EAST students receive funding for projects through BHP Billiton

By Lisa Burnett Published August 22, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Though school is just starting, some students in the Three Rivers Edition coverage area have been working through the summer to get a running start on the school year.

Two EAST (Environmental and Spatial Technology) programs at schools in the area have received grants from BHP Billiton Petroleum for projects the programs’ students presented to the organization.

Rose Bud and Searcy High School EAST programs each received a $5,000 grant from the Australian mining and petroleum company.

Angela Kremers, senior director of corporate strategy at EAST Initiative, said BHP is playing quite a role in the lives of students and the EAST program.

EAST Initiative is a national nonprofit that works with schools and institutions across the country to establish and implement local EAST programs, equip classrooms, train facilitators and provide technical training for students, according to its website.

“It’s wonderful to know that we have the business and industry partners to invest in the futures of students,” Kremers said.

EAST classes aren’t like typical classes at the high schools.

“EAST is a project-based class—with our main goal being service to the community,”said Rinda Hall, EAST facilitator at Searcy High School. “We want to improve the community around us with the use of technology and community partnership.”

Searcy High School’s project funded by the grant is titled A Walk Through History.

Hall said the project involves building a new walking trail for the Searcy Parks and Recreation Department in the downtown area.

“We’re creating an interactive fitness trail that has links and Quick Response codes along the way,” Hall said.

Walkers can scan the QR code with their smartphones, and the code will navigate to an interactive website that describes the historic homes along the trail, Hall said.

“This will get people out and [help them] be active, and encourage them to learn about the community they live in,” she said.

Hall said she hopes the project will spark historic pride in the community.

“There’s quite a bit of [historic pride] already, but this will add just a little bit more,” Hall said. “We hope this area becomes identified with history.”

She said this is the second grant the project has received.

In addition to the BHP Billiton grant, Searcy’s project received an EAST Beyond the Bell Grant.

“This grant allows students to be paid for hours they’re working [on the project] above and beyond their time in the classroom,” Hall said.

The EAST grant provided the project with a little more than $7,000, she said.

Work on A Walk Through History started in January, and Hall’s students continued to work on the project during the summer.

“We’re expecting [the project] to be finished before the end of the first semester,” Hall said.

Joey Pruitt, EAST facilitator at Rose Bud High School, said her school’s grant will go toward purchasing new computers and repairing old ones at the city library and community center.

“It’s also for the [students] to teach people in the community how to use the computers,” Pruitt said.

He said the program is a great opportunity for Rose Bud and his students.

“It gives them a chance to connect with people that they normally wouldn’t have contact with,” Pruitt said.

This is Pruitt’s first year with the EAST program at Rose Bud, but he said he looks forward to what the semester has to offer.

“I’m focusing on building the program,” Pruitt said. “That’s one of the main things I’m doing this year.”

Both Pruitt and Hall said they are proud of their students for receiving the grants, along with committing their efforts to the funded projects.

“This grant and project provide a fantastic opportunity for my students to show the public what they can do,” Hall said.

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

Online News Editor Lisa Burnett can be reached at lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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