Hi Mom and Dad,
I miss you so much. Yesterday was kind of boring. We played games to get to know everyone in my cabin once everyone got here. There is a kid, Zach, that talks a lot, like never shuts up, and another, Kevin that has not said a single word. Last night I think he was even more home sick than me. Why are you making me come here again? Today we are doing the high ropes course, I am excited for that. Maybe I’ll start to make friends. Make sure that you give Sampson hugs for me. Tell Jack to stay out of my room!
Ps: Send me candy!
I did the high ropes course! I got to shoot Zach with a squirt gun as he was coming down the zipline. I don’t get along with him so it was fun to do. He is just too annoying for me. Last night Kevin and I stayed up outside the cabin together because he was crying he wanted to go home. He has a dog and an annoying brother too! We both like football but he is a Patriots fan. The counselor Jamie is really nice. He talked to us about being homesick. He even gets homesick as a grown up! Tomorrow we are starting our backpacking trip. I do not want to go hiking. Can you get me the new Call of Duty?
Backpacking was hard! We went up a really tall mountain carrying backpacks that had to of weighed 50lbs! We have a role each day. Today I was the chef. My other Counselor Kayla taught me how to light the back country stoves. We use white gas for them. Dad we should get one for our camping trips! I made mac and cheese with canned chicken for dinner. We had to have a veggie so I cut up broccoli and put it in it. Everyone loved it! I want to make it when I get home for everyone. Kevin keeps making fun of me. I told my counselors and they made him apologize but I don’t think he really wanted to. Everyone is so tired. I am kind of excited to sleep under a tarp though. Tomorrow we have to hike 6 miles!
Last night I fell asleep under the stars. There were so many! I got some bug bites but it was worth it. My counselors gave me some cream to put on them so they don’t itch too bad. We hiked 7 miles instead of 6 today. We got a little turned around and hiked a half mile out of the way before we noticed and turned back. It was okay though because we got to see an awesome waterfall. I was having a really hard time getting up a hill and was slowing everyone down. I felt bad but I just couldn’t hike any more. Kevin stayed back with me and helped carry some of my gear so I could get up the hill. His pack must have weighed 100lbs! I guess he isn’t as bad as I thought. We played Frisbee together after we got to the campsite. Tomorrow we are done backpacking! Thank GOD!
I went white water rafting today. The water was really cold. I was in a boat with Kevin, Zach, Tyler, and Kayla. Kayla was a good guide. She let us all try to guide and taught us how to steer. I got us stuck on a rock but it was fun trying to get off the rock. I fell in on Lesser Wesser, it was so much fun. As soon as I came up Kayla grabbed me and pulled me back in the raft.
Tonight we stayed at a campground called Appletree. I had to be Sherpa today so I had to wash all the pots and pans. They were so gross!
I was YODA today. I got to sit in the front of the van and tell the group what to do because I am the leader. We went to paintball. Kevin, Zach, and I teamed up against some kids from another group. It was fun to shoot them with paintballs. They don’t hurt as bad as I thought they would. We wore funny clothes from Goodwill to play. I can’t wait to show you pictures. Tomorrow we are going out to eat for our last night together. Yay! Real food! I can’t wait until I can get McDonalds and a soda. When you guys come to pick me up you can meet Kevin and Zach. We want to plan a trip to our house so we can hang out together.
Some big things happened at SOAR in 2016! We celebrated our 40th summer season, saw our highest enrollment (ever!), developed new scholarship opportunities, and began planning projects we’re excited to share with you in 2017! It is clear that the life changing experiences offered at SOAR are having a huge impact on the lives of youth and their families. We are so grateful to all of our campers, students, and gappers that motivate us each day. We are also grateful for their families who let us share their amazing children. And of course, we can’t forget the generous people who support SOAR on an ongoing basis. Your support keeps our mission alive!
Here are just a few highlights from this year. We can’t wait to see what adventures 2017 has in store!
We Celebrated 40 Summers
Back in the summer of 1977, Jonathan and Wandajean Jones embarked on their first adventure with SOAR in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. With just a few kids on the course, it was the start of something much bigger. 40 years later, we celebrated with former campers, students, staff, and friends who have all been a part of SOAR’s growth over the years. In 2016, we also served more kids at camp than ever before! This was the best celebration of all. Here’s to 40 more!
Launched 2 New Summer Courses
We are always looking for new adventures that we know our campers will enjoy. This year we launched two new courses–Caribbean Sailing/SCUBA Adventure & California Surfing Adventure! Both were a huge success and allowed campers to experience things they have never before. Both courses will carry over into the 2017 season and are great options for SOAR alumni looking to try something new and exciting!
Expanded our Gap Year Program at Eagle View Ranch
In it’s 3rd year, the Gap Year at SOAR continues to grow. This year, with the help of generous donors, SOAR was able to secure the property adjacent to Eagle View Ranch in Wyoming. This purchase provides us with additional living space, allowing us to expand our Gap Year program in the future to accommodate more participants.
Developed the Military Scholarship Fund
SOAR has a rich military history and has always looked for ways to support military families. This year we made it official and launched the Military Scholarship Fund. This fund provides scholarship assistance to campers and students with immediate family who have served or are serving in the military. Our goal is to substantially grow this fund in 2017!
