Not only was SOAR’s Gap Year Program chosen for this distinction but it’s the only Special Needs program included on the list, a fact that highlights both the high quality of the programming we offer and the unique need that we fill for ADHD and LD students.
About TeenLife’s List of the 15 Most Popular Gap Year Programs
TeenLife is an online directory of summer, volunteer, and gap year programs, among others, for grades 7-12 students. It creates web and print content for teens, parents, and educators to provide guidance in making a decision about the various opportunities out there for teens.
The criteria TeenLife used to select gap year programs for its list was simple: its team reviewed the pageviews for all of the gap year programs they had listed on their website and chose the top 15 programs with the most views.
The list of 15 gap year programs has different categories:
Adventures / Trips
Special Needs—SOAR’s selected category!
Travel / Culture Immersion
What Is a Gap Year?
A gap year is a year students take off from college, usually taken between graduating high school and starting college. Sometimes students choose to take a gap year while already in college.
There are many reasons a student might want to take a gap year, but some connecting factors among most gap year students is that they are interested in taking time to develop and enrich themselves outside of a traditional classroom environment.
“A gap year is about what happens after school, how you make decisions, how you figure out who you are, where you want to go, and how you need to get there. It’s about the skill set you need to live your life.”
~ Gail Reardon of Taking Off, US News
Want to learn more about gap year programs and whether they might be a good fit for you or your teen? Check out these articles:
The GAP Year at SOAR is specially designed to empower young adults ages 18 to 24 with ADD / ADHD or other Learning Disabilities through adventure, travel, and independent living.
A picture from one of our adventure-focused Gap Year programs
The GAP Year at SOAR is specially designed to empower young adults ages 18–24 with ADHD or other Learning Disabilities through adventure, travel and independent living. Developed directly from parent feedback, this program meets the needs of those who have graduated from high school but are not quite ready to step into a university or career path.
Our gap year program provides young adults the opportunity to discover their talents, to increase self-reliance, and to experience life changing adventures. Developed directly from parent feedback, this program meets the needs of those who have graduated from high school, but are not quite ready to step into a university or work-force setting.
Participants are provided a structured environment in which they may pursue areas of interest and travel for the purpose of improving knowledge, maturity, decision-making, leadership, independence, and self-sufficiency. Participants will alternate between Residential Living in Dubois, WY and Expeditions throughout the western United States.
This combination provides the opportunity to develop and experience:
January 30th, 2018. It’s my first day back from one of the most exciting expeditions that I’ve been on yet. My name is Gianluca, a participant of the SOAR Gap Year Program, and someone who is very interested in the outdoors and cannot help but listen to Lady Gaga while writing this. Everything about the outdoors amazes me, from the simplest things, like the smell you get when you walk through a pine forest, or the feeling of the sand from Zion National Park between you and your sleeping bag. I feel like the name “Star Sleepers” is a perfect name for this year’s Gap Year group, because at every opportunity that we get, we make the conscious decision to sleep under the stars. Nothing compares to seeing Orion’s Belt and the rest of the galaxy in the middle of a national park with only your teammates around you and it has an unbelievable effect. I love the idea of how small we really are in the universe. It really puts who I am as a person in perspective. Did you know that we have a very small percentage of star dust inside of us? It’s pretty cool if you think about it because we are made up of the same thing as everything else around us. We just came back from our 4th expedition totaling 13 days. If you think that planning a 2 week trip is easy, then you are wrong. It takes an incredible amount of dedication, time, energy and protein.
For our 4th expedition, we went to Arizona and visited plenty of beautiful places on the way including Utah, Nevada and the Colorado River. Our expedition started off with the long car rides to get to Salt Lake City where we spent the first few nights in BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and we woke up to absolutely breathtaking (and below freezing) views. Next, we made the long trek to the border of Nevada and Arizona, specifically to the Hoover Dam, to begin our four day canoeing trip down the Colorado River in the Black Canyon. Not only was this one of the most beautiful things that I have been able to experience, but it was also a huge learning experience for me. I learned about so many different species of birds, different types of rocks, and about the Hoover Dam, how it was made, and how people lived back when it was first made. We canoed about 16 miles to Willow Beach. Along the way, we saw so many different hot springs, different types of wildlife, we even got to meet a new friend Roy, the rubber duck! : ) We brought him into caves and went on beautiful day hikes through canyons and beaches and to say we all, including Roy, had fun and learned a lot is an understatement.
