Meet Our Staff

The Team Behind the Mission

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JOHN WILLSON, m.s., lrt/ctrs

Executive Director

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JOHN WILLSON, m.s., lrt/ctrs

Executive Director

EDUCATION

  • Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
  • University of Colorado @ Boulder, Experiential Education, and Outdoor Leadership
  • Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration

EXPERIENCE

John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with Learning and Attention challenges. He joined SOAR in the summer of 1991, returned as a semester course instructor in 1993, and became Director of LD and AD/HD Services in 1994. He has led hundreds of adventure courses across the country and Latin America and continues to enjoy field time with campers on a variety of programs.

John is a Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina and a former national board member of CH.A.D.D. He actively presents to teachers, parents, and professionals at local, state and national conferences. In addition, he has been an adjunct professor at Western Carolina University and Mars Hill College teaching Outdoor Recreation, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothy are the proud parents of two magnificent children living with ADHD.

JOHN ROGERS

Director of Programs

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JOHN ROGERS

Director of Programs

EDUCATION

  • B.S. in Aerospace Administration
  • M.S. in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from Middle Tennessee State University

EXPERIENCE

John has been in camping since 1985, over 35 years. He started with SOAR in 1989 and was the Community Based Director until 1996; when he returned to the Navigators Eagle Lake Camp to start their east coast program in North Carolina. He moved to Colorado in 200 to head up Eagle Lake’s Wilderness and Excursions programs. 

In 2006 He joined Montreat College to teach and direct their Backcountry program outreach to the Western North Carolina community. During that time Montreat built a state of the art challenge course facility and John transition to be the Team and Leadership Center Director. He designed and launched the program where he served until returning to SOAR in 2020.

John also started the Virtuoso Series in 2014, a high-quality tanning resource; which features national and internationally known speakers, authors, and trainers. Guest speakers have included: Jim Cain, Jenifer Stanchfield, Michelle Cummings, Greg Robinson, and Chris Cavert. The series is open to students, and professionals. 

John is also a trainer for Signature Research Inc. Signature’s Facilitator Training Workshops are designed to provide Practitioner Certification for workshop participants. Workshops cover appropriate technical and course management issues for your personnel to develop the skills to operate your challenge course program.

He is an entrepreneur, owner, and founder of Re-New Headlight Restoration. He has taught at Middle Tennessee State University, Western Carolina University, and Montreat College.

J. D. JONES

Director of Business

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J. D. JONES

Director of Business

Education:

  • United States Military Academy, West Point, B.S. in International Relations
  • Colorado State University, Masters in Business Administration

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

JOSEPH GEIER

Academy at SOAR, Head of School

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JOSEPH GEIER

Academy at SOAR, Head of School

EDUCATION

  • Indiana University of Pennsylvania, B.A. / B.S Program in Anthropology and History Education

EXPERIENCE

Joseph developed his love for the outdoors in 1989, while serving with the U.S. Army Rangers special operations. After military service he found his talent for working with children through coaching sports.

In 1998, he entered the wilderness therapy industry in Pennsylvania, leading groups on expeditions designed to develop self-esteem and social skills.  Over the years Joseph has helped youth through climbing trips in West Virginia and Wyoming, backpacking trips on the Appalachian Trail, and canoeing the Everglades and Suwannee River. In 2005, he became the Director of Operations at Phoenix Outdoors.

Joseph joined SOAR in 2008 as the Director of Logistics, and now leads the Academy at SOAR. He shares his love and passion for the outdoors with his wife Kristina and daughter Isabella.  Joe holds or has held certifications as a Wilderness First Responder, Swift Water Rescuer, Whitewater Raft Guide, Small Craft Safety Instructor – Canoe and Kayak, Life Guard, Top Rope Climbing Site Manager and multiple Crisis Intervention methods.

NETTIE BLACK

Academy at SOAR, Director of Academics

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NETTIE BLACK

Academy at SOAR, Director of Academics

EDUCATION

  • M.S. in Outdoor Pursuits Recreation Administration from Aurora University
  • B.S. in Biology from Loyola University

EXPERIENCE

Nettie fell in love with the outdoors at a young age and was able to pursue this passion and make it a career. She has been working in the Adventure Education field since 1997 and has had the privilege of working with Outward Bound, Wilderness Challenge, and taught Outdoor Leadership at Warren Wilson College. She joined the Academy at SOAR for the 2020-2021 school year where she enjoyed working with the ADHD/LD population and the program itself. She was a Camp Director this past summer and has accepted the position as Director of Academics for the 2021-2022 school year. She looks forward to working with the students and staff to make it a memorable experience full of great adventures! 

Nettie and her husband Tony have two children and a slew of animals including a dairy cow, poultry, and reptiles. In her spare time, she loves hiking, backpacking, flatwater paddling, and gardening! 

LEIGH WHALEY

Academy at SOAR, Program Director

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LEIGH WHALEY

Academy at SOAR, Program Director

PRONOUNS

she/her/hers

EDUCATION

  • Antioch University of New England, M.S. in Environmental Education
  • Western Carolina University, B.S. in Parks & Recreation Management, Outdoor Leadership & Instruction

EXPERIENCE

As a native of North Carolina, Leigh attended summer camp in various parts of the state where she quickly discovered her passion for the outdoors. After earning her B.S., Leigh spent time in Washington state where she shared her love and knowledge of the natural environment with young people through leadership roles at different summer camps. Beyond her environmental education background, Leigh is also a skilled swim instructor and enjoyed teaching swim lessons as a lifeguard when camp wasn’t in session.

Shortly after wrapping up her last camp season in Washington, Leigh set out to expand her knowledge in the field by earning her Master’s Degree in Environmental Education. Upon graduation, she worked with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Massachusetts AmeriCorps program where she led the implementation of environmental education programs in local schools. During her time with the corps, she also assisted with trail building and maintenance while living in that community setting.

More recently, Leigh returned to her camp roots as the Outdoor Adventures Manager for the Girl Scouts of Southeast Virginia. She not only increased the frequency of event offerings but also added unique high outdoor adventure programs, including axe throwing and high rope course challenges. These helped encourage every member to step out their comfort zone and try new things! Leigh also led overnight and day camp for members while ensuring the best experience possible for each and every camper!

Leigh is thrilled to join the Academy at Soar community and is excited to contribute to the growth and well-being of the students and the instructors.

KEVIN WILLIAMS

Director of North Carolina Programs

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KEVIN WILLIAMS

Director of North Carolina Programs

EDUCATION

  • Western Carolina University, B.S. in Parks and Recreation Management

EXPERIENCE

Growing up in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Kevin’s family vacationed most summers in the mountains of Western NC. Kevin grew very fond of his summer time in the mountains. He grew up in a musical family and spent most of his younger years learning to play the trumpet. So, after high school he applied to the music program at Western Carolina University and was accepted into the trumpet studio program. Moving to the mountains of NC was his primary goal at a young age and this was his chance!  During his time at WCU he spent a lot of time paddling whitewater around the area and became a proficient class 5 kayaker. Working within the outdoor programs at WCU he taught many staff to become whitewater guides, kayak instructors and caving trip leaders.

After graduation he worked for 10 years as a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Instructor primarily with Landmark Learning. At Landmark he taught courses such as Swiftwater Rescue, Wilderness Lifeguarding, Wilderness First Responder, and EMT Intensive programs. He has worked as a precepting instructor and on Instructor Training Courses to develop new wilderness medicine instructors, he understands the need for quality, experienced staff. Kevin’s most recent role was working as a clinical coordinator managing 400 clinical and non clinical/volunteer staff for the WCU Regional COVID-19 vaccine clinic. He developed the training for the clinic and facilitated the administration of over 15,000 COVID-19 vaccines in rural Western North Carolina.