Installed Fiber Optic Internet
If you have ever been to SOAR’s Balsam Base, it is tucked away on a mountainside. While the views are beautiful, the internet connection was not. With the help of generous donors, SOAR was able to upgrade to Fiber Optic Internet this past year. This not only makes the work of our administrative staff much easier (and faster), it drastically improves the learning environment for our students! Students are now able to work on assignments with less interruptions resulting in more progress throughout the school day!
Thank you for being a part of the work we’re doing here at SOAR. See you in 2017!
“My teenager is driving me absolutely crazy! Is what I’m seeing normal behavior or is something else going on?” As we travel the country each year hosting workshops and meeting families, this question is posed to us countless times. As the mother of two teenagers, I can absolutely relate to the frustration that many parents feel with the behaviors they sometimes see from their kids. And while it is common for teenagers to drive their parents a little nutty, what behaviors are within the range of “normal” for that age and what behaviors might indicate a deeper problem?
Undiagnosed & Driving Me Crazy!
If your child has never been diagnosed with ADHD or a learning disability but you have always suspected it, you may be onto something. According to the official diagnostic tools for ADHD, there are 18 different symptoms related to attentional, behavioral, social and organizational challenges:
If you read some of these and think “That’s my kid!”, you might want to follow up with some questions to ask yourself (and your physician or guidance counselor):
- Does my kid get a little antsy in class or are they truly disruptive to the learning of other kids?
- Does my kid occasionally forget to turn in assignments or do they have a litany of zeros due to “the dog ate my homework” syndrome?
- Does my kid have a few solid friends or do other kids avoid them because of their antics?
- Does my kid respond to my requests after only a couple of attempts or do they only respond when I’ve blown my top and scream at the top of my lungs?
If you find that your child is better represented by the latter half of each question, you might want to consult with your physician or school guidance counselor to determine if further testing might be in order. And remember, you are not alone! There are a multitude of resources that you can access with advice, ideas, and strategies to help you and your child improve how they function in the world.
Already Diagnosed & Driving Me Crazy!
The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 year olds. More severe cases may be diagnosed even earlier. If your child was diagnosed at a young age and is presenting some new or unusual behavior, you may be wondering, “Is this the ADHD or do I just have a teenager on my hands?” Here are some common areas that most teenagers struggle with at times, but could also mean that your child could benefit from additional support.
- Executive Functioning: We all struggle to get things done sometimes. For kids with ADHD, it can be even harder. Does your child often have grand ideas but can’t seem to organize their thoughts let along take the steps to execute the idea? If this is a common area where your child struggles, a new approach to school projects, homework assignments, chores, etc. may be beneficial. The National Center for Learning Disabilities recommends these steps to help your child with goal-directed tasks:
- Prevent overload
- Provide structure and support new learning
- Observe for symptoms of overload and ensure downtime
- Minimize and preview changes in educational environment
- Keep work periods brief and provide frequent breaks
- Allow extended time for assignments and tests
- Keep oral directions brief or accompany them with a visual reminder, such as a checklist
Be sure to discuss these with your child’s teacher to help provide understanding for some of the challenges they may be going on in the classroom and to gain support for your child’s learning needs.
- Self-Regulation: As kids get older, they begin to pay more attention to the world around them and alter their behavior based on where they are and what is happening. This skill is more difficult to master for most kids with ADHD, so inappropriate behaviors are more likely to happen. Here are some tips to help improve self-regulation at school and at home.
- Keep your daily schedule in a visible place at home, and cross things off as they are completed. This helps everyone feel in control of their day and stay aware of any changes.
- Structure & Responsibility! When you deviate from routine and structure, you are opening up doors for impulsive behaviors. They are going to happen, but giving your child specific responsibilities helps hold them accountable and helps them stay focused on being self-controlled.
- Use natural and logical consequences. If your child does behave inappropriately, always use a natural or logical consequence to help them better learn for the future. It’s kind of like the old, “If you keep slamming that door, I’ll take it off the hinges” rule. A more likely example might be, if your child continues to put down their siblings, each time will require three “put ups”.
- Poor Self-Confidence: It’s normal for teenagers to feel low at times as they are growing and forming their own identities. However, in the long-term, low self-confidence can negatively impact so many areas of your child’s life—academics, peer relationships, family relationships, and more. It’s important to help your child see their strengths as soon as you begin to their confidence sliding. Here are some ways to instill confidence in your child.
- Encourage your child to develop an expertise in an area where they already have interest such as photography, computer programming, music, etc.
- Always distinguish between your disapproval for your child’s action and your love for them. As a parent, you will have to discipline your child at times, but kids can often confuse these two aspects, especially when their desire is to please you.
- Praise your child’s efforts just as much as the end product. The steps toward the goal are often the hardest, so be sure to praise these efforts equally!
- Always highlight your child’s successes!
No matter which situation you find yourself in, there are resources available. The first step is evaluating your child’s most immediate needs and advocating for those. Understand that as a teenager, there will be times when your child is simply just driving you crazy, but sometimes it may be a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. As an organization that was built around the needs of youth with attention and learning issues, we are here to help!