Melanie's Farewell Letter to EAST

Last Updated:11/22/2021

Melanie Ridlon has worked for EAST for 19 years, and is eternally woven into the DNA of EAST. Monday, November 22nd marked her final day working as EAST's Director of Operations. Here is her farewell letter to co-workers, colleagues, facilitators, students, and all friends of EAST.

This week of gratitude is the perfect theme to use as I share with the EAST network that my tenure as an EAST employee has come to a close. My EAST journey began almost twenty years ago, and it has been full of opportunities to grow individually, help others, and strengthen the EAST Initiative. The “others” I supported over the years adjusted over time. As the receptionist, it began with guests coming to the EAST facility. When I was responsible for student training, it was trainers, EAST facilitators, and students. As I led events, it became everyone in the EAST network, really. And then more recently, my focus has been on strengthening the organization and supporting the EAST staff.  

EAST changed my life. I’ve had many opportunities to grow during my entire career here. It wasn’t always easy, and there were challenges, but I grew as I was given new projects and created things I felt would strengthen EAST (like safety and emergency planning or Core Values). My practical and reasonable nature was balanced nicely by teammates who like to take risks and try crazy things. And it was a lot of fun collaborating and building amazing things together. I was given a safe place to be transparent about my weaknesses (this may be my superpower) or share where I felt we could get better as a whole. My passion for learning and growing will remain forever, and I have EAST to thank for that.  

Just like EAST facilitators, the EAST leadership team empowers the staff to be the absolute best in each of us, and I have grown into the leader I am today because of them.

So let me wrap this up by giving thanks where it is due. I give thanks…

  1. to Matt Dozier for the encouragement I received regularly and for saying yes to almost all of my ideas focused on strengthening the company. My leader and my peer’s trust built confidence in me and provided a safety net to fail or alter things if needed.
  2. for being forever changed by my encounters with EAST students. Whenever I could, I would jump at the chance to host a virtual student training, work with the documentation team at Conference, or visit with students at the EAST facility, in their classroom, or during events. EAST students are incredibly creative and are changing the world.  
  3. to Tim Stephenson for hiring me and for creating EAST. And thanks to Matt and all of the staff for shaping it into what it is today.  
  4. to the EAST staff. I have never met a more passionate group of people focused on providing the absolute best support and resources for each other and the EAST community. Although I pushed policies, forced safety training on them, and reinforced the need for COVID procedures more recently, they always followed along politely even when it wasn’t all that fun.
  5. for EAST Conference. This experience allowed me to get outside of my comfort zone on many different occasions. I had the opportunity to work closely with students on leadership teams, speak on stage to over 2500 people, or be starstruck when I would meet celebrities, the governor, or even staff from big companies like Facebook or the George Lucas Foundation.  
  6. for all of you who have supported the organization, EAST programs, or the staff. It has been an incredible adventure, and it wouldn’t have been the same without you.  

My EAST experiences are not over. They are just changing a little bit. I’ll continue to be a huge advocate and supporter. And I can’t wait to be starstruck one day after talking to a former EAST student when they find the way to stop COVID-19 or build a spaceship that takes us to Mars. 

Wishing you all the best,

Melanie Ridlon

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