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Welcome to Adventures at SOAR, where we will be diving into the world of ADHD, learning differences, and outdoor exploration through the eyes of Jackson Holder, one of our amazing stummer staff members. In this blog we will be recapping an interview with Jackson as he discusses his life before SOAR, his experiences as a staff member, and his advice for incoming campers. 

“I grew up in Hanover County, right outside of Richmond, Virginia, living a very active and social lifestyle,” shares Jackson, a senior at Longwood University. “I grew up playing soccer and going on camping trips, occasionally whitewater rafting or kayaking.”

Jackson’s journey to SOAR began during his junior year when he sought out his first internship opportunity. “I had someone mention SOAR because they had gone through the interview process but ended up just getting cold feet,” he recalls. Intrigued by the idea of an ADHD adventure camp, Jackson reached out and before he knew it he was a SOAR summer staff member. “I started working there during the summer,” he says, reflecting on his initial role as a field staff intern. “I ran the canoe program for all four sessions, leading groups of up to eight kids with my co-staff.”

But SOAR offered more than just outdoor adventures; it was a place of personal and professional growth. “SOAR has a very hectic schedule,” Jackson explains. “I really had to improve my organization skills because I not only have to take care of my stuff but also help the kids take care of theirs.” He emphasizes the supportive environment at SOAR, where everyone works together towards a common goal. “Everybody is helping each other out, Everybody knows what goes on and what we go through to be able to give these kids the best possible trip they can have. And so everybody is very supportive of each other,” he notes. “It just kind of helped teach me that that’s the environment that I want to be in too.”

Jackson’s experiences at SOAR have also deepened his understanding of ADHD and learning differences. “I don’t have a diagnosis of ADHD, but I experience a lot of the symptoms of it,” he admits. “So when I work with these kids, it feels like we kind of have more of an understanding of each other.” Inclusivity is at the heart of SOAR’s mission, ensuring that every child feels valued and understood. “SOAR has done a very good job of finding the right candidates for this job, people who truly care about what we do here,” Jackson acknowledges.

As he prepares to graduate, Jackson looks back on his time at SOAR with gratitude and excitement for the future. “My next steps right now are going out to Wyoming this summer, most likely for SOAR, and then looking for my next internship,” he shares. So, to those considering SOAR for themselves or their children, Jackson offers a simple piece of advice: “Try your best to not let fear get in the way, encourage your kids to get out of their comfort zones and come try it out.”

Jackson has been an amazing and dedicated summer staff member, and we hope to have him back this summer as well. SOAR could not function without our incredible staff, like Jackson, so we think it is super important to get his feedback and share his story with our community. If you want to listen to Jackson entire interview you can do so on our youtube page!