Every summer, SOAR Camp draws several seasonal staff from countries around the globe. These team members fill roles ranging from Field Staff to Activity Specialists. The experience, diversity, and knowledge they bring to SOAR are integral to our mission of providing experiential education, interpersonal life skills development, and outdoor adventure-based programming to youth, young adults, and families dealing with ADHD or other learning challenges.
SOAR is not a traditional summer camp. Instead, our campers and staff spend more than eighty percent of their time in the backcountry or on high adventure activities. That’s precisely why SOAR Field Staff Mateo Rojo, a twenty-year-old from Cordoba, Argentina, chose to come to SOAR over offers from other camps in the U.S.
Mateo Rojo and Justin d’Almaine
“I could have gone to another camp and worked less,” says Rojo, “but I wanted to come here and experience the outdoors, and I knew SOAR would be a challenge for me with all the activities because we will be busy and out there in the wilderness instead of guarding a pool. I work in a convenience store in my country. I was bored and wanted the challenge, and I love to travel. Seeing the world is my life goal, so I saved money to come here to work and pay for the visa and all that.”
Mateo’s favorite aspect of working at Summer Camp at SOAR is, “I like that my bosses and people in charge really take care of us, and the environment is always friendly – we make a great team.”
Field Staff, Justin d’Almaine, a 32-year-old attorney from Durban, South Africa, echoes Rojo’s sentiment, “I’ve enjoyed the chance to experience backcountry camping with a tight group of kids. It’s also great getting back to the front country, seeing all my staff friends again, and doing all sorts of cool activities with them. It’s a great place to work. All the staff gets along, we’re a team, and all are friends and support each other.”
Jonathan Jones, director of business development and executive management team member, explains, “Hiring international staff is my favorite part of building the summer team. They are often among the best staff members and provide unique perspectives that grow SOAR and our campers.” In addition, our international staff enables us to drive further diversity to our team and into our programs. It’s essential for a well-rounded experience for our campers.
Session 3 Backpacking Team: Charlotte, Naman, Mateo and Emma
Accomplishing our mission and seeing the positive change in children with attention and learning challenges would not be possible without our U.S.-based and international team members. They could have done anything this summer, but they chose to rough the elements in the most physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging job they’ve ever had for the reward of knowing they made an impact on the lives of hundreds of children who are now more prepared for the many challenges ahead of them.
Our international staff of 2022
Hometown: Durban, South Africa
Hometown: Essex, United Kingdom
Hometown: Chiapas, Mexico
Hometown: Worcestershire, England
Occupation: Social worker
Patricia “Patty” Rosales
Hometown: Metepec, Mexico
Occupation: School teacher
Hometown: Cordoba, Argentina
Occupation: Convenience store worker
Hometown: Mandi, India
Occupation: Outdoor leader, backpacking guide, and ski instructor.
For more than 45 years, Summer Camp at SOAR has helped youth with ADHD & learning differences develop self-confidence, social skills, and life skills through unforgettable adventures. Campers participate in rock climbing, horseback riding, SCUBA diving, llama treks, whitewater rafting, surfing, and more! Summer Camp at SOAR provides a supportive environment where campers are encouraged to be themselves and are celebrated for their strengths. Campers set personal goals and are supported by our staff & their peers to succeed. Camp offers a fun atmosphere where participants feel like they belong, where they build healthy friendships, and their challenges are understood. Learn more at soarnc.org.
While the 2010s were defined by a dramatic rise in personal access to technology it was also a decade noted for an increasingly sedentary adolescent population. In the 2010s, the popularity of smartphones, streaming services, virtual reality, social networking sites, iPads, and video games correlated with a sharp decrease in physical activity among youth and young adults.
NC Llama Trek Adventure Course in the Appalachian Mountains
Time outdoors grew in scarcity as screens became the catalyst for entertainment, communication, and even education. By the end of the decade, researchers estimated that the “average American child spent less than 10 minutes a day playing outside, and over 7 hours a day in front of a screen.” More conservative estimates maintained that children spent at least twice the amount of time looking at screens as they did in the outdoors. This societal change was unfortunate as adequate play in the outdoors fosters “physically healthier children, increases in cognitive and social development, improvements in sensory skills, increases attention spans, and improves mood”.
Fishing in the Florida Keys
SOAR’s work became increasingly important as parents had to navigate the different challenges of the new decade. This is where SOAR comes in! SOAR provided the outdoor spaces, engaging physical activities, and programs tailored for youth and young adults with AD/HD and/or LD.
