MEET OUR STAFF
SORT OUR STAFF BY PROGRAM:
Click on a member of our team to read their bio.
JOHN WILLSON, m.s., lrt/ctrs
Executive DirectorE-mail Me »
- Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
- Boulder University, Experiential
Education and Outdoor Leadership
- Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration
John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with LD and AD/HD. 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 lead 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 the immediate Past President of the LDA of NC, and a 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, Therapuetic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard Instructor, CPR Instructor, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothie are the proud parents of two magnificent, creative, and strong willed children.
Director of OperationsE-mail Me »
- Southern Illinois University, M.S. Education
- Appalachian State University, B.S. Outdoor Recreation
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Business Management
Laura Pate joined SOAR in the summer of 1998. As Director of Operations, Laura hires, trains, and supervises SOAR’s Instructor staff. In addition, Laura oversees the development of summer courses in North Carolina as well as SOAR’s risk management and accreditation programs. Laura has been a certified National Standard Course Instructor for the Wilderness Education Association and is a certified Wilderness First Responder and Lifeguard.
Since the late 1980’s, Laura and her husband Joe have worked for a variety of nationally recognized programs and spent a great deal of time traveling and pursuing outdoor interests such as: rock climbing, caving, mountain biking, and skiing. They have two children, named Cassidy and Dylan, who also love outdoor adventures. She and her family raise alpacas and enjoy seeing live music of all types.
CFO/ComptrollerE-mail Me »
- Appalachian State University, B.S. Environmental Biology
Catey began working for SOAR in 2005 as a Wilderness Field Staff. Since that time, she has worked as the Office Manager, Finance Assistant, and Director of the Administrative Team. She also works as a member of the Marketing Team. In 2012 she began her role as Chief Financial Officer.
Catey, a Tennessee native, moved to the North Carolina in the fall of 2000 and found her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She enjoys a variety of outdoor activities, including gardening, hiking, trail running, and canoeing. She has a love of nature, and a strong commitment to conservation. She is currently serving on an advisory board for Conservation Trust of North Carolina. Her previous adventures includes working for Great Smoky Mountain National Park as an SCA Fisheries Intern, and backpacking a 400-mile section of the Appalachian Trail with her husband, who also works for SOAR. Together, Catey and Jon, enjoy music, traveling, and their newest adventure, parenting their two children. Her certifications include CPR, Wilderness First Aid and PADI Open Water Diver.
Director of Academy at SOARE-mail Me »
- Indiana University of Pennsylvania, B.A. / B.S Program in Anthropology and History Education
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.
Admissions DirectorE-mail Me »
- Appalachian State University, M.A. Special Education, LD & ADHD (and other conditions impacting successful learning and daily life pursuits)
- B.S. in Special Education and Learning Disabilities with a minor in Psychology,
- Master’s level certification as a Reading Specialist
Lynne returned to school after being a stay-at-home mother, and later a real estate broker in her hometown of Elkin, NC. Her first professional role was with SOAR in 1996, where she worked as a summer Language Arts teacher. That early experience supported her certainty that she was in the right field.
After her work with SOAR, Lynne began work with the Learning Center at West Virginia Wesleyan College as a Learning Disabilities Specialist. She left WVWC in 2000 to live in Saskatchewan, Canada where she helped open a center for LDA-SK in the city of Prince Albert. She also helped start an academic success program at the First Nations University of Canada. In 2005, she returned to the Learning Center at WVWC where she served in multiple roles until returning to SOAR as the Director of Admissions in fall of 2013.
Lynne enjoys her three daughters, all currently living in NC. She likes gardening, reading, music, being outdoors (including hiking, biking, and exploring the land and culture around her), and learning & experiencing new things.
Director of Eagle View RanchE-mail Me »
In 2005, after traveling the globe working for several organizations in youth programming, Jeremy landed at Eagle View Ranch. He has worn numerous hats and titles for SOAR throughout the years with both the summer camp program and the Academy at SOAR. Most recently, Jeremy has developed the GAP year program for post-graduates. He is as compassionate for SOAR students as he is knowledgeable of the outdoors. They are two of the primary passions in his life and he is grateful for the chance to combine them each day. Jeremy has the marvelous ability to see only the best in people and gently guide others to see the same in themselves.
