By: Collin Anderson
By the end of high school, I was unsure of what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to college, but I was unsure of what major to choose. I did not want to make a rash decision and throw myself to chase something that I may not want to do. My mom found a GAP Year Program called SOAR. It was completely out of my comfort zone at the time. The program consisted of learning essential skills like finance, professionalism, social skills, and leadership in Wyoming while exploring the experience of the great outdoors. I took a chance on the GAP Year, and it became one of the best decisions of my life. I accomplished a lot during my gap year. Some of these achievements included a Summiting Mountaineer trip three weeks total, with two of those weeks being back to back. I earned the chance to lead the last expedition, and I gained confidence, leadership skills, and learned how to effectively work with a team.
I later used what I learned at SOAR to gain some valuable professional experience. I worked in the sports industry with FC Tucson, a professional soccer club, during my time at the University of Arizona. However, despite the successes at Tucson, it was not the right fit for me due to the school being big. I decided to transfer to Notre Dame College, a smaller school that was more suited to my liking. I gained a wide range of friends. My current project before I graduate in a year and a half is to launch the college podcast station. Looking back, I contribute the increase of my confidence to SOAR. In turn, it has allowed me to believe that a GAP Year Program like SOAR can change a person’s perspective on life if they are willing to follow the guidelines.
What a fantastic start we have had to the Academy and GAP Year Programs at SOAR! We are thrilled to be programming in person and so excited for all of the adventures and memories to come! Both the Academy and GAP Year started the semester in early September and have completed their first rotation. Both programs have two phases, a campus or base phase and an expedition phase where participants get to travel out in the real world for two weeks!
In Waynesville, NC, the Academy at SOAR kicked off by welcoming students and their families with an in-person orientation and dinner. The Academy was able to get a few facelifts before the start of the school year bringing color and more fun into the halls! So far our teachers, Gene (humanities), Shelia (English/language arts), Blair (science), and Em (math), have had a great time with the students in class as well as on field trips. They have been to Western Carolina University, where they attended a Forensic Science lecture with Dr. Becca George, visited the rooftop of the new Apodaca science building with astrophysicist Dr. Gomez, met with author and bird behavior biologist Dr. Jeremy Hyman, and visited the Fine Arts Museum (that was the absolute favorite!). The students were also able to attend a live local theatre production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” at the Hart Theatre in Waynesville.
As for their first expedition of the year, the four houses completed their Triple Threat challenge! Staying close to home, they visited the beautiful backcountry of South Carolina where they went on a backpacking expedition, whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River, and canoeing across Fontana Lake. North house field instructors, Curtis and Tessa, shared, “After an immensely fortuitous and eventful two weeks, we find ourselves back at Folkmoot and getting into the swing of things on campus. Looking forward to our next expedition, where we will be heading towards the Tennessee and Georgia line to backpack the Cohutta Wilderness and do some climbing in Chattanooga, Tennessee!”
Meanwhile, in Dubois, WY, the GAP Year at SOAR welcomed gappers and their families to Eagle View Ranch for an in-person orientation and introduction! During their first base phase, gappers prepared for their expedition and got to experience their first (tiny) dusting of snow. The team woke up to a remarkable view of snow-capped mountains in the distance. They have been busy camping in Sinks Canyon, rock-climbing, playing on the Alpine Tower, starting Life Skills Lessons, and planning for future phases of GAP.
As for the gapper’s first expedition, the group successfully explored Yellowstone, backpacked in the Wind River Range at Green River Lakes, and rock climbed in City of Rocks in Idaho! The group will soon be starting their first college course at Central Wyoming College and will get a tour, be introduced to the class instructors of their Intro to College course. The team will be completing Life Skills Lessons, volunteering, expedition planning, and adventuring this weekend in Jackson, WY.
It is going to be an amazing year! Stay tuned for more updates! Stay connected with SOAR on social media so that you never miss out on the Academy and GAP Year updates!
It has been a great start to the Academy and GAP Year at SOAR! Our students, gappers, and staff are so happy to be programming in-person and we could not have asked for a better start to the year.
In Waynesville, NC, the Academy at SOAR kicked off the year on August 31st as we welcomed students back for the first time since March. They have already gone on some pretty amazing adventures including canoeing and backpacking in the Smoky Mountains and visiting West Virginia to hike Dolly Sods and climb the New River Gorge! So far students have gone canoeing, rock climbing, bouldering, backpacking, hiking, whitewater rafting, all while still attending classes. Although the school year looks a little different, the Academy is making the best of it and creating many new memories. Senior student Natalie Moore stated, “Although situations can be tough the adventures will always be out there waiting for you!”
Meanwhile in Dubois, WY, our gappers are creating their own remarkable memories. On their first expedition, gappers backpacked through the Bridger-Teton National Forest, explored Yellowstone National Park, and rock climbed in the City of Rocks in Idaho. They just returned from their second expedition where their adventures took them to the Moab desert’s canyonlands in Utah. They got to go mountain biking, zip-lining, volunteering, and canoeing down the Green River! Along with all of these outstanding adventures, gappers have started their college classes and will begin lifeguard certification in the next week. GAP Year Director Ian Moore stated, “GAP Year at SOAR started off with a beautiful fall snow, quickly melting off for great sunny weather at Eagle View Ranch! Gappers have spent time hiking through the Shoshone National Forest, climbing on the Alpine Tower, and exploring Sinks Canyon! All gappers are settling in for a year full of adventure!”
Stay connected with SOAR on social media and never miss out on the Academy and GAP updates!