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THE SOAR BLOG

A Note from Big John

It was a summer like no other. On June 5th the sounds of children playing, laughing, and learning finally graced our mountain after a break that lasted much too long.  We enjoyed the return of so many alumni staff and campers, along with the opportunity to introduce a whole new group of dynamic young people to the rich experiences that SOAR offers.  Now, as the summer has come to a close we will have to wait 9 months to fully function in the capacity for which it was designed: to bring joy and growth opportunities to the remarkable campers we serve.

As I look back on this summer, there are several accomplishments that stand out to me:

  • Campers returned with a mix of wondrous anticipation and cautious trepidation. The transition back to having in-person experiences was desperately needed. 
  • The new dining hall and kitchen were a wonderful addition to the facility in Balsam.
  • The Wyoming program had its largest enrollment since we opened the facility!
  • We had several former students invested in returning as staff to give back to the program that had meant so much to them.  The sense of commitment and pride these staff had in being able to enrich the lives of campers was profound.

I had the honor of working with our Postgraduate Adventure program as a course instructor this summer. “The Clever Animals” (our team name) were a delightful group that reminded me why our future is in such good hands.  The level of caring and understanding these participants gave to one another was such an inspiration.  

I want to thank all of the staff that worked so hard this summer to provide unique and special experiences for our campers. This summer our locations included Florida, North Carolina, Costa Rica, and Wyoming. We backpacked, canoed, caved, climbed, fished, rafted, rappelled, SCUBA dived, sea kayaked, snorkeled, and spent a fair amount of time with horses! Goals were met, friends were made, and we all learned just a little bit more about ourselves.

As we launch into autumn, both the Academy and GAP programs are full and providing a rich set of experiences to help nurture the growth of their participants.  We look forward to returning to the Florida Keys on December 27th for our Christmas in the Keys Adventure. Finally, we will continue to provide thoughtful webinars on a monthly basis. We hope to provide information we believe you will find helpful. I encourage all of you to look for things to celebrate, learn from the things that challenge us, and find new adventures that nurture your soul and reinvigorate the spirit.

 

-Big John


GAP Year Testimonial: Collin Anderson

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.

 


A Fantastic Start to the 2021-2022 Academy & GAP Year at SOAR!

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.

GAP Year at SOAR
Academy at SOAR
GAP Year at SOAR
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GAP Year at SOAR
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GAP Year at SOAR
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GAP Year at SOAR
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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!