Jeremy and his family are happy the frontier lifestyle in Dubois, Wyoming.
GAP Year at SOAR Program DirectorE-mail Me »
- Indiana University – Bloomington, B.S., Human Development and Family Studies
- Portland State University – Oregon, M.S.W., Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Nicole began working for SOAR in 2009 as a Southern California Field Staff. She continued to work in a variety of roles from Activity Specialist in Wyoming, to California Course Director, and in North Carolina for the Academy at SOAR. In 2011 Nicole worked for a residential treatment program for adjudicated teens. From 2012-2014 Nicole went back to school to receive her master’s degree in Social Work. She moved back to her native land of Indiana to work for Community Health Network as a School Based Therapist. In this position she completed her clinical license while serving inner city youth and their families.
After her own personal Gateway Adventure Program in South East Asia, Nicole was presented with an opportunity to combine her two loves of the outdoors and serving others back at SOAR as the GAP Year Director. She is excited to live into her passions: climbing, building community, and adventuring through the wild landscapes of the beautiful west. On her off time expect to find Nicole on a rock in a new location somewhere around the world, working on learning something new, or spending time with her godson and large extended family.
Dean of Academics & Student AffairsE-mail Me »
- University of Central Florida, M.A. in School Counseling & Play Therapy Certificate
- University of South Florida, B.A. Psychology
From a young age, Julie was passionate about learning and helping others. These passions led her to the field of education. While pursuing her bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Julie worked with at-risk youth in public schools throughout the Tampa and Orlando metropolitan areas. As a Professional School Counselor at a 3,000 student high school, Julie worked extensively with students, parents and teachers as they developed and revised Individualized Educational Plans and 504 Plans. Creating and implementing the strategies that would best help each individual student succeed was a puzzle that Julie loved to solve. As the Dean of Students and Academic Affairs, she strategizes with the Academic and Holistic teams to help each of our students reach their goals.
During her graduate course work, Julie focused her research on adventure based counseling and students with special needs. Her belief in the educational and therapeutic power of adventure activities and the desire to help youth experience growth brought her to SOAR. She came to SOAR in the summer of 2008 as an Outdoor Trip Leader. After spending two summers with the amazing campers of SOAR, Julie decided to leave the public school system to join the Academy at SOAR team.
Julie is a licensed school counselor for the state of North Carolina and is certified in Advanced Wilderness First Aid, Lifeguarding, and CPR/AED for Lifeguards. She loves running and recently completed her 1st marathon. Her favorite adventure activities are whitewater rafting, challenge courses and canoeing.
Director of Logistics and Physical PlantE-mail Me »
- Appalachian State University, B.S. Recreation Management
Jon was first introduced to the outdoor industry working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. He then went on to work in various outdoor jobs while completing his degree. Jon joined SOAR in the summer of 2004 working at Eagle View Ranch and quickly found that he identified with SOAR’s mission. After a time hiking on the Appalachian Trail, he and Catey worked a summer at SOAR in North Carolina, and were hired full-time in the fall of 2005 as the Director of Community Based Programs. He left for a short time to work in the alternative school of the local school system, where he gained extensive experience with behavior management and creative strategies enabling youth to reach their full potential. Jon returned to SOAR in 2013, taking on the Director of Logistics and Outdoor Classrooms position. He enjoys all aspects of being in nature; especially being on the rivers in any capacity. He is married to Catey Terry and is excited about raising their son in the family environment of SOAR.
