Little Rock’s EAST Initiative (originally an acronym for Environmental and Spatial Technology) may fly under the radar in terms of name recognition, but its work in exposing Arkansas students to technology places it firmly among the state’s important tech leaders.
The EAST program empowers students through technology with an emphasis on community service. Its curriculum, adopted by 259 schools in four states, integrates technology into classrooms through student training and professional development for teachers.
Executive director Matt Dozier says most EAST Initiative schools are located in Arkansas but schools in Oklahoma, Louisiana and Pennsylvania have adopted the program as well. EAST provides training in 2D design, 3D printing, animation (including virtual reality), audio recording, design/development, coding/programming, geospatial learning, photography, videography, and it even trains for skills such as project management, public speaking and systems administration.
Funded through the Arkansas Department of Education as well as individual and corporate sponsors, EAST has served more than 225,000 students in 20 years. Studies of the EAST model reveal positive results for participating schools such as fewer disciplinary referrals, more college-bound students, improved communication and presentation skills, greater comfort and proficiency with new and emerging technologies, improved leadership skills and higher standardized test scores.
EAST currently serves 26,000 students, who completed 2.5 million community-service hours valued at $72 million in the 2018-19 school year.