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Big Things from 2016

Some big things happened at SOAR in 2016! We celebrated our 40th summer season, saw our highest enrollment (ever!), developed new scholarship opportunities, and began planning projects we’re excited to share with you in 2017! It is clear that the life changing experiences offered at SOAR are having a huge impact on the lives of youth and their families. We are so grateful to all of our campers, students, and gappers that motivate us each day. We are also grateful for their families who let us share their amazing children. And of course, we can’t forget the generous people who support SOAR on an ongoing basis. Your support keeps our mission alive!

Here are just a few highlights from this year. We can’t wait to see what adventures 2017 has in store!

  1. We Celebrated 40 Summers

    40th Anniversary Celebration

    Back in the summer of 1977, Jonathan and Wandajean Jones embarked on their first adventure with SOAR in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. With just a few kids on the course, it was the start of something much bigger. 40 years later, we celebrated with former campers, students, staff, and friends who have all been a part of SOAR’s growth over the years. In 2016, we also served more kids at camp than ever before! This was the best celebration of all. Here’s to 40 more!

  2. Launched 2 New Summer Courses

    Magens Bay, St. Thomas

    We are always looking for new adventures that we know our campers will enjoy. This year we launched two new courses–Caribbean Sailing/SCUBA Adventure & California Surfing Adventure! Both were a huge success and allowed campers to experience things they have never before. Both courses will carry over into the 2017 season and are great options for SOAR alumni looking to try something new and exciting!

  3. Expanded our Gap Year Program at Eagle View Ranch

    New Cabins in Wyoming

    In it’s 3rd year, the Gap Year at SOAR continues to grow. This year, with the help of generous donors, SOAR was able to secure the property adjacent to Eagle View Ranch in Wyoming. This purchase provides us with additional living space, allowing us to expand our Gap Year program in the future to accommodate more participants.

  4. Developed the Military Scholarship Fund


    SOAR has a rich military history and has always looked for ways to support military families. This year we made it official and launched the Military Scholarship Fund. This fund provides scholarship assistance to campers and students with immediate family who have served or are serving in the military. Our goal is to substantially grow this fund in 2017!

  5. Installed Fiber Optic Internet

    Students in Classroom

    If you have ever been to SOAR’s Balsam Base, it is tucked away on a mountainside. While the views are beautiful, the internet connection was not. With the help of generous donors, SOAR was able to upgrade to Fiber Optic Internet this past year. This not only makes the work of our administrative staff much easier (and faster), it drastically improves the learning environment for our students! Students are now able to work on assignments with less interruptions resulting in more progress throughout the school day!

Thank you for being a part of the work we’re doing here at SOAR. See you in 2017!


“Normal” Teenager or ADHD

“My teenager is driving me absolutely crazy!  Is what I’m seeing normal behavior or is something else going on?” As we travel the country each year hosting workshops and meeting families, this question is posed to us countless times.  As the mother of two teenagers, I can absolutely relate to the frustration that many parents feel with the behaviors they sometimes see from their kids.  And while it is common for teenagers to drive their parents a little nutty, what behaviors are within the range of “normal” for that age and what behaviors might indicate a deeper problem?

Undiagnosed & Driving Me Crazy!

If your child has never been diagnosed with ADHD or a learning disability but you have always suspected it, you may be onto something. According to the official diagnostic tools for ADHD, there are 18 different symptoms related to attentional, behavioral, social and organizational challenges:

If you read some of these and think “That’s my kid!”, you might want to follow up with some questions to ask yourself (and your physician or guidance counselor):

  • Does my kid get a little antsy in class or are they truly disruptive to the learning of other kids?
  • Does my kid occasionally forget to turn in assignments or do they have a litany of zeros due to “the dog ate my homework” syndrome?
  • Does my kid have a few solid friends or do other kids avoid them because of their antics?
  • Does my kid respond to my requests after only a couple of attempts or do they only respond when I’ve blown my top and scream at the top of my lungs?