East/West House SupervisorE-mail Me »
- Georgia College and State University, B.S. Psychology
Jessi grew up on Lake Lanier, just north of Atlanta, GA. She spent her childhood exploring the Appalachian Mountains to the north and traveling the country with her family whenever breaks in school allowed. The experiences gained through these travels led her down a lifelong journey to pursue every beautiful corner of the United States and beyond! While running cross country in high school, Jessi attended a running camp at UNC Asheville and knew she would one day make this beautiful region her home. Jessi attended Georgia College and State University where she participated in many outdoor education classes and graduated with a degree in psychology. Jessi came to SOAR in the summer of 2015 from Blue Ridge Outdoor Education, where she spent the previous 5 years and held several positions, from instructor to Director.
Jessi, her husband Brice, and their two furry roommates Jack and Pete now enjoy spending their free time exploring the Asheville area and the awesomely diverse surrounding terrain!
North/South House SupervisorE-mail Me »
- Georgia Southern University, B.S. Outdoor Recreation Management
Jeffrey originally hails from Marietta, Georgia just north of Atlanta. He grew up very curious about the outdoors, always playing in the woods behind his house and building forts. As he got older his curiosities took him from the woods behind his house to spontaneous outdoor trips with friends and family. After his senior year of high school Jeffrey and four of his friends planned a kayaking trip down the Flynt River in western Georgia. The freedom of this expedition opened his eyes to the endless possibilities of nature. While attending school at Georgia Southern, Jeffrey studied Outdoor Recreation Management which gave him opportunities to learn through experiential education. After graduation Jeffrey took a job with SOAR in 2014 as one of the backpacking summer staff. He immediately fell in love with the mountains and teaching children about them. After summer Jeffrey stayed with SOAR and became a field instructor at the Academy at SOAR, gaining great experiences traveling the States and even out of the country. The following summer Jeffrey returned as the NC Backpacking Course Director. Jeffrey returns to the Academy at SOAR as the North and South House Supervisor where he hopes to help the young women and men attending learn life skills and find their own love for the outdoors.
Jeffrey is certified in Wilderness first aid, CPR/AED, Lifeguarding. He loves white water kayaking and has recently gotten into the sport of bouldering
Lead Campus Instructor
Luke was raised in the metro Atlanta area. Growing up he was constantly in the outdoors, camping, backpacking, paddling, skiing, and mountain biking. At the age of 11 Luke experienced his first backpacking trip. After 2 nights and 3 days in the wilderness with limited supplies he learned to love the life of an outdoorsman. With his love for the outdoors also brought a passion for sports and being constantly active. Luke excelled in rugby, in high school and after high school. He was invited to New Zealand to play for a men’s league team and a semi pro team in North Otago. While Luke was overseas he also worked at a boarding school, St. Kevin’s College in Oamaru NZ, and discovered a new passion in working with youth. After returning from New Zealand Luke attended Georgia Southern University, where he studied Construction Management. He then worked in many different construction trades until he was hired at SOAR in the summer of 2015 as the Assistant Logistics Manager and now a part of the Academy at SOAR field team.
Marketing DirectorE-mail Me »
- UNC Asheville, B.A. Mass Communication
Sidney joined SOAR in the fall of 2014 with the goal of reaching more families in need of the impactful adventures SOAR has to offer. After graduating from college, Sidney began working but found that her work lacked the meaning and purpose she had always hoped for. Then she found SOAR. As the Marketing Director, Sidney’s primary role is to find new and creative ways to reach new families and bring value to their every day life.
Sidney also serves on the volunteer committee for the Haywood County Special Olympics.
Both she and her husband grew up in the western North Carolina area and now call Weaverville, NC their home. They enjoy spending time outdoors, eating at Asheville’s many wonderful restaurants, and spending time with friends & family.
Assistant Director of NC ProgramsE-mail Me »
- Michigan State University, B.S. Human Development and Family Studies
Raised in the belief of “it takes a village” Andrea grew up around a large family in Michigan. Her love for the outdoors blossomed through high adrenaline sports including: racing dirt bikes and snowmobiles, hiking and hunting, and soccer. She also developed a great interest in children by starting a day care with her cousin and volunteering at an equine therapy center and a respite home for families and children with disabilities in Lansing. Her passion led her to pursue a degree that would allow her to continue working with children.