Here are a few important SOAR moments of the 2010s:
Founders of SOAR, Jonathan and Wandajean Jones retire (2011)
John Willson becomes Executive Director (2012)
Spanish Immersion Course is started (2013)
First SOAR Gala (2014)
Annual Eagle 5k reintroduced (2014)
GAP Year Program at Eagle View Ranch started (2014)
Record high summer enrollment at over 600 participants (2015)
New record high summer enrollment at 625 participants (2016)
New record high summer enrollment at 674 participants (2017)
Academy at SOAR enters autumn with full enrollment for the first time (2018)
Completed construction of alpine tower at Eagle View Ranch (2018)
SOAR’s approach of focusing on strengths instead of deficits, along with incredible outdoor adventures, has been critical to ensuring the success of thousands of campers and students throughout the past 45 years. The best part is that we are just getting started!
Would you like to be an integral part of our mission? You have the ability to change the life of an AD/HD/LD child. Please consider donating $45 for 45 years. As a 501(C)(3) nonprofit, your donations will be used for our Scholarship Endowment Fund. We envision a day when any child with a learning or attention challenge will have an opportunity to experience these life-changing adventures.
We thank you for your continued support and interest in SOAR!
Smiles at the Climbing Gym
Would you like to be an integral part of our mission? You have the ability to change the life of an ADHD/LD child. Please consider donating $45 for our 45 years. As a 501(C)(3) nonprofit, your donations will be used for our Scholarship Endowment Fund. We envision a day when any child with a learning or attention challenge will have an opportunity to experience these life-changing adventures.
We thank you for your continued support and interest in SOAR!
“We could have never loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it.”
– Mary Ann Evans
The 90s were a time of expansive growth for SOAR. Programs were offered throughout the country, as well as internationally. Summer programs saw record numbers and reached capacity.
90s Program Locations: Alaska, Appalachian Trail, Arizona, Belize, Colorado, Costa Rica, Florida, Florida Keys, Idaho, Jamaica, New Mexico, North Carolina, Utah, Wyoming
Internet became more widely accessible, and SOAR’s first website was created in 1998. Our current Executive Director, John Willson, joined the SOAR team in 1991, returned in 1992 as a Course Director, and fall of 1993 to launch the Appalachain Trail Semester course program. He has been with the organization ever since! In 1999 SOAR year-round staff jumped from 13 employees to 21. In the 80s SOAR was on the trajectory to be the forefront of outdoor programs for ADHD/LD populations, by the 90s it was.
A huge expansion of national and international programs (see above)
Consistently fill courses to capacity
Rapid growth completed 9 shelters at Balsam Base
Expand services to 7th graders
SOAR is licensed as a summer camp (a new requirement by the state of North Carolina)
Expand high ropes course
Create activity staff positions for summer sessions
Complete SOAR Field Staff
SOAR fleet of vans increases to 5 vehicles
Conduct reconnaissance of Wyoming for possible SOAR Western Base (eventually leads to the creation of Eagle View Ranch!)
“Signs of the Time”
1997 celebrate 20th year
1998 internet site is established
1998 SOAR video completed
1999 complete networking of Administrative Team computers
1999 SOAR is a Microsoft Word Office
1999 SOAR brochure printed in color
1999-2000 move into Y2K with no significant glitches
To celebrate this decade, we wanted to share captions of a few 90s photos from two of the leaders that lived it, SOAR’s Jonathan Jones and John Willson:
“The llama trek pic was taken in 1990 during the first summer of SOAR’s Llama Trek program. The young man’s first name is Danny and at the time he lived in Franklin, NC. This is, perhaps, the first-ever SOAR LT photo and one of many hundreds that have one thing in common – the students always have their arm touching the llama’s neck or placed fully around the neck. His mother (Susan) taught me how important it is to use an individual’s natural organization style/ideas to personalize organization strategies.” (Jonathan Jones)
“This is from the original Appalachian Trail Semester course I staffed back in 1993. This program was the first fall Academic Semester that followed the Original Spring Semesters the previous 2 years. The boy with the backpack was named Nathan.” (John Willson)
“This was taken in 1993 during the first Appalachian Trail semester course program”. (John Willson, pictured)
“One of SOAR’s early Outdoor Classroom groups. (a school from Augusta), GA) receiving their safety briefing before rafting the French Broad River. The water was running high on this particular spring day. The looks on some of their faces reflect the seriousness of the rafting to come.” (Jonathan Jones)
“SOAR had a Challenge Course element that included – gaining a platform, swinging to a cargo net, and climbing up and over the 20′ net. This pic shows students embracing the challenge of that element.” (Jonathan Jones)
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.