If you find that your child is better represented by the latter half of each question, you might want to consult with your physician or school guidance counselor to determine if further testing might be in order.  And remember, you are not alone!  There are a multitude of resources that you can access with advice, ideas, and strategies to help you and your child improve how they function in the world.

Already Diagnosed & Driving Me Crazy!

The average age of ADHD diagnosis is 7 year olds. More severe cases may be diagnosed even earlier.  If your child was diagnosed at a young age and is presenting some new or unusual behavior, you may be wondering, “Is this the ADHD or do I just have a teenager on my hands?” Here are some common areas that most teenagers struggle with at times, but could also mean that your child could benefit from additional support.

  • Executive Functioning: We all struggle to get things done sometimes. For kids with ADHD, it can be even harder. Does your child often have grand ideas but can’t seem to organize their thoughts let along take the steps to execute the idea? If this is a common area where your child struggles, a new approach to school projects, homework assignments, chores, etc. may be beneficial. The National Center for Learning Disabilities recommends these steps to help your child with goal-directed tasks:
    • Prevent overload
      • Provide structure and support new learning
      • Observe for symptoms of overload and ensure downtime
      • Minimize and preview changes in educational environment
    • Keep work periods brief and provide frequent breaks
    • Allow extended time for assignments and tests
    • Keep oral directions brief or accompany them with a visual reminder, such as a checklist

Be sure to discuss these with your child’s teacher to help provide understanding for some of the challenges they may be going on in the classroom and to gain support for your child’s learning needs.

  • Self-Regulation: As kids get older, they begin to pay more attention to the world around them and alter their behavior based on where they are and what is happening. This skill is more difficult to master for most kids with ADHD, so inappropriate behaviors are more likely to happen. Here are some tips to help improve self-regulation at school and at home.
    • Keep your daily schedule in a visible place at home, and cross things off as they are completed. This helps everyone feel in control of their day and stay aware of any changes.
    • Structure & Responsibility! When you deviate from routine and structure, you are opening up doors for impulsive behaviors. They are going to happen, but giving your child specific responsibilities helps hold them accountable and helps them stay focused on being self-controlled.
    • Use natural and logical consequences. If your child does behave inappropriately, always use a natural or logical consequence to help them better learn for the future. It’s kind of like the old, “If you keep slamming that door, I’ll take it off the hinges” rule. A more likely example might be, if your child continues to put down their siblings, each time will require three “put ups”.
  • Poor Self-Confidence: It’s normal for teenagers to feel low at times as they are growing and forming their own identities. However, in the long-term, low self-confidence can negatively impact so many areas of your child’s life—academics, peer relationships, family relationships, and more. It’s important to help your child see their strengths as soon as you begin to their confidence sliding. Here are some ways to instill confidence in your child.
    • Encourage your child to develop an expertise in an area where they already have interest such as photography, computer programming, music, etc.
    • Always distinguish between your disapproval for your child’s action and your love for them. As a parent, you will have to discipline your child at times, but kids can often confuse these two aspects, especially when their desire is to please you.
    • Praise your child’s efforts just as much as the end product. The steps toward the goal are often the hardest, so be sure to praise these efforts equally!
    • Always highlight your child’s successes!

No matter which situation you find yourself in, there are resources available. The first step is evaluating your child’s most immediate needs and advocating for those. Understand that as a teenager, there will be times when your child is simply just driving you crazy, but sometimes it may be a deeper issue that needs to be addressed. As an organization that was built around the needs of youth with attention and learning issues, we are here to help!

Why Kids Need the Outdoors

Experts have long been asking the question…Do kids need the outdoors? Just like they need sleep, meals, education etc.? Our experience with outdoor adventure programs paired with other research and experience suggests that YES, yes they do! Spending time outdoors is believed to help build self-confidence, increase self-awareness, and improve interpersonal skills. It can also help reduce anxiety, stress, and aggression.