After graduating, Andrea traveled south to complete her internship at SOAR, where she fell in love with the mountains. Andrea has filled many positions at SOAR including Academy field staff, summer course director and logistics assistant. In the fall of 2013, Andrea joined the full time team as the Registrar. She holds certifications in WFA, First Aid and CPR for the Health Professional, Lifeguarding, and a CNA.
Director of DevelopmentE-mail Me »
- University of Houston, B.A. Communications
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.”
Academy at SOAR, Language Arts, College and Career Prep, and Outdoor Leadership TeacherE-mail Me »
- Ohio State University, M.A. and doctoral studies in Latin American Literature, Culture and Semiotics
- B.A. Spanish
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.
Academy at SOAR, Math & Science TeacherE-mail Me »
- University of Nebraska-Kearney, currently enrolled in the distance education program for a MS in Biology
- Hamline University, Master’s Certificate in Environmental Education
- Carleton College, B.A. in Biology
Melissa grew up in the country in southeastern Michigan, where she developed a great love of animals and the outdoors. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Biology at Carleton College, a private liberal arts college that stressed the process of learning itself rather than the memorization of information (although she had to do a lot of memorization, too!). While at Carleton College she conducted research in Costa Rica on the relationship between male Euglossine bees and the orchids that they pollinate. After college she did a wildlife rehabilitation internship in northern Wisconsin where she bottle fed baby squirrels, chased injured bald eagles down the road, and raised black bear cubs. She then completed an environmental education internship at the Audubon Center of the North Woods in Minnesota, where she discovered her passion for informal education. She and her husband moved to Asheville in 2005, where Melissa worked as a Science and Health Educator and the Animal Curator at The Health Adventure, a science museum, until 2013. She then worked in the Science Curriculum Department at Buncombe County Schools until joining the Academy at SOAR in fall 2014.
Academy at SOAR, History & P.E. TeacherE-mail Me »
- Ohio University, B.S. in Secondary Social Studies Education
Natural beauty wasn’t at a distant reach growing up in the Ohio river valley. As a young child, Dave would discover that evenings spent out on the bike trails were as essential to him as a warm meal and a place to lay his head at night. He was born with an inherent love for the outdoors but it was during his early college years that he became enthralled with mountains and the culture and hub’s that surround them. He shifted his interests towards mountain sports and reading from authors intensely moved by the mountainous landscapes. It was also during this period where he developed an interest in cultures from around the world leading him to working on projects in sub-Sahara Africa. After his work with the organization he would go on to focus his efforts on alternative forms of education. This has landed him various positions such as working with both young adults and adults with developmental disabilities, coaching a distance running team, and working with troubled youth in after-school programs. Dave’s passion for learning and interacting with the natural world led him to The Academy at SOAR where he hopes to create an exciting learning experience for the diverse group of students for which The Academy at SOAR is known.
Founder, Director EmeritusE-mail Me »
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.
Director EmeritusE-mail Me »
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.
Academy Field Instructor
Gabe is a recent graduate of Radford University with a degree in Outdoor Recreation and Leadership. While there he also spent his time working with high and low ropes courses, as well as hiking and doing river trips. In addition to this he spent time working as a swim instructor for children with learning disabilities. Gabe loves sports and continues to play them in his free time, he loves being active whether it’s working out in the weight room or going out on a backpacking trip. Ideally his free time is spent out learning or practicing a new skill or activity.
Academy Field Instructor
Chelsea is a 2016 graduate from Appalachian State University with a degree in Recreation Management concentrating in Outdoor Experiential Education. Having the opportunity to work in a variety of recreation based positions over the course of the past few years, she has found that working with youth is something she values immensely. She has worked with SOAR in the past, and says that her experience solidified her love and appreciation for this organization and the important work we do. As an Instructor Chelsea likes to bring a sense of adventure with the excitement for the opportunities in life, especially when it comes to travel and learning through doing. On her own time she loves to read, hike, backpack her surrounding areas, and practice yoga. She says she is most content in an outdoor setting, and is always excited to share her love for the great outdoors with those around her.