Kevin joined the SOAR team in April of 2022 as the Director of NC Programs and can’t wait to have a fun, successful summer season!

C RYAN SMITH

Assistant Director of NC Programs

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C RYAN SMITH

Assistant Director of NC Programs


Growing up in a rather nomadic family as an Air Force and Commercial pilot’s son, Ryan likes to say:  “I was born in Denver, lived all over the US, but was raised in North Carolina”.  Though he lived in Texas, Washington State, Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia- summers were spent in North Carolina, either at the beach or in the mountains.  Both sides of his family have deep roots in NC, his mom from Wilmington and his Dad from Clyde.  

He currently resides in Waynesville, NC with his wife, Kathryn, and two daughters, Elsie and Carolina.  

His passion for the outdoors and experiential education was fostered at YMCA Camp Cheerio, where he was a lifelong camper turned counselor.  He loved teaching students how to roll kayaks and encouraging students to reach for that last hold on the climbing wall.

He attended the Virginia Military Institute and then Emory and Henry College, graduating with degrees in Economics and Business Administration. Though much of his early career development was centered around the corporate world, first managing rental properties and then climbing the ladder to become an Operations Manager for FedEx Ground, his heart and soul longed to be outside- guiding, teaching, and experiencing as much of the natural world as possible.

Ryan is a passionate white water canoeist, instructor, and sometimes- captain of the swim team!  Ever since taking a course from Fritz Orr and learning how to peel out of an eddy in a tandem canoe, the rest is history…..  He says: “ I had no idea a canoe could do that!”  If he is not hanging out with his family, you can bet you’ll find him on one of the many creeks and rivers in the South East, especially if it has been raining.  His other professed “fountain of youth” is riding boards of any kind- specifically surf, skate, and snow.  He is very proud to be a rad dad!  

Ryan began working for SOAR in 2020, as a Whitewater and River Safety Specialist for the NC canoe and rafting adventure programs. Prior to that first SOAR experience, he was managing logistics and staffing for Landmark Learning and NOLS Wilderness Medicine in the South East. He currently teaches ACA L4 Swift Water Rescue and ACA Solo/Tandem Canoeing coursework and was a graduate of the Landmark Outdoor Educator Semester program in 2015.  He also is a Leave No Trace Master Educator.  

SARAH FISHER

Marketing Director

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SARAH FISHER

Marketing Director

EDUCATION

  • Flagler College, B.A. in Psychology
  • Liberty University, M.S. in Sports Marketing and Media

EXPERIENCE

Sarah grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Following high school graduation she moved to St. Augustine, Florida to attend Flagler College. While in school Sarah would spend her free time night swimming with friends after class, surfing on the weekends, and searching for adventure. After graduating with a degree in Psychology from Flagler, Sarah started on her journey to earn her Master’s in Marketing with a focus in Sports Marketing and Media.

The outdoors have always brought her an inner peace, so when Sarah discovered SOAR she instantly fell in love with the companies mission. She believes that SOAR allows her to pursue all of her passions in one place. When Sarah is not working she enjoys rock climbing, trail running, and shark tooth hunting with her partner, Kasey, and their dog, Samoa. Sarah is excited to help the next generation thrive through SOAR.

AMELIA WEBER

Gap East Program Director

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AMELIA WEBER

Gap East Program Director

EDUCATION

  • Flagler College, B.A. in Fine Art

EXPERIENCE

Amelia grew up playing in the Gulf Coast waters of Florida. During college, she traded the calm waters of the gulf to play in the big waves on the Atlantic coast. Amongst surfing, swimming, and kayaking in St. Augustine, FL, Amelia received her degree in Fine Art and minored in Education. Driven to express the intricacies of the natural world, Amelia spends time crafting pottery and drawing the environment around her. You can find Amelia exploring the woods and following her curiosities. She aims to encourage students to explore their curiosities as well.

Amelia is excited to join us now as the Gap East Program Director! She has worked as a field staff for the NC Expedition course, Course Director for the NC Academic Discovery and Canoeing courses, and worked both as campus and field staff for the Academy at SOAR. She has a deep love of learning outdoors and experiencing the world first hand with campers and students alike! She has also worked at summer camps in Florida and spent time directing a writing center tutoring program at the college level.

CAMERON NICHOLSON

Director of Physical Plant

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CAMERON NICHOLSON

Director of Physical Plant

EDUCATION

  • University of Hawaii at Hilo, B.A. Communications

EXPERIENCE

Cameron was raised on the coast of North Carolina in a military family. During and after high school he volunteered as a firefighter and EMT. He also worked as a landscaper and auto mechanic. After spending a summer as an ocean lifeguard, his love of the water and helping people led him to join the U.S. Coast Guard. Cameron served in the Coast Guard for 10 years before separating to spend more time with his growing family. His time there included patrolling the Bering Sea in Alaska, search and rescue throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and maritime law enforcement along the East Cost.

Cameron has always had a passion for the outdoors and working with his hands. He is an avid mountain biker and enjoys surfing, running and hiking. Cameron and his wife Amy have two beautiful young children and are excited to have become part of the SOAR family!

CALEB PARCHMAN

Logistics Director

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CALEB PARCHMAN

Logistics Director

EXPERIENCE

Caleb has lived in Western North Carolina for about 7 years and has been working in outdoor education and experiential education for the past 11 years. The emphasis of his work has been on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts. He most recently spent 7 years working for North Carolina Outward Bound in many roles including Logistics, Field Instructor, and River Staff. Caleb spends most of his free time paddling on all of the rivers and creeks throughout the Southeast. He joined SOAR in 2022 and is excited to work with the Physical Plant Director, all the SOAR staff and the ADHD/LD community!

He is currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder, ACA Level 4 Whitewater Canoe Instructor, raft guide, and Swiftwater Rescue.

CADE INGLE

Academy at SOAR, School Counselor

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CADE INGLE

Academy at SOAR, School Counselor

EDUCATION

  • Capella University,  Master of Science in School Counseling

EXPERIENCE

Cade grew up in Runnells, Iowa near the capital city of Des Moines. Outdoor adventure has been a large part of his personal growth, self-care, and connection nature provides. Cade worked for SOAR as a campus instructor, field instructor, and summer staff dating back to 2018. Cade has hiked a dog part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and spent a lot of time backpacking in various parts of the western United States and Europe but fell in love with the beauty of western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains while at SOAR.  He believes that the wilderness offers a unique learning environment to further a child’s education as well as their socio-emotional growth. Cade earned his master’s degree in school counseling, has worked on a crisis line supporting teens in mental health crises and safety emergency situations, and has spent several years teaching and counseling in public school settings. Cade works as a school counselor with SOAR’s students, staff, and parents as a socio-emotional educator, support, and resource to help create an inclusive, safe, and growth-minded environment.

Cade is pretty good at ping-pong, loves Thai and Indian cuisine, enjoys audiobooks, drawing, hiking, climbing, and CrossFit workouts. If he had to choose his favorite backpacking meal it would be peanut butter and beef jerky, generally separate but when you’re out there long enough weird combos start looking pretty appealing!

CAROLINE HAMILTON

Admissions Director

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CAROLINE HAMILTON

Admissions Director

EDUCATION

  • Carson-Newman University, B.S. Leisure Services
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Master’s level course work in Outdoor Recreation

EXPERIENCE

Caroline was born and raised in Marietta, GA with a fun and exciting family. She played all kinds of sports and went camping with the family often. A curiosity and deep love of all things leisure and recreation-related was developed early on in her life and proved to be a guiding force in deciding on a career. Outdoor play was often encouraged, and spending time outdoors is second nature for her now; she would rather be outside.

