Newton, like many of his classmates, emphasized how his skills in areas like compromise, communication and problem solving have been improved through the class.
Unlike traditional courses, EAST is largely student-run.
"In most classes everybody sits in a classroom in rows and the teacher teaches," said junior Nicolas Bywater, 16.
"Here we teach ourselves," he said.
Instructor David Gupton sees his role as that of a facilitator, not teacher.
"I'll direct them and guide them, not give them the answers," Gupton said.
In life, Gupton said, people have to teach themselves. This class prepares them for that, he added.
"I think that's been a big benefit for these kids," Gupton said.
While presenting their projects, students often spoke of the many challenges they had to overcome, from learning a new computer program to mustering the courage to call adults they had never met to ask for information.
Nicolas conceded he initially had been hesitant to call people with questions. Now, his communication skills have improved, he said.
The EAST class has helped Bywater "take pride in my work and have confidence in myself," he said.
EAST also provides an opportunity for travel. Five students and Gupton attended training in Arkansas this fall, where they learned more about topics such as Windows 2000 and global positioning systems. Two more Calipatria EAST students will make the trip in January to study animation and architectural design.
Calipatria High School is one of just 10 sites in California to have received a two-year $250,000 state grant to implement EAST. Another 30 California sites will be notified in the near future that they, too, will receive the grant, said Joyce Hinkson, a consultant with the California Department of Education.
Hinkson and other CDE and EAST representatives visited Calipatria, as they do other schools, to see what progress EAST students have made and to offer assistance, Hinkson said.
Hinkson said California became interested in EAST after seeing it in action two years ago and being "so impressed."
"We felt California students would really benefit," Hinkson said.
EAST began in an Arkansas high school in 1995 as a collaboration between business and education. According to the program's Web site, it is oriented toward real world projects that are more relevant to preparing students for life after school than many traditional classes.
The program appears to be working.
"There's no other way to learn something than to get hands-on," Newton said.
>> Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.