After the 4 day excursion through the Black Canyon, we started heading towards Arizona. Along the way we saw many beautiful campgrounds, lakes, deserts, vegetation, and again, the wildlife. I have never seen so many cacti in my life! Once we were in Arizona, we headed towards Tucson to visit The University of Arizona, where the renowned SALT Program is located. Its a program that is dedicated specifically to people with Learning Disabilities. They provide so many amazing tools to help their student like free tutoring and essay assistance (they actually help you write them and they work with you to improve on your writing). We got a tour of the beautiful university. It is gigantic and has so many different types of people in the 43,000 student population. The people on the campus are friendly and helpful, and we even got to meet a previous Gap Year participant, Collin. A big thanks to Collin for giving us some well needed advice and some insight into how we can change and grow as individuals. After some yummy pizza and a spa day for Big Booty Judy, our well named 15 passenger van, we headed to Phoenix where we had an incredible tour of the ABC15 studio thanks to a friend of one of the participants, Koh. We got to see where they film the broadcast, and meet Stephanie, one of the News Anchors, who was super friendly and even had a past working with children with learning disabilities. And finally, to end that amazing night, we treated ourselves to amazing Mexican food at a place called “Rosita’s Place” which filled our bellies up with the yummiest (Mexican) food that I have ever had. That evening we slept in Phoenix and were able to feel the heat. When we were in Tucson, we had this amazing rock climbing experience at Barnum Rock. Personally, I am afraid of heights, so climbing was a challenge, but overcoming it felt amazing.
Once we finished in Phoenix, our journey back to good ol’ Dubois began. Going from the heat to the cold is not a fun experience, but it was still amazing (especially the views) and the campgrounds. Camping in tents is something that I think everyone should try because it is really fun and has a different feeling than a bed, and personally I sleep much better with the fresh air! But overall, the journey back home gave us some time to reflect on what we learned through this expedition. We had time to think about the hard work we had to put in and think about how we can use the experiences on expeditions in our lives at home. Some things that I learned from this expedition is to expect the unexpected. Even though we went to the desert, it was very cold and at times it even rained, which goes to show that you need to prepare for the worst, whether that’s very hot or very cold.
Our first week back on base has been an exciting one! We have a new participant, Derek, who has been able to make the transition to the Gap Year very smoothly, and has been the most helpful person I know. We are also going to be welcoming a new participant Sarah this weekend, which is another super exciting addition to the group!
There have been so many things happening around the Eagle View Ranch and I’m really excited to see what will happen in the next few weeks. For example, we will be going to Belize at the end of February and we are all very excited! We are back to volunteering on base and class starts next week! I recently started volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club and I am so excited to be working with children. I simply adore children and I think that they have a lot to learn from me and Koh (my volunteer buddy). There are so many more opportunities and experiences that are waiting to happen here at SOAR, and I cannot wait to share these experiences, along with other members here at the Gap Year, and hope that you found a little bit of interest while reading this, but yeah thanks for reading, until next time! Happy adventuring amici miei!
Experts have long been asking the question…Do kids need the outdoors? Just like they need sleep, meals, education etc.? Our experience with outdoor adventure programs paired with other research and experience suggests that YES, yes they do! Spending time outdoors is believed to help build self-confidence, increase self-awareness, and improve interpersonal skills. It can also help reduce anxiety, stress, and aggression.