While in college, Caroline worked at summer camps in North Carolina and Tennessee. This experience only solidified her desire to become a camp professional in some capacity in the future. While in grad school, she worked for SOAR at Eagle View Ranch as a field instructor in 2011. That fall she made a decision to stop writing her thesis, quit grad school, and forgo a Master’s degree. With no regrets, she moved back to Dubois to be a Course Director at SOAR in 2012. She then stayed in Wyoming for seven years working for Boys and Girls Clubs and local Parks and Recreation districts. Most recently, and after a big move from Wyoming back to Georgia, Caroline was a Referrals and New Patient Coordinator at a specialty doctor’s office in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This in-between job further prepared her for joining SOAR again as the Admissions Director at Balsam Base in the fall of 2022.

Previous training includes Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, Lifeguarding (14 years), Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace Trainer, and some others along the way.

Caroline is very excited to be with SOAR again and is looking forward to all the upcoming adventures she’s going to have with her dog, Trigger, in Western North Carolina.

KARINA LORENC

Registrar

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KARINA LORENC

Registrar

EDUCATION

  • Green Mountain College, B.S. Adventure Education 

EXPERIENCE

Karina’s love for the outdoors stems from her childhood as a young homeschooler in Connecticut when an hour outside every day, no matter the season, was the rule! In high school, she had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in New Jersey, Michigan, and Montana. It was during those three summers when she realized the intense healing power of nature. In college, Karina studied Adventure Education and Sociology/Anthropology. The experiential, varied nature of her education led her to have a wide variety of interests and always be open to new challenges! She has worked as a therapeutic field instructor, climbing and kayaking instructor, administrator, tutor, supervisor, farmhand, and much more.  

Karina first joined SOAR in 2015 as an NC Expedition Instructor and then as the FL Activity Specialist in 2016. She is thrilled to be back with the SOAR family as an administrator and can’t wait to help SOAR students and campers realize their full potential and have fun! Karina holds or has held many certifications including Wilderness First Responder, ARC Adult, and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, ARC Emergency Oxygen Administration, ARC Life Guard, ARC Small Craft Safety Instructor – Canoe, ACA River Kayak II Instructor, and Whitewater Raft Guide. 

HANNAH EVANS

Academy Registrar

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HANNAH EVANS

Academy Registrar

Hannah am a graduate from Western Carolina University with a degree in Education. She previously worked in the public school system and have found myself working for this nurturing school! Being a lover of the outdoors, Hannah is a raft guide for the Ocoee river and loves to hike (especially if there is a view). Hannah lives in the beautiful area of Western North Carolina and plans to explore this Disney world of hiking one trail at a time!

LUCERO “LUCY” MADRID

Executive Assistant

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LUCERO “LUCY” MADRID

Executive Assistant

EDUCATION

  • Accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant License, Avanza Training in Colorado Springs
  • Certified Early Childhood Teacher, Front Range Community College

EXPERIENCE

Lucy is a born and raised Texan. She recently moved to North Carolina with her husband Jonathan and son Ryder. She grew up living in a border city, frequently walking across the border to Juarez to visit family and relish in Mexican culture and all the Al Pastor tacos her heart desired. As a first-generation American Lucy’s first language was Spanish and she learned English in grade school. She played soccer from the age of 5 until her senior year in high school and is thrilled to now share the sport with her 4 year old son Ryder.  She loves hiking, fishing, “creeking” with her son, and is starting her first garden this summer.  She is a licensed CNA and former preschool teacher, where she discovered a passion for working with children and believes children are the key to creating a better future.  No matter her role at SOAR she believes that this is a great place where lives can be changed and where success starts.

ERIC BELT

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

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ERIC BELT

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

Erich grew up in an Army family moving around the country and even lived in Panama for a year, his family eventually settled in the DC/Northern VA. area. Erich grew up hunting and fishing with his Dad where he learned to love and respect the outdoors. He enjoys playing soccer and football and spent several years coaching youth football alongside his Dad. Erich is no doubt the biggest Baltimore Ravens fan you will find! Erich is also an Outward Bound and N.O.L.S. (National Outdoor Leadership School) alumni. He has worked professionally with children since 2012 in both public and private school settings. In the summer of 2014, he was introduced to SOAR and immediately found a way to combine his love for the outdoors and educating children! Erich spent 3 summers working for SOARs NC program before transitioning to the Florida Keys program where he has worked for the last 4 summers. It is Erich’s belief that in order for people to respect, appreciate, and most importantly care for the environment around us, they must be exposed to the beauty and wonder that nature provides! What better place to start than with the next generation here at SOAR!

MARLEY NEAL

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

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MARLEY NEAL

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

Marley grew up in metro Atlanta and found a passion for the outdoors at a young age. She enjoys spending time on the river, exploring the backcountry, and learning about native plants. She has worked many summers at camps, most recently as a Field Staff at SOAR for Summer 2022. Marley went to school at Clemson University where she graduated with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with a concentration in Recreational Therapy. Marley is so excited to work with the students and help prepare them for the rollercoaster of life!

ASH MANNING

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

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ASH MANNING

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

Ash is originally from the Northeast Georgia mountains but made a smooth transition to the nook outside Asheville, where SOAR is located! In the summer she is a whitewater guide in West Virginia! She loves dancing and creating art with the students, working out early in the mornings, or yoga during PE with them!

JILL WOODWARD

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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JILL WOODWARD

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Jill was born and raised in Chesterfield, Virginia where she experienced the outdoors in the suburbs as well as the urban setting of downtown Richmond. She grew up around all things water which included: competitive swimming, lifeguarding, kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and white-water rafting. She grew up in a large family where they would spend their time visiting Virginia State Parks, as a family year after year, and has always felt at home outside. While in college, Jill worked for Virginia Outside where she taught children how to fish, kayak, ride bikes, and appreciate the outdoors. Jill attended Radford University and graduated with a bachelor’s Degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism with a concentration in Recreation Therapy in 2019. Her love for the outdoors flourished in college where she was in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, whether it was hiking on a trail or kayaking down the New River she knew she had a passion for being outside. She interned at the Academy at SOAR in the Spring of 2019 and loved every minute of it! After college Jill worked as a Recreation Therapist at a State Psychiatric Hospital where she sat as a clinical treatment team member and assisted with the rehabilitation of people with mental illness. She is excited for her second year as a field instructor for the Academy at SOAR!

KESTREL THRONE-KAUNELIS

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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KESTREL THRONE-KAUNELIS

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Kestrel is a being of the rivers, oceans, and rain droplets. Kestrel has most recently inhabited Western Massachusetts making snow and grooming trails. They even got to do a residency at a timber framing and homebuilding crafts school! Kestrel started at SOAR in the summer of 2019 and frolicked right on over to The Academy that August. After grappling with what is most important to Kestrel and experimenting with how to prioritize those things, they gravitated back into the pull of the SOAR community. Kestrel filled in for the final month of the 21-22 school-year. The songs of serendipity blossomed and they came skipping back to the coolest humans in town (hint: it’s SOAR kids) with a deeper passion than ever before. Kestrel is pumped to be back in an environment where their weirdness is celebrated, encouraged, nourished, and appreciated! Much of what they are looking forward to sharing with these fantastic humans are some of their favorite activities to do. Kestrel loves all things water, most notably canoeing, rock-hopping up and down streams, and snowmaking. They also love the arts through just about any medium, reading, and rollerblading! Kestrel is most excited to continue to improve their Magic the Gathering skills and get involved with some cool Dungeons and Dragons campaigns this school year!

