This year marked EAST’s 13th Summer Seminar for facilitators—the Seminar is actually older than the Conference if you can believe that—and it proved to be an incredible experience. The goal of our annual gathering is to share best practices, prepare for the coming school year, and spend quality time with each other in a more casual setting…and boy did we accomplish that this year!
For the first time ever, the Seminar was held in Northeast Arkansas and (another first) on a college campus. Arkansas State University proved to be a fantastic host and their facilities were first class.
The three day (plus a pre-Seminar Tech Camp) event was one highlight after another. For my part, spending time observing the sessions and visiting with the facilitators was incredibly inspiring. I heard stories of student success and program struggles, of facilitator enthusiasm and plans for the future. This year, more than most, it really felt like a family reunion. There was a sense of cohesion and shared purpose; of enthusiasm and excitement that seemed to be “more” than in previous years. For whatever reason, everyone (myself included) seemed to be sporting larger smiles and laughing heartier laughs.
The event felt more laid back, but I think we got more done. The facilitator-to-facilitator sessions were sparking with energy. The staff led sessions were well received. The sessions presented by our guests were incredible. My only regret is scheduling the State Surgeon General, Dr. Joe Thompson, to address the group about the obesity crisis and how their students can help after the make your own, all you can pile on ice cream sundae break. Oops.
The “meetings after the meeting” proved to be beneficial too. On our first evening we went bowling (and let me tell you, you learn a lot about people by watching them bowl…mostly that they look really funny trying to do it). On the second evening we were hosted by the Crowley’s Ridge Nature Center. Not only did we get to see a spectacular sunset, but we got to experience the natural splendor of a very unique place. I had the opportunity to take a stroll with a dear friend along the nature trail talking about the past year and the one coming up. We reminisced about days gone by and dreamed about what is to come.
I love, love, love the Summer Seminar. It recharges my batteries and lets me spend time with friends old and new in a way that we can’t during training or at the Conference. The EAST Staff did an incredible job planning and coordinating the event (they got a well-deserved standing ovation at the closing session).
As the event wound down, we went our separate ways. The lesson I learned is that in EAST, we’re more than colleagues, we’re family…and family looks out for family.
Now it’s time move our focus to the new school year. We’re training the next group of new facilitators as we speak. The great thing about that: when they finish their training cycle we’ll get to see them…at next year’s Summer Seminar.