More and more, the daily activities and routines that make up children’s’ lives are happening indoors. Because our lives as adults are the same way, parents are reinforcing this way of life without realizing it. When given the choice, many kids will choose to stay indoors watching television, playing video games, or some other activity. In his well-known book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv gives this trend a name: Nature Deficit Disorder. While there are increased concerns in the parenting and child development community on the long-term impact of “screen time” on a child’s development, we should also be concerned about the immediate impact that growing up indoors has on social skills, self-confidence, and life skills that kids need to live emotionally healthy lives.
Many parents are turning to summer camp to combat nature deficits in their child’s life. Summer camp has long conjured up memories of cabin mates, lake swimming, arts & crafts, and camp fires, but for some kids who prefer to stay indoors, summer camp almost seems like punishment. Many of our campers here at SOAR struggle to make friends, often feel like outsiders at school, and would choose computer games over hiking any day. The idea of spending two weeks camping and living outside can be intimidating. However, it can also be life changing when given the chance.
The effects of a long-term outdoor experience, like summer camp, can resonate in multiple areas of children’s lives. So why do kids need the outdoors?
Any outdoor experience focused on kids is going to involve other kids! Whether it is summer camp, boy or girl scouts, a sports team, or a school sponsored trip, getting kids outdoors together can have a big impact on the way they interact with one another. Unlike school, the outdoors provides an environment that is naturally engaging and offers new experiences for many kids. As a group, they will be confronted with challenges that have to be addressed through communication, flexibility, and teamwork, helping build interpersonal skills that typically do not come easy for kids who are struggling socially. Completing challenging activities such as backpacking 20+ miles, rock climbing, or rafting class III & IV rapids also has a huge impact on confidence and the way kids see themselves. Realizing strengths and conquering fears gives kids a chance to rally around each other and not only begin to see themselves differently but begin to see each other differently. With this newfound confidence, stepping out of their social comfort zone becomes less intimidating.
Self-confidence is one of the biggest and most immediate impacts of being outdoors. In addition to helping kids feel comfortable to be themselves and pursue friendships, the confidence that comes with being outdoors improves self-image and can impact behavior at home and at school. Before each camper begins their experience at SOAR, we ask parents to describe their child’s level of self-confidence. We then ask the same question after their child has been home for about two weeks, and nearly 66% of parents indicate that they have seen an increase in their child’s self-confidence. When kids are placed in an outdoor environment, away from the comforts and routines available at home, they are challenged physically and emotionally. Naturally they begin to grow in areas such as independence, self-reliance, problem solving, teamwork, and so much more. Growth in these areas results in increased self-confidence, giving kids the push they need to persevere and reach their academic, social, and emotional goals.
Being outdoors has many therapeutic qualities. This is why we vacation by the ocean, roll our windows down on the way home, and prefer a big, green backyard. Nature and fresh air feels good! It lifts our spirits and leaves us feeling mentally refreshed. With the growing stress of being kid, especially a kid with learning and attention issues, hitting the refresh button is crucial to limiting behavioral and emotionally setbacks. An outdoor experience allows kids to unplug—from technology and life—and just be a kid! They get to try new activities, realize new strengths, appreciate home, and learn more about themselves in a non-threatening environment. The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) developed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the 1980s explains that our daily environments, such as work or school, require direct focus and force us to try and ignore distractions. Sounds exhausting right? Imagine if you are a 6th grader with learning and attention issues. Really exhausting! ART suggests that natural environments do the opposite. They require indirect focus, which actually helps to restore attention, allowing us to focus better when we return to our normal lives.
Kids need the outdoors! Make a conscious effort to spend more time outside with your child. Here are 12 Ideas for Getting Kids into Nature from Childmind.org. Also start thinking about your plans for next summer! A longer outdoor experience may be just what your child needs to begin reaching their goals.
Have a reluctant camper? Camp is fun! It is a wonderful opportunity to experience nature and learn more about yourself. Of course, parents know that! If you are having a hard time convincing your child, let us know! We’d be happy to answer their questions and explain more about the amazing adventures that SOAR has to offer.
SOAR is an authorized permittee of the National Park Service and the National Forest Service. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in its programs on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital or family status. To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, Room 326-W, Whitten Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (202) 720-5964 (voice and TDD). USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.