NICOLE SHEAHAN

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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NICOLE SHEAHAN

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Nicole was born and raised in Savannah, GA where she often went camping in surrounding areas with her family. This is where Nicole’s love of nature began. In 2017, she graduated from Georgia Southern University with her B.S. in Human Development and Family Science. Shortly after graduation, she started her career with SOAR as the field instructor for llama trekking at the NC summer program. Nicole then wanted to broaden her understanding of humanity and jet off to teach English as a second language to children in both Thailand and Vietnam. She then lived in Malaysia for a short time and studied yoga philosophy in Rishikesh, India. Upon returning to the USA, she got her certification as a Registered Behavior Therapist working with young children on the Autism Spectrum. While this line of work was rewarding, Nicole missed the unique work environment that SOAR had to offer. She returned in 2021 to work the Florida Keys Adventure summer program and proceeded to become a campus instructor at the Academy at SOAR in the spring of 2022. Nicole continues to enjoy spending her summers in the beautiful Florida Keys with SOAR’s summer program and is greatly looking forward to experiencing even more of this wonderful world with her students this year!

KAYLIE BEAN

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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KAYLIE BEAN

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Kaylie graduated from Montreat College with a bachelor’s in Exercise Science and a concentration in Health and Fitness. Kaylie enjoys activities such as hiking, backpacking, and climbing. Kaylie began to fall in love with the outdoors during her time at school and that lead her to take some outdoor recreation classes before she graduated in 2022. After graduation, she had the opportunity to work for SOAR Summer camp as a backpacking instructor in NC. She loved the environment of SOAR and wanted to continue to gain more outdoor and leadership experience so she accepted a position at the Academy! Kaylie is excited for what’s to come this season and is ready to learn and grow more as an instructor.

LAURA BROWN

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

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LAURA BROWN

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

Laura grew up in Roanoke Rapids, NC where her family encouraged her to hike, bike, camp, and swim. She spent most of her free time running around outside with her siblings and dogs which fostered a connection to the outdoors from a young age. Laura decided to attend Elon University where she majored in Adventure Based Learning. She developed knowledge and passion for experiential education and working with kids. During her time at Elon, she also completed a NOLS semester in the Southwest of the US which gave her a lot of confidence in living and learning in the backcountry. Over the past few years, Laura has worked at a number of other outdoor places as a paddling and backpacking instructor and as an environmental educator. She’s excited to be working this year as a field instructor for the Academy.

CHARLOTTE MASTERS

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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CHARLOTTE MASTERS

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Charlotte grew up in St. Augustine Florida, where she spent most summer days playing in the water fishing, sea kayaking, canoeing, or body surfing. Her family often took trips to western NC to hike, bike, and play in Linville Falls. Her love of the Blue Ridge grew and she chose Western Carolina University to attend college. While at WCU she studied Parks and Recreation Management where she fostered her love of experiential learning, trip leading, and working with youth in the outdoors. She chose SOAR summer camp in the summer of 2018 as her capstone internship to complete her degree. The summer provided her with the fast-paced environment that she works best in and a lifetime of memories she will never forget! After she graduated, she moved home to Florida where she worked in several different positions over the years; kayak guide for eco-tours and as a beach life guard to name a few. Nothing compared to her time at SOAR and she made her way back to Balsam, NC for 2022 SOAR summer as the North Carolina Backpacking Course Director. Charlotte is thrilled to be back and working as Field staff for the Academy this year! In her off time, you can find her somewhere near a body of water splashing about or just going for a dip. She holds certifications as an Open Water Lifeguard, WFA, and Raft Guide.

JAMES JONES

Director of Development

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JAMES JONES

Director of Development

EDUCATION

  • University of Houston, B.A. Communications

EXPERIENCE
James Jones has built aircrafts with SOAR students since 1979. In their first School Flight Aircraft, a rebuilt fabric wing 1947 Cessna 140, he flew from Wilmington, NC to Santa Monica, CA and back as a tribute to their work. He was Head Master of Summit Academy for almost 10 years and in cooperation with SOAR, founded the Academic Discovery Summer Program. He was an original board member of SOAR Inc.

John Willson writes, “I met James twenty years ago when I first came to work for SOAR. He immediately took me under his wing and taught me so much about working effectively with young people. James has demonstrated understanding, compassion, and genuine warmth that made him an excellent mentor. He is intelligent, organized, sensitive, quick, confident and fun to work with. He has lived a remarkable life, from flying and building his own airplane, to diving and making a movie with Jacques Cousteau, to molding the lives of young people. He is quite simply an extraordinary man and I am proud to call him my friend.”

ANDREA GERARD

Academy at SOAR, Math Teacher

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ANDREA GERARD

Academy at SOAR, Math Teacher

EDUCATION

  • Elementary & Special Education, Western Georgia University

EXPERIENCE

Anka first joined SOAR in 2017 from Charlotte, NC and since then has worked in many different capacities at SOAR. Currently, she is the Academy at SOAR Math Teacher and also works during the summer months as the Florida Keys Adventure Course Director. She loves every minute of working with our ADHD and LD kids and making sure that they have a fun, educational time doing all the different adventure activities they can!  She enjoys fishing and swimming, especially in the sunny Florida Keys.

GENE MCNABB-FRIEDMANN

Academy at SOAR, Humanities Teacher

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GENE MCNABB-FRIEDMANN

Academy at SOAR, Humanities Teacher

EDUCATION

  • Ohio State University, M.A. and doctoral studies in Latin American Literature, Culture and Semiotics
  • B.A. Spanish

EXPERIENCE
Gene’s love of the outdoors began as a boy in Argentina and was reinforced as a young man in the United States Marine Corps. Though his education was briefly interrupted for Desert Storm, he developed an interest in the teacher-student relationship, in both classroom and experiential learning fields. In 2005, Gene taught at risk children in an alternative, sea-kayaking/academic program in Biscayne Bay. This led to coaching a youth climbing team and leading expeditions through the Florida Everglades. He served a tour of duty 2010 – 2011 in Iraq as an Army Sergeant Combat Medic serving with Special Operations Command.

After positions at Stone Mountain School and Second Nature (Blue Ridge), Gene joined the Academy at SOAR in 2012. He holds Certifications in Emergency Medical Technician Basic/Combat Medic 68W-20, CPR, NCI, PCS. As “New Natives” in Appalachia Gene, his wife Kris and their two daughters Katharine and Rowan continue to explore these ancient mountains as they put deep roots into their chosen community.

BLAIR OGBURN

Academy at SOAR, Science Teacher

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BLAIR OGBURN

Academy at SOAR, Science Teacher

Education

  • M.A. Environmental Education
  • UNC Asheville B.S. in Ecology & Field Biology

Experience

Blair is an NC native but grew up in an Air Force family, so therefore lived in numerous amazing places! She and her 5 brothers/sisters grew up in California, Michigan, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Italy. Spending so much time outside in these places, Blair became interested in field biology and went to UNC Asheville for a B.S. in Ecology & Field Biology.  From there she went on to work with birds and mammals at the Smithsonian Conservation and Research Station, NC State University, Ecolodge San Luis in Costa Rica, and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory in California.  Eventually, Blair found work in several nature centers and began to teach with birds of prey and reptiles.  She completed a Masters degree in Environmental Education in 2017, then became a middle school science & Spanish teacher. Blair was also a community college instructor and a 5th grade Muddy Sneakers instructor. Her superpower is identifying birds by ear, and she has a special fondness for the songbirds of the Smokies and of Costa Rica. Blair is excited to work with the Academy at SOAR, a place held in high esteem in the community and a great place to learn & play.

SHELIA SUMPTER

Academy at SOAR, Literature Teacher

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SHELIA SUMPTER

Academy at SOAR, Literature Teacher

Shelia Radford Sumpter has been teaching children of all ages for over 30 years in the public school, private studio, and university settings.  Her undergraduate studies were in theatre and dance and her graduate studies were in language arts education. Mrs. Sumpter has worked as a professional actress, dancer, director, and choreographer.  She currently consults with professional, academic, and community organizations. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Kids at HART which is part of Haywood Arts Regional Theater.

