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SOAR Field Staff | No chill and full commitment to excellence

Our field staff have no chill, so when the chance to take a little downtime from running summer courses arises, they find ways to get better at what they do. From the executive management team to the newest seasonal employee, this drive to maintain and lead industry standards is driven by our fifth core value – a Commitment to Excellence and it’s a commitment we do not take lightly.

With the goal to make the next courses the best we’ve ever led, our course directors are out running circuit-style training for all team members. Here’s a peek at what they were working on today at our North Carolina, Balsam Base.


Course Director, Elliot, on the ropework station putting on a knot tying workshop.











Course Directors, Grace and Charlotte, teach low light no light tent setup.



Course Director, Raynor, and Field Staff, Harry, teaching backcountry stove safety and proficiency.

Teaching how to setup and safely use a backcountry stove. In this image, we are using the MSR Whisperlight stove


The Mountains Are Calling and She Must Go…

When arriving to SOAR many families and staff would be greeted by a lady with luscious curly locks. Little did they know this lady, Laura Pate, would greatly impact their life. She offered comfort to anxious campers as their parents drove away, guided staff through difficult situations, and was a voice of sage counsel throughout her many years at SOAR.

Laura arrived to SOAR 22 years ago to support summer programs and help work in the community-based programs SOAR sponsored at the time.  She and her husband, Joe Moore, moved into a job-sharing role to support developing summer programs in 1999.  She became Director of North Carolina Programs in 2000 and joined the Executive Management Team in 2012.  Since then she has been the Director of Operations where she finished her time at SOAR.

Laura has mentored staff and students, tirelessly pursuing excellence in programming, and supported her teammates unconditionally.  Her combination of heart, strength, and tenacity has been a beacon for the professionals that have had a chance to work with her.

Her commitment to this field is only surpassed by the love and care she has bestowed upon her family. She and Joe make quite a team and together can accomplish anything they set their mind to.  Her son Dylan has become an integral part of the fishing program in the Florida Keys over winter break. Her daughter Cassidy has provided support in both an administrative capacity and as an instructor.  Laura is a dynamic force of nature and she and her family are beloved.

The gifts she bestowed on her SOAR family are too many to count. We will miss her bright personality, her passion, her ability to solve anything, her incredible mind, her dance moves, nail game, smile, and so much more. We cannot put into words what you have meant to SOAR through these years. We are beyond excited for you to start your next great adventure, just know your SOAR family will be cheering you on every step of the way. 

When we asked Laura to reflect on her time at SOAR, even then she made sure to put others first. Here is her parting message

As I reflect on my 22-year career at SOAR, so many great memories spring to mind: sitting on top of a rock face with a camper, admiring the awesome views and pointing out the confidence they built as they overcame their fears; talking with staff about both the joys and challenges of the field of experiential education; meeting families and feeling that sense of hope discovered for them when they hear about all that SOAR has to offer; the sense of camaraderie with colleagues who share the same passion and purpose of changing kids’ lives.  I’ve been blessed to be able to meet amazing and resilient future world leaders, work with some of the best professionals in this field, and contribute to a vocation that I love. If I have been able to positively impact the lives of any others in some small way, I will consider my career well spent.  I am eternally grateful to SOAR and my colleagues for giving me the opportunity to do just that.

I am not yet sure what the next steps for me will be, but they will likely involve more outdoor adventures and looking for opportunities to impact the world in a positive way.  I wish SOAR and everyone associated with it continued success and, like eagles, to SOAR toward their greatest heights!  Wishing you all the best,


2018 Wrap-Up

2018 Wrap-Up

By: Stephanie Lowe


Many amazing things happened at SOAR in 2018, and we are excited to share them with you!


1. In 2018, we served 647 campers across all of our locations this summer. We are excited to hopefully exceed this number in 2019!


2. In 2018, 27 campers received scholarships to attend camp, including three full scholarships!  We know that there are so many more campers out there who need financial assistance, so we have exciting plans to help grow this number in the coming years.


3. In the Spring of 2018, five students graduated from the Academy at SOAR. We are very proud of all of our graduates. Some are currently pursuing higher education, some are in the workforce, and we have one graduate attending our GAP year program in Wyoming. All of them are displaying signs of a bright future.



4. A huge highlight of 2018 was introducing the newest member of our SOAR team: our Family Support and Alumni Cultivator, Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Simpson! Liz’s sole function is to support families and Alumni of SOAR. Our goal for this position is to be able to provide more support to our SOAR families and Alumni during the year and once they leave camp, the Academy or our GAP program.  


A little about Liz:

Liz has a BA from the University of Wyoming in Education and a Ph.D. from Auburn University in Educational Psychology.  She is a lifelong educator and advocate for children and families. Liz began her career as an interpreter for the Deaf in Casper, Wyoming. She then went on to work with court adjudicated youth in a residential program, later becoming acting director of that program. From there, she spent 20 years as a special educator in public and alternative schools.  After seeing a great need for teachers to be better prepared to teach differently abled children, especially children with LD, ADHD and Autism, Liz went on to teach Special Education, Human Development, and Collaboration at the University of Wyoming. In 2010, Liz was asked by the State of Wyoming to develop their distance-learning program.  For the past four years, Liz has been an independent consultant to parent groups on how to help their children with special needs be successful in school, their communities and in life. We feel very lucky to have Dr. Elizabeth Simpson join our team and we are excited to see what wonderful ideas and support she brings to our families at SOAR. 


5. Our Wyoming base completed their Alpine Tower in 2018.  The Alpine Tower is a three-sided structure, one side has a climbing wall and the other two sides consist of challenge elements with cargo nets and climbing poles.  The Alpine Tower helps our kids to push their boundaries and overcome obstacles with perseverance and goal setting skills, but most importantly, it is a lot of fun!



6. The Academy at SOAR launched its first ever TEDx event in May of 2018. This event gave our Academy students the opportunity to speak on a public platform and provide information to spark learning, as well as provoking conversation on a topic of their choice.  This event was a great success and is something we hope to continue hosting in the future!


We look forward to another great year in 2019!