More and more, the daily activities and routines that make up children’s’ lives are happening indoors. Because our lives as adults are the same way, parents are reinforcing this way of life without realizing it. When given the choice, many kids will choose to stay indoors watching television, playing video games, or some other activity. In his well-known book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv gives this trend a name: Nature Deficit Disorder. While there are increased concerns in the parenting and child development community on the long-term impact of “screen time” on a child’s development, we should also be concerned about the immediate impact that growing up indoors has on social skills, self-confidence, and life skills that kids need to live emotionally healthy lives.

Many parents are turning to summer camp to combat nature deficits in their child’s life. Summer camp has long conjured up memories of cabin mates, lake swimming, arts & crafts, and camp fires, but for some kids who prefer to stay indoors, summer camp almost seems like punishment. Many of our campers here at SOAR struggle to make friends, often feel like outsiders at school, and would choose computer games over hiking any day. The idea of spending two weeks camping and living outside can be intimidating. However, it can also be life changing when given the chance.

The effects of a long-term outdoor experience, like summer camp, can resonate in multiple areas of children’s lives. So why do kids need the outdoors?

Social Skills

Any outdoor experience focused on kids is going to involve other kids! Whether it is summer camp, boy or girl scouts, a sports team, or a school sponsored trip, getting kids outdoors together can have a big impact on the way they interact with one another. Unlike school, the outdoors provides an environment that is naturally engaging and offers new experiences for many kids. As a group, they will be confronted with challenges that have to be addressed through communication, flexibility, and teamwork, helping build interpersonal skills that typically do not come easy for kids who are struggling socially. Completing challenging activities such as backpacking 20+ miles, rock climbing, or rafting class III & IV rapids also has a huge impact on confidence and the way kids see themselves. Realizing strengths and conquering fears gives kids a chance to rally around each other and not only begin to see themselves differently but begin to see each other differently. With this newfound confidence, stepping out of their social comfort zone becomes less intimidating.


Self-confidence is one of the biggest and most immediate impacts of being outdoors. In addition to helping kids feel comfortable to be themselves and pursue friendships, the confidence that comes with being outdoors improves self-image and can impact behavior at home and at school. Before each camper begins their experience at SOAR, we ask parents to describe their child’s level of self-confidence. We then ask the same question after their child has been home for about two weeks, and nearly 66% of parents indicate that they have seen an increase in their child’s self-confidence. When kids are placed in an outdoor environment, away from the comforts and routines available at home, they are challenged physically and emotionally. Naturally they begin to grow in areas such as independence, self-reliance, problem solving, teamwork, and so much more. Growth in these areas results in increased self-confidence, giving kids the push they need to persevere and reach their academic, social, and emotional goals.

Mental Refresh

Being outdoors has many therapeutic qualities. This is why we vacation by the ocean, roll our windows down on the way home, and prefer a big, green backyard. Nature and fresh air feels good! It lifts our spirits and leaves us feeling mentally refreshed. With the growing stress of being kid, especially a kid with learning and attention issues, hitting the refresh button is crucial to limiting behavioral and emotionally setbacks. An outdoor experience allows kids to unplug—from technology and life—and just be a kid! They get to try new activities, realize new strengths, appreciate home, and learn more about themselves in a non-threatening environment. The Attention Restoration Theory (ART) developed by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in the 1980s explains that our daily environments, such as work or school, require direct focus and force us to try and ignore distractions. Sounds exhausting right? Imagine if you are a 6th grader with learning and attention issues. Really exhausting! ART suggests that natural environments do the opposite. They require indirect focus, which actually helps to restore attention, allowing us to focus better when we return to our normal lives.

Kids need the outdoors! Make a conscious effort to spend more time outside with your child. Here are 12 Ideas for Getting Kids into Nature from Also start thinking about your plans for next summer! A longer outdoor experience may be just what your child needs to begin reaching their goals.

Have a reluctant camper? Camp is fun! It is a wonderful opportunity to experience nature and learn more about yourself. Of course, parents know that! If you are having a hard time convincing your child, let us know! We’d be happy to answer their questions and explain more about the amazing adventures that SOAR has to offer.