SADIE BELT

Academy at SOAR, Field Supervisor

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SADIE BELT

Academy at SOAR, Field Supervisor

Sadie grew up in Northern VA and enjoyed spending time on the Chesapeake Bay waterskiing, kayaking, and crabbing. She attended multiple resident camps while growing up and fell in love with summer camp life. As soon as she was old enough Sadie began working at YMCA resident camps. She spent three summers as a ropes instructor at Camp Silver Beach in VA, before moving to TX to work as an assistant land program director at Camp Cullen. Sadie has spent the past three summers at SOAR, both as a field instructor and course director of the Llama Trekking program in NC and Horsepacking Adventure in WY. Outside of summertime, Sadie explored her love of math and science while at school and recently graduated with her B.S. in Neuroscience from Christopher Newport University. Sadie is incredibly excited to be returning to the Academy at SOAR team where she can bring together her passion for education and outdoor exploration.

CURTIS CLARK

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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CURTIS CLARK

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Curtis’ sense of adventure and exploration bloomed during his high-school career when he experienced a series of courses that took him outdoors and showcased the activities and environments he has pursued since. He soon engaged in recreational sports such as backpacking, rock climbing, and even the adrenaline-fueled world of fishing. Studying Outdoor Leadership and Recreation Technology at Pikes Peak Community College helped inspire Curtis to seek work in the outdoor industry and the base of knowledge necessary to find it.

TESSA BAKER

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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TESSA BAKER

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Originally from Hawaii but since leaving in 2016 I’ve called many places all over the mainland my home. I didn’t realize my love for the outdoors and adventure until my first year of college at Northern Arizona— where outdoor recreation is big. While there I really dove in fast, wanting to explore and try everything, backpacking, climbing and mountain biking being my favorite. In 2019 I graduated with my Bachelors in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies from Wright State University. I’ve worked in the therapeutic and outdoor industry since 2018- working anything from summer camps, outdoor education and wilderness therapy. And since then, being able to combine my educational and outdoor passion has always been my goal. I’m excited to begin my journey with SOAR to support youth in achieving success!

GEORGE GAGEL

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

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GEORGE GAGEL

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

George was born and raised in Statesboro, GA, and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in Outdoor Recreation. Finding his passions for the outdoors and helping others at an early age meant that he was constantly outdoors and volunteering any chance he had. He found that he really enjoyed outdoor activities like camping, hiking, kayaking, but was always wanting to share those experiences with others. Wanting to continue his education after high school, he dabbled in a teaching degree but quickly realized that his future lies in the outdoors. Throughout college and after graduation, George focused on sharing his love of the outdoors with the next generation through his work at several different summer camps and outdoor schools across the country. After floating around for a while, he figured that joining the SOAR family seemed like the next big step in his life, so he’s excited to bring everything he’s learned and share it with those around him!

HARRISON PERUSEK

GAP Year Mentor

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HARRISON PERUSEK

GAP Year Mentor

Harrison grew up in the Atlanta area and spent most of his summers at a sleepaway camp in North Carolina that stoked his love for the outdoors. Later, he worked at that same summer camp while attending Young Harris College in North Georgia. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Leadership with an Appalachian Studies minor. Harrison was also fortunate enough to take his own gap semester after high school. After working two summers and a GAP Year at Eagle View Ranch, Harrison is so excited to use his experience with SOAR for another year with the gappers. Harrison knows that his own experience with ADHD and learning differences diagnoses, as well as a similar life path to many students, will allow him to identify with and help them build skills to use in their lives after SOAR. Harrison spends his free time climbing, backpacking, and exploring the Wild West of Wyoming when he is not working.

Harrison is a certified Wilderness First Responder and Waterfront Lifeguard.

MIRANDA SEBASTIAN

GAP Year Mentor

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MIRANDA SEBASTIAN

GAP Year Mentor

Miranda was born in southern Indiana but spent most of her life in North Carolina. She’s worn many hats over the years including portrait studio manager, security specialist, and graphic designer.

Like most, she tried a lot of things that didn’t work for her before landing on what did. She realized she was happiest being active and in the woods and found herself looking for her place in the outdoor industry world. She attended Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and studied recreation management with a focus on outdoor experiential education.

She was introduced to SOAR through an outdoor job fair and took a job working over the summer as an adventure staff at Eagle View Ranch in Wyoming. From the first day of training, she knew she had stumbled upon something special. That feeling only intensified when campers arrived. She was blown away by the entire experience and witnessed firsthand the positive impact that disconnecting from technology and getting outside can have on our kids. She is so excited to be a part of the GAP year program and share her love for the outdoors with all of our participants.

In her free time, Miranda loves practicing her ukelele, identifying plants and fungi, foraging for wild edibles, hiking, attending concerts, and thrifting!

JILL WOODWARD

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

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JILL WOODWARD

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Jill was born and raised in Chesterfield, Virginia where she got to experience the outdoors in the suburbs as well as the urban setting of downtown Richmond. She grew up around all things water which included: competitive swimming for 13 years, lifeguarding for 10 years, kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and white water rafting. She grew up in a large family where they would spend their time visiting Virginia State Parks as a family year after year and has always felt at home outside. While in college, Jill worked for Virginia Outside where she taught children how to fish, kayak, ride bikes, and appreciate the outdoors. Jill attended Radford University and graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism with a concentration in Recreation Therapy in 2019. Her love for the outdoors flourished in college where she was in the beautiful Blueridge Mountains of Virginia, whether it was hiking on a trail or kayaking down the New River she knew she had a passion for being outside. She interned at the Academy at SOAR in the Spring of 2019 and loved every minute of it! During this past last year Jill worked as a Recreation Therapist at a State Psychiatric Hospital where she sat as a clinical treatment team member and assisted with the rehabilitation of people with mental illness. She is excited to begin her new adventure by coming back to SOAR and helping students prepare for their future!

JONATHAN JONES

Founder, Director Emeritus, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Capital Campaign Cabinet Member

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JONATHAN JONES

Founder, Director Emeritus, Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Capital Campaign Cabinet Member

EXPERIENCE

SOAR grew out of a graduate project Jonathan completed for Dr. Vincent Cyphers at the University of Northern Colorado, reflecting his personal experience with learning disabilities and a passion for the outdoors as a place for personal growth and development.

A current Board member of LDA, he is a past President of LDA NC and chaired the LDA Adult Issues committee for many years. Jonathan has been involved in education since 1980 as a teacher, Upper School principal, and program administrator. His diverse background includes military service, convening of international conferences, advocate work for abused and neglected children and rodeo bullfighter. He is an adult with learning disabilities and has an adult son with his own unique mix of LD and ADD issues. He is a frequent presenter at state, national, and international conferences which focus on LD and ADHD issues. His decades of experience working with youth allow him to convey a unique perspective regarding their strengths and abilities.

Jonathan holds a B.S. in Chemistry and Psychology and a Secondary Education Teaching Certificate, with master’s level work in Education. He is also a licensed R.N. and participates in two to three medical mission trips on an annual basis.

WANDAJEAN JONES

Director Emeritus

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WANDAJEAN JONES

Director Emeritus

EXPERIENCE

Wandajean began working with students with learning disabilities in 1976 at the Interdisiplinary Learning Center in Houston, Texas. She would help with after school tutoring and she and her husband, Jonathan, would facilitate group activities. Once a month they would take students rock climbing, backpacking and camping. All of this was in preparation for a week-long trip in the summer to Estes Park, Colorado.

