Those big things have included: partnering with Arkansas State University to renovate and redesign websites used to maintain a database of weather information for the many farmers in the area; using GIS to pinpoint the location of area grain bins, a source of potentially fatal accidents in which people can get trapped and have very little time for rescue services to arrive; creating collaborative maps of fire hydrants and veterans’ grave sites in multiple communities; working with a local nursing home
students for jumping right in with that can-do attitude. “I wish I had an easy formula that said just do this and your kids will have great projects,” she laughed. “I believe in pushing your kids. We do brainstorming at the beginning of the year as they come up with projects and then say ok, how can we take this further? How can we make it more sophisticated?” But more than that, she said, it’s
“People may think we’re just a small town, a small school, that we can’t do anything big. But success is not a geographical feature.
We can do big things.” to establish an “adopt a grandfriend” program partnering senior citizens with student volunteers; a 3D printing project to create a crutch for a doll with a little girl who walks with the assistance of crutches; and much more. It’s an extensive resumé, particularly for a new program, and one at the high school level, in which students have little institutional experience in the EAST way of thinking. “I remember the very first year that we had EAST, the very first day I came in here, you could tell that really nobody knew what EAST was or what we were supposed to be doing in this class,” said Kensie Walker. “But Mrs. Jill was so excited to be here. So I walked in, saw all this technology, and I just knew that this EAST program, whatever it was we were supposed to be doing, we were going to do great things.” For her part, Sanders credits her
about making connections. “I think the key in high school, and really any age but especially at high school, is you really have to convince the kids that you do care about them, and you have to earn their respect. If you can get the kids to buy in, they will work super hard for you. But they have to see that you care and that you’re willing to work alongside them, do whatever you can to help them, encourage them.” There’s no doubt that students in Sanders’ EAST classroom have bought in (and that she, who taught elementary social studies before being recruited by the superintendent to launch EAST at BIC, has bought in, too). “[The] Buffalo Island Central EAST program is not EAST without Mrs. Jill,” said Alex. With the program so connected, and having achieved a lot of success, the
common question nowadays is what they will do next. Students haven’t been idle in pondering that. “I feel like the only thing to do next is continue to learn by doing. That way we get better, we get more projects done and we help the community,” said Logan Lawrence. “I don’t think you can ever become entirely complacent in EAST,” said Cadyn Qualls. “You are always looking for new ideas and new ways to expand the projects that you’re already working on.” “You get motivation from the people you work with,” said Christopher Renteria. “When you see your project actually helping and benefiting people, it gives you that pride and joy that you’re really doing something. You’re making a difference.” Making a difference — and making connections — includes doing so with colleagues in EAST, too. “At Conference a lot of people came up to offer congratulations. Then they’d start asking about where BIC is and want to collaborate with us. So, from that, I think that everyone’s really inspired to get more involved with their community,” said Alissa Hughes. For BIC, that means there’s no time for slowing down, they said. It’s time to seize the momentum and continue to achieve. “People are asking us ‘what’s next’ and ‘what are you going to do now,’ and that’s a great contrast from what they used to ask us before, which was ‘what is EAST?’” said Kensie. “Nobody knew what it was, but we’ve grown so much that people know now, and they want us to do great things.”