invite you to support your local EAST program by attending its event. Come out and see the amazing things EAST students can do and how you can get involved!

For more information about EAST Night Out or to find an event near you, visit or email us at


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