Over the years it has been her privilege to be a part of SOAR’s growth and development. Wandajean has taken on many roles: Trip Leader, Program Director, tutor, Office Manager, Finance Director and Board Member. Her goal is to be a part of a team which helps provide quality programs for LD and AD/HD youth and their families.

BRENDAN ANDERSON

Board Member

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BRENDAN ANDERSON

Board Member

Brendan Anderson has spent the past 20+ years as an investor and manager of businesses ranging from manufacturing to financial services. He graduated Fascinated by the capital gap within the small business growth sector, he rapidly came to the conclusion that providing best practices in addition to growth capital could consistently produce great results for the management, employees, communities, and investors. He is an active member and mentor within the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and is continuously entrenched in its culture of best practices.

Connected by their passion for growing small companies, in 2005, he and partner, Jeffrey Kadlic, co-founded Evolution Capital Partners, focused exclusively on advising and investing growth capital in Second Stage Companies.

A constant student of entrepreneurship, Brendan spends his time away from Evolution listening to audiobooks on his ever-growing list of “must-reads.” He also enjoys watching high school hockey and traveling with his family.  He lives with his wife and three sons in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Education:

EO/MIT Entrepreneurial Masters Program (EMP) – Class of 2014
MBA, Loyola University
BA, DePauw University

Accolades:

Crain’s Forty Under 40 Alumni
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2013 Northeast Ohio Finalist

COLLIN ANDERSON

Board Member

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COLLIN ANDERSON

Board Member

Collin is an alumnus of SOAR’s GAP Year Program. Currently, he is enrolled at Notre Dame College pursuing a B.A. in Communications. Collin is excited to be a SOAR Board member and part of an organization that has helped him (as he says) “become a better person”. While attending the GAP Year at SOAR, Collin especially enjoyed his group’s visit to Portland, Oregon because while there he attended his first major league soccer game. Collin is an avid soccer player and worked in the major league soccer industry immediately following his GAP Year graduation as a team liaison and assistant for game day operations. At Notre Dame, Collin organizes the Notre Dame College Falcon Radio and Podcast Club, is a member of the Notre Dame College Japanese Pop Culture Club, a former member of the Sports Marketing Association, former member of Blue-Chip Leadership, and has prepared exhibits of French homes.

DANNY BENJAMIN

Board Member

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DANNY BENJAMIN

Board Member

Danny is a Pediatrician; he and his wife Donna have four children. Their oldest son was initially enrolled in SOAR’s summer camp program in NC and was then a student at the Academy at SOAR for 3 years.

Danny obtained his medical degree and completed a pediatric residency at the University of Virginia. He then completed a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at Duke University and a Masters in Public Health and PhD in Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research group pioneered much of the methods in completing pharmacokinetic (dosing) and safety trials of medicines in premature infants. This led to bipartisan legislation in 2012 that required the study of all new medicines in premature neonates. His group has since expanded to the study of medicines in children of all ages and most therapeutic areas as evidenced by >300 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Danny continues to lead multi-center studies and is the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH and FDA-sponsored grants and contracts of $250,000,000 in current federal funding including the Pediatric Trials Network; the Trial Innovation Network; the Environmental Impact on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program; and Global Pediatric Clinical Trials Network Sponsored. Danny has won 7 awards for teaching and mentorship at Duke University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and University of Virginia; and he is recognized nationally for mentorship through his work as PI and/or mentor for Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology programs including a T32, a K24, and an R25 to train the next generation of pediatric clinical trials researchers.

Danny is also the head coach of the Smith Middle School baseball team in Chapel Hill. He is very proud to be the only Chapel Hill baseball coach to lead two teams to the coveted Orange Person County Athletic Conference (OPAC) Baseball Championship!

CORKY COOTES

Board Member

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CORKY COOTES

Board Member

After sending his son to SOAR for three years and seeing his son’s own self-discovery, Corky was committed to SOAR. As a parent of a child with ADHD, Corky sees the value in programs specifically designed to provide understanding, acceptance, and guidance for young people who sometimes face challenging situations in life. Professionally, Corky is software engineer and has helped SOAR stay up to date and advance forward through the forever changing world of technology in business. Corky designed and developed the Student Evaluation program SOAR uses today to help streamline and archive parent feedback for future reference. Corky also provides “on-demand” technological support to the SOAR management team as needed.

JIM DRAWDY

Board Member

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JIM DRAWDY

Board Member

Jim developed his love for the outdoors as a child, spending his summers at camp backpacking, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting. This love for the outdoors led him to leadership positions in the Mountaineering and Whitewater Clubs during his time at the University of South Carolina. While at USC, Jim also spent time working with children in after school and tutoring programs. These two passions collided when Jim was introduced to SOAR. Considering that he and his two brothers are all diagnosed with ADHD, SOAR seemed like a perfect fit. Jim began his work with SOAR in 2004 as a Wilderness Instructor and participated in multiple summers, adventure weekends, and specialty courses over the next few years. After completing his undergraduate degree, Jim attending law school at USC and practiced family law in Haywood and Jackson Counties, surrounding SOAR’s Balsam Base. He served as an Advisory Board Member to Mountain Mediation Services and a Council Member on the Haywood and Jackson County Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils. Jim now works as the Director of Sales Engagement at Haverty Furniture Companies, Inc., where he enjoys the opportunity to help others learn and reach their goals on a daily basis through leading training and development initiatives.

DALE HARRIS-SPARACINO

Board Member

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DALE HARRIS-SPARACINO

Board Member

Dale has dedicated her life to education since graduating from Florida Atlantic University in 1980 with a B.A. in Exceptional Student Education and receiving additional certifications in Behavioral / Emotionally Handicapped, as well as Learning Disabilities from Western Carolina University. Over the past 35 years, Dale has taught students with learning challenges and now teaches in The Learning Resource Program at Christ School in Asheville, NC. The daughter of a long-time camp director, Dale made her way through the “ranks” of camper, from Kitchen Staff to Senior counselor. She dedicated her work ethic, sense of responsibility, and love for the outdoors to her family and her experiences at camp. Dale began working with SOAR as an Assistant Staff on various Alumni Specialty courses including trips to Belize, Costa Rica, the Canadian Rockies, the Florida Keys, and Peru. Dale has also spent summers teaching English and Math in the NC Academic Discovery Program. Dale is also a member of LDA NC and its Board. Her respect and admiration for Jonathan, John, and all the SOAR staff make her very proud to be a member of the SOAR Board of Directors.  It is an honor to support and represent the SOAR organization and what it provides for LD / ADHD youth and their families.

ANNETTE KESGEN

Board Member

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ANNETTE KESGEN

Board Member

Annette Kesgen has worked with children and adolescents in educational, clinical, and recreational settings for over 30 years and has supported SOAR through staff training and providing internship opportunities for more than 15 years. Annette has also been an instructor in therapeutic recreation and massage therapy programs at the university and community college level. As the Director of Upward Bound at Southwestern Community College, a program designed to support local high school students in preparing for college, Annette knows the value of encouraging and fostering relationships with students on their path to academic success. Annette is understanding advocate for students across the spectrum of learning disabilities.

CATEY McCLARY

Board Member

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CATEY McCLARY

Board Member

Catey Terry grew up just south of Nashville, TN. She attended Appalachian State University where she earned a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. After college, she completed a fisheries internship with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, before setting off on a 500-mile adventure along the Appalachian Trail. Ready to get off of her feet (literally) and back on her feet (figuratively), she took a summer position at SOAR as a Wilderness Field Instructor in 2005. For 13 years, she remained with SOAR serving in a variety of roles, from Office Manager, Manager of the Administrative Team, and ultimately CFO. During this time she was involved with various aspects of the organization including marketing, admissions, IT support, and finances.

