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Star Sleepers: GAP Year Expedition 4



January 30th, 2018. It’s my first day back from one of the most exciting expeditions that I’ve been on yet. My name is Gianluca, a participant of the SOAR Gap Year Program, and someone who is very interested in the outdoors and cannot help but listen to Lady Gaga while writing this. Everything about the outdoors amazes me, from the simplest things, like the smell you get when you walk through a pine forest, or the feeling of the sand from Zion National Park between you and your sleeping bag. I feel like the name “Star Sleepers” is a perfect name for this year’s Gap Year group, because at every opportunity that we get, we make the conscious decision to sleep under the stars. Nothing compares to seeing Orion’s Belt and the rest of the galaxy in the middle of a national park with only your teammates around you and it has an unbelievable effect. I love the idea of how small we really are in the universe. It really puts who I am as a person in perspective. Did you know that we have a very small percentage of star dust inside of us? It’s pretty cool if you think about it because we are made up of the same thing as everything else around us. We just came back from our 4th expedition totaling 13 days. If you think that planning a 2 week trip is easy, then you are wrong. It takes an incredible amount of dedication, time, energy and protein.


For our 4th expedition, we went to Arizona and visited plenty of beautiful places on the way including Utah, Nevada and the Colorado River. Our expedition started off with the long car rides to get to Salt Lake City where we spent the first few nights in BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) and we woke up to absolutely breathtaking (and below freezing) views. Next, we made the long trek to the border of Nevada and Arizona, specifically to the Hoover Dam, to begin our four day canoeing trip down the Colorado River in the Black Canyon. Not only was this one of the most beautiful things that I have been able to experience, but it was also a huge learning experience for me. I learned about so many different species of birds, different types of rocks, and about the Hoover Dam, how it was made, and how people lived back when it was first made. We canoed about 16 miles to Willow Beach. Along the way, we saw so many different hot springs, different types of wildlife, we even got to meet a new friend Roy, the rubber duck! : ) We brought him into caves and went on beautiful day hikes through canyons and beaches and to say we all, including Roy, had fun and learned a lot is an understatement.


After the 4 day excursion through the Black Canyon, we started heading towards Arizona. Along the way we saw many beautiful campgrounds, lakes, deserts, vegetation, and again, the wildlife. I have never seen so many cacti in my life! Once we were in Arizona, we headed towards Tucson to visit The University of Arizona, where the renowned SALT Program is located. Its a program that is dedicated specifically to people with Learning Disabilities. They provide so many amazing tools to help their student like free tutoring and essay assistance (they actually help you write them and they work with you to improve on your writing). We got a tour of the beautiful university. It is gigantic and has so many different types of people in the 43,000 student population. The people on the campus are friendly and helpful, and we even got to meet a previous Gap Year participant, Collin. A big thanks to Collin for giving us some well needed advice and some insight into how we can change and grow as individuals. After some yummy pizza and a spa day for Big Booty Judy, our well named 15 passenger van, we headed to Phoenix where we had an incredible tour of the ABC15 studio thanks to a friend of one of the participants, Koh. We got to see where they film the broadcast, and meet Stephanie, one of the News Anchors, who was super friendly and even had a past working with children with learning disabilities. And finally, to end that amazing night, we treated ourselves to amazing Mexican food at a place called “Rosita’s Place” which filled our bellies up with the yummiest (Mexican) food that I have ever had. That evening we slept in Phoenix and were able to feel the heat. When we were in Tucson, we had this amazing rock climbing experience at Barnum Rock. Personally, I am afraid of heights, so climbing was a challenge, but overcoming it felt amazing.


Once we finished in Phoenix, our journey back to good ol’ Dubois began. Going from the heat to the cold is not a fun experience, but it was still amazing (especially the views) and the campgrounds. Camping in tents is something that I think everyone should try because it is really fun and has a different feeling than a bed, and personally I sleep much better with the fresh air! But overall, the journey back home gave us some time to reflect on what we learned through this expedition. We had time to think about the hard work we had to put in and think about how we can use the experiences on expeditions in our lives at home. Some things that I learned from this expedition is to expect the unexpected. Even though we went to the desert, it was very cold and at times it even rained, which goes to show that you need to prepare for the worst, whether that’s very hot or very cold.

Our first week back on base has been an exciting one! We have a new participant, Derek, who has been able to make the transition to the Gap Year very smoothly, and has been the most helpful person I know. We are also going to be welcoming a new participant Sarah this weekend, which is another super exciting addition to the group!

There have been so many things happening around the Eagle View Ranch and I’m really excited to see what will happen in the next few weeks. For example, we will be going to Belize at the end of February and we are all very excited! We are back to volunteering on base and class starts next week! I recently started volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club and I am so excited to be working with children. I simply adore children and I think that they have a lot to learn from me and Koh (my volunteer buddy). There are so many more opportunities and experiences that are waiting to happen here at SOAR, and I cannot wait to share these experiences, along with other members here at the Gap Year, and hope that you found a little bit of interest while reading this, but yeah thanks for reading, until next time! Happy adventuring amici miei!



2017: A Year of Success!

A lot of amazing things happened at SOAR in 2017, and we are excited to share them with you!

1. We served 674 campers across all of our locations this summer. This is the most campers we have ever served! We are excited to hopefully exceed this number in 2018!


2. In 2017, over 50 campers received scholarships to attend, including two full scholarships! We know that there are so many more campers out there who need financial assistance, so we have exciting plans to help grow this number in the coming years.

3. In the Spring of 2017, six students graduated from the Academy at SOAR, making 2017 our largest graduating class! All of these students are currently pursuing higher education, and we couldn’t be more proud!


4. We launched a NEW camp video. Check it out!

5. The Academy at SOAR expanded with the purchase of an additional property on Balsam Base, Alumni Hall. This property provides additional living and multipurpose space for students and helps adjoin our current properties.

All of these successes would not be possible without you all! We are so appreciative of your support and commitment to SOAR. We wish you all a very happy holiday season and a prosperous new year!

Honoring our 2017 Five Year Alumni

We celebrate all of our campers and their accomplishments. One of the biggest accomplishment is becoming a 5 Year Alumni SOAR, and this summer we celebrated 9 campers who have been with us for 5 years! Becoming a 5 year alumni is a big deal at SOAR. On the first day of camp we acknowledge their accomplishments by adding their name to our SOAR totem pole. They are also recognized within their group at the first camp fire where they receive a special 5 year pendant. We have enjoyed each summer  spent with these campers and have loved watching them grow with every program they do!

These campers are:

Dylan Eaves

Ashley Johnson

Ashley Johnson

Mia Mann

Mia Man

Zhenia Michaux

Zhenia Michaux

Axel Orzano

Axel Orzano Plaque

Lucas Overstreet

Lucas Overstreet Plaque

Maguire Phegley

Maguire Phelgley

Aaron Simon

Aaron Simon

William Upchurch

William Upchurch


We want to say a big congratulations to all of our 5 year alumni; we cannot wait to have many more summers full of adventures with you!

We hope to have many more campers join our group of 5 year alumni next summer! Consider participating in one of our amazing specialty courses, designed with alumni in mind, to offer new and exciting adventures!

Specialty Courses

Florida SCUBA Openwater
California Surfing Adventure
Adirondack Adventure
NC Whitewater Intensive
Peru Spanish Immersion