In August of 2018, Catey took on the role of President and CEO at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, a non-profit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that provides residential environmental education programs, connecting people of all ages to nature. She previously served on the advisory board for the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. She is an active board member for Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville, Tennessee.

KOREY RAMSEY

Board Member

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KOREY RAMSEY

Board Member

Korey Ramsey received his degree in Recreational Therapy in 1997 from Western Carolina University.  He has been working with SOAR since 1995, beginning with the weekend programs, then he worked as a course director from 97 to 2001. He became the full-time director of the Appalachian semester course in the fall of 97 and Desert southwest semester in the spring of 98.  He then completed 3 additional semesters running the program. Additionally, he was instrumental in developing the NC Expedition course.o

While in college he also worked construction, then worked with a local contractor building homes in between course programs at SOAR.  During that time frame, Korey built 4 of the SOAR Adirondack style shelters from scratch and converted 3 of the single shelters to double shelters. He also built the bathhouse/conference room.

In 2001 Korey obtained his EMT certification, and in 2002 received his EMT/ Intermediate.  In 2006 he completed his RN degree from Southwestern and began working in the emergency department at Mission Hospital.

In 2017 he was hired as a flight nurse with the air medical program known as MAMA (Mountain Area Medical Airlift).  In 2020 Korey began a specialty position with trauma services at Mission as a Trauma nurse lead, while still working part-time as a flight nurse. His certifications include:

CEN – Certified Emergency Nurse

TCRN – Trauma certified RN

TNCC – Trauma Nurse Core Course

ENPC – Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course

NRP – NeoNatal Resuscitation program\

BLS / ACLS / PALS

Swift Water Rescue level 3.

In addition, both his children have attended SOAR.  His son Brandon completed his 5th summer in 2019. His wife continues to work at SOAR helping facilitate specialty courses, and Korey routinely volunteers his time to help with physical plant projects.

Ramsey quote: “I believe strongly in the mission of SOAR and would consider it an honor to bring my medical and construction skills to support the organization.”

DREX ROGERS

Board Member

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DREX ROGERS

Board Member

Drex is a successful business owner. He is trained and certified in professional auto body repair, paint specialty, and auto and motorcycle appraisal. He has been in the field for over 25 years.

Drex began attending SOAR in the late 1980s. In 1990, he traveled through the southwest with Founder Emeritus, Jonathan Jones, and helped to develop SOAR’s first “semester course” which was implemented in 1991. He has become a valued friend to the Jones family and provider of insight and feedback from the perspective of SOAR alumni.

MIKE SUNSHINE

Board Member

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MIKE SUNSHINE

Board Member

Mike Sunshine met SOAR’s founder, Jonathan Jones, when the two served in the military, and has been interested in the progress of SOAR since its inception. Mike brings diverse knowledge from 40 years of business, non-profit and government service including the US State Department. Mike’s oldest son struggled with ADD growing up and today is a highly successful financial advisor and the first American to graduate from Moscow’s MGIMO University with PhD in Economics.

JOAN TEACH

Board Member & Capital Campaign Cabinet Member

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JOAN TEACH

Board Member & Capital Campaign Cabinet Member

Joan K. Teach has been a special education working with the ADHD population for over 50 years. As the former Director of Lullwater School, a center for students with neurobiological needs, she investigated techniques that increased success and survival for her students.  Currently she facilitates support groups for parents, adults and women with ADHD and is a catalyst toward growth and success.  Upon retirement, she developed a client-consulting specialty with late adolescents, young adults, and women with specific ADHD issues. Concerned about the lack of services and support for this population, she utilizes her teaching skills, to guide a discovery of strengths, supports uncovering weaknesses, and provides guidance to develop goals to improve life skills.

Nationally she has served on the AIGE, CHADD LDA Boards, and a member of IDA, CEC, ACO.  Locally she is involved with CHADD GA, LDA GA, Kids Enabled and a new service organization GOLD –GA Opportunities for Learning Differences.  Her passion is to make a change in individuals’ lives to facilitate a richer and fuller life.

Joan has been a long-time supporter of SOAR’s programs.  She has facilitated many trips to the Balsam Base for the Middle School Students from Lullwater School and has been able to experience the positive attitude shown toward the campers, the understanding of their needs both strong and fragile, and the quality staff that brings out the best in all of them.  This led her to select SOAR for her grandson for the mentoring provided, as that was really needed at that time in his life.  He still looks at SOAR as being one of his best experiences, and Joan sees this experience as having created a foundation for a now 16 year old, who knows what he wants and has the leadership power to make it happen.

LOGAN WALTERS

Board Member

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LOGAN WALTERS

Board Member

Logan Walters received his B.S. in Marketing in 2004, and Master’s in Business Administration (focusing on not for profit management) in 2006. He also completed his Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling in 2013.  All his coursework was with Western Carolina University. He earned most of his Masters’s degrees while working full time for SOAR, which he learned about in 2004 under the guidance of Dr. Ed Kesgen (past SOAR Board Chair).

Logan has worked in many capacities for SOAR, including field staff for Summer/ outdoor classrooms/Academy programs, course director/trainer/ activity director for FL summer programs (13 years), director of specialty/international programs, the director of the Academy (6 years), and for the past 4 years has served on SOAR’s Professional Advisory Board focusing on fundraising, the management of FL courses, and the use/maintenance of SOAR 24 foot Mako center console boat. While at SOAR full time, Logan was passionate regarding increasing SOAR’s connection/communication with our families, fundraising, restructuring the semester programs into the Academy, and creating student/staff management systems. Logan departed working full time for SOAR in 2012, to pursue private practice in counseling and mental health consulting.

Logan currently lives in St. Pete Florida and maintains a private practice counseling and mental health consulting firm “Life Adventures Counseling & Consulting”. He serves as the mental health advisor/ student management consultant/ member of the board of safety for Outward Bound Thompson Island, is the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of Aspire (a nonprofit that SOAR originally created and is now in 20 NC counties), is an adjunct instructor for Prescott College, and supports many local wilderness youth programs. Logan leads the training for SOAR’s Florida summer program and typically joins SOAR for some outdoor classrooms when the stars align.

His current certifications/licensures are:

LMHC- Licensed Mental Health Counselor in FL

NCC- National Certified Counselor

WFR- Wilderness 1st responder

Level 3 American Canoe Association Paddle Instructor

Red Cross Lifeguard and CPR

Leave No Trace Trainer

Conflict of Interest Policy

Purpose

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Conflict of Interest Policy

Purpose

The purpose of the conflict of interest policy is to protect SOAR, Inc.’s interest when it is contemplating entering into a transaction or arrangement that might benefit the private interest of an officer or director of the Organization or might result in a possible excess benefit transaction. This policy is intended to supplement but not replace any applicable state and federal laws governing conflicts of interest applicable to nonprofit and charitable organizations.

Definitions

Interested Person
Any director, principal officer, or member of a committee with governing board delegated powers, who has a direct or indirect financial interest, as defined below, is an interested person.

Financial Interest
A person has a financial interest if the person has, directly or indirectly, through business, investment, or family:

An ownership or investment interest in any entity with which the Organization has a transaction or arrangement,
A compensation arrangement with the Organization or with any entity or individual with which the Organization has a transaction or arrangement, or
A potential ownership or investment interest in, or compensation arrangement with, any entity or individual with which the Organization is negotiating a transaction or arrangement.
Compensation includes direct and indirect remuneration as well as gifts or favors that are not insubstantial.

A financial interest is not necessarily a conflict of interest. Under Section 3, Paragraph 2, a person who has a financial interest may have a conflict of interest only if the appropriate governing board or committee decides that a conflict of interest exists.

Procedures

Duty to Disclose
In connection with any actual or possible conflict of interest, an interested person must disclose the existence of the financial interest and be given the opportunity to disclose all material facts to the directors and members of committees with governing board delegated powers considering the proposed transaction or arrangement.

Determining Whether a Conflict of Interest Exists
After disclosure of the financial interest and all material facts, and after any discussion with the interested person, he/she shall leave the governing board or committee meeting while the determination of a conflict of interest is discussed and voted upon. The remaining board or committee members shall decide if a conflict of interest exists.

Procedures for Addressing the Conflict of Interest
a. An interested person may make a presentation at the governing board or committee meeting, but after the presentation, he/she shall leave the meeting during the discussion of, and the vote on, the transaction or arrangement involving the possible conflict of interest.
b. The chairperson of the governing board or committee shall, if appropriate, appoint a disinterested person or committee to investigate alternatives to the proposed transaction or arrangement.
c. After exercising due diligence, the governing board or committee shall determine whether the Organization can obtain with reasonable efforts a more advantageous transaction or arrangement from a person or entity that would not give rise to a conflict of interest.
d. If a more advantageous transaction or arrangement is not reasonably possible under circumstances not producing a conflict of interest, the governing board or committee shall determine by a majority vote of the disinterested directors whether the transaction or arrangement is in the Organization’s best interest, for its own benefit, and whether it is fair and reasonable. In conformity with the above determination, it shall make its decision as to whether to enter into the transaction or arrangement.
Violations of the Conflicts of Interest Policy
a. If the governing board or committee has reasonable cause to believe a member has failed to disclose actual or possible conflicts of interest, it shall inform the member of the basis for such belief and afford the member an opportunity to explain the alleged failure to disclose.
b. If, after hearing the member’s response and after making further investigation as warranted by the circumstances, the governing board or committee determines the member has failed to disclose an actual or possible conflict of interest, it shall take appropriate disciplinary and corrective action.
Records of Proceedings

The minutes of the governing board and all committees with board delegated powers shall contain:

a. The names of the persons who disclosed or otherwise were found to have a financial interest in connection with an actual or possible conflict of interest, the nature of the financial interest, any action taken to determine whether a conflict of interest was present, and the governing board’s or committee’s decision as to whether a conflict of interest in fact existed.
b. The names of the persons who were present for discussions and votes relating to the transaction or arrangement, the content of the discussion, including any alternatives to the proposed transaction or arrangement, and a record of any votes taken in connection with the proceedings.
Compensation

a. A voting member of the governing board who receives compensation, directly or indirectly, from the Organization for services is precluded from voting on matters pertaining to that member’s compensation.
b. A voting member of any committee whose jurisdiction includes compensation matters and who receives compensation, directly or indirectly, from the Organization for services is precluded from voting on matters pertaining to that member’s compensation.
c. No voting member of the governing board or any committee whose jurisdiction includes compensation matters and who receives compensation, directly or indirectly, from the Organization, either individually or collectively, is prohibited from providing information to any committee regarding compensation.
Annual Statements

Each director, principal officer and member of a committee with governing board delegated powers shall annually sign a statement which affirms such person:

a. Has received a copy of the conflicts of interest policy,
b. Has read and understands the policy,
c. Has agreed to comply with the policy, and
d. Understands the Organization is charitable and in order to maintain its federal tax exemption it must engage primarily in activities which accomplish one or more of its tax-exempt purposes.
Periodic Reviews

To ensure the Organization operates in a manner consistent with charitable purposes and does not engage in activities that could jeopardize its tax-exempt status, periodic reviews shall be conducted. The periodic reviews shall, at a minimum, include the following subjects:

a. Whether compensation arrangements and benefits are reasonable, based on competent survey information, and the result of arm’s length bargaining.
b. Whether partnerships, joint ventures, and arrangements with management organizations conform to the Organization’s written policies, are properly recorded, reflect reasonable investment or payments for goods and services, further charitable purposes and do not result in inurement, impermissible private benefit or in an excess benefit transaction.

SOAR Conflict of Interest Policy Statement

(Revised 12-1-08)

Purpose

Each private, nonprofit entity eligible to receive State funds is required to have a policy that addresses conflict of interest that may arise when members of its governing body or managing staff are involved in the disbursement of State funds; and requires the private, nonprofit entity to file with the agency that disburses State funds a notarized copy of its conflict of interest policy before any State funds can be disbursed to the entity. The policy shall address situations where any of these individuals may directly or indirectly benefit. The policy shall include actions to be taken by the entity or the individual, or both to avoid conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety.

Accordingly, no member or board member of the private, nonprofit entity may receive directly or indirectly, any funds received from the State of North Carolina, except for duly, authorized staff compensation and benefits, and reimbursement for expenses actually incurred in connection with the private, nonprofit entity’s business and in accordance with final approved grant agreements.

Policy

WHEREAS, SOAR, Inc. requires its Board of Directors and managing employees to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety in the disbursement of State funds;

THEREFORE, no member of the Board of Directors or staff members of said private, nonprofit entity shall participate in the solicitation, negotiation, formation, award, arbitration, modification, or settlement of any contract or grant funded in whole or in part by State funds or of any dispute arising under such contract or grant when the director or staff members stands to benefit, either directly or indirectly, from such grant or contract;

PROVIDED, no member of the Board of Directors or staff members shall be deemed to benefit directly or indirectly from any contract or grant funded in whole or in part by State funds if he/she receives only the salary or stipend due to him/her in the normal course of employment with, or service to, said private, nonprofit entity.

FURTHERMORE, said private, nonprofit entity has written conflict of interest policies and reporting procedures applicable to board members, staff members and volunteers who have any interest or any authority regarding the resources of the private, nonprofit entity. These policies have been communicated to board members, staff members and volunteers and full disclosure has been provided for any possible appearance of conflict of interest that may exist.

Conflict of Interest Checklist
The following serves to identify and document any personal interest staff members, officers, and members of the Board of Directors may have. This document is also to be used to disclose any transactions that may result in personal, financial, professional and/or political gain at the expense of SOAR, Inc. The statement requires all personal relationships that may inappropriately influence actions be disclosed. Relationships, be it personal, financial, professional and/or political are required to be disclosed to SOAR, Inc. Conflict means a conflict or the appearance of a conflict between the private interests and official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust. Persons in a position of trust include staff members or the Board.

Private, nonprofit entities shall make full disclosure by notice in writing to the full Governing Board/Council all conflicts of interest, if “yes” is answered to any of the following:

  1. A Board member is related to a staff member.
  2. A staff member in a supervisory capacity is related to another staff member whom he/she supervises.
  3. A staff member is related to another staff member.
  4. A board member or staff member has or may have personal, financial, professional, and/or political gain at the expense or benefit of the private, nonprofit entity (other than salary or stipends due in the normal course of employment.)
  5. There is a business entity in which a staff, board, or family member participates that may be viewed as having direct or indirect influence over the private, nonprofit entity’s business.
  6. A staff, board, or family member may be viewed as having direct or indirect financial gain from personal or business investments/interest in real property held by that staff, board, or family member.
  7. A staff or board member received honorarium or other compensation outside of the scope of employment / operations with the private, nonprofit entity that creates or appears to create bias.
  8. A staff or board member secured employment with a competitor or other similar private, nonprofit entity.
  9. Ongoing, paid consulting work outside of the staff member’s current employment or board member’s with your private, nonprofit entity exists.

If you have answered, “yes” to any of the aforementioned items you are required to provide details for any transaction that exists.
If this statement fails to list a transaction that may exist that is non-financial in nature, please attach details.
Details must include at least the name, and, address, or persons involved, and a description of the relationship and the transaction.

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