GAP Year Instructor
Devin has been part of the SOAR staff for many years working summer camps in North Carolina, Florida, and Wyoming. He received his degree in Outdoor Education Specialty, concentrating in Adventure Wilderness Leadership from Johnson State College in Vermont. While in Vermont he was an Arbortrek Zip Line Guide and he has also traveled to Hawaii where he was a surf coach. After working in Wyoming this summer Devin decided to join our GAP Year team and states that his current philosophy is to foster a community of young people that grow and challenge each other to become better community members, and humans in general, through the trans-formative powers of the outdoors.
Academy Field Instructor
Sloan has a great love of the outdoors having lived in North Carolina exploring its mountains and beaches her whole life. She further developed this appreciation as a girl scout going on camping trips and later working at scout camp as a photojournalist and counselor. Her love of children while working at SOAR as a backpacking instructor and the opportunities for self empowerment and personal growth during the summer led her to the Academy at SOAR where she can pass this joy and knowledge on to others.
Academy Campus Instructor
David is originally from Pittsburgh, PA and attended school at Slippery Rock University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. He has worked at several adventure camps, including SOAR, where he was an instructor for Academic Discovery. He also has experience working at Disney World in many positions such as lifeguard and attractions host, and was a rescue guide at a high ropes course. He is very passionate about the outdoors and enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, ropes courses, team building, kayaking, rafting, running, hiking, and much more.
JACQUELINE ‘JACQUIE’ HERRARA
GAP Year Instructor
Jacquie received her B.S. in Recreation Management and Policy, concentrating in Therapeutic Recreation, from the University of New Hampshire. She grew up in a small town in the White Mountains Region of New Hampshire, where she was immersed from an early age in the great outdoors. Her passions for sports and outdoor activities includes ALL water activities, rock climbing, skiing, and soccer to name a few, and she loves to share these interests with those around her. Jacquie began her experience with SOAR in the Smoky Mountains at the North Carolina base, and immediately fell in love with the beautiful area, and the supportive and empowering culture that SOAR embodies. After spending two summers with SOAR as a field staff and two years with the Academy, she continued to explore more of what SOAR has to offer. She has now course directed in the west’s summer programs in both California and Wyoming, and couldn’t be more excited to work with the GAP Year participants. Being a part of such an amazing self-growth process and helping to foster independence and a multitude of skills is what keeps her coming back! Jacquie continues to enjoy the outdoors in her spare time, and is equally passionate in music and traveling.
Academy Field Instructor
Mira joined SOAR in the fall of 2016 as an intern completing her degree in Outdoor Recreation/Recreation Therapy from Radford University. Once her internship was complete she just didn’t want to leave. Mira grew up in a rural area of Virginia surrounded by the outdoors, unconsciously developing a deep seeded respect and admiration for nature. Realizing how the natural world shaped her inspired Mira to pursue the idea of helping others do the same. Mira is excited to help students learn, push comfort zones, develop a positive self-image, and realize the capabilities they never knew they had!
GAP Year Instructor
As a Northern Minnesota native, Haley has spent the majority of her life exploring the outdoors through backcountry backpacking in the Superior National Forest, canoeing the lakes of the BWCA and climbing the cliffs of Lake Superior. She developed an interest in experiential education after working for the Adventure Learning Programs at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and graduated with a degree in Biology and Global Health in the fall of 2013. After exploring a few careers in the corporate health industry, Haley set off on an adventure of a lifetime, backpacking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal in order to pay homage to her love of the outdoors. Upon returning to the states she found her niche as the Adventure Trip Director for a Summer Camp in Eastern Iowa where she thrived in the Wilderness Education program and adventure trip leadership. The thirst for mountains and a passion to make a difference in today’s youth pulled Haley to join the SOAR team for the 2017 GAP Year Program.
Academy Campus Instructor
Loren is a graduate from Georgia College’s Outdoor Education program. She is passionate about being outdoors whether she is playing sports, engaging in various outdoor activities, or just relaxing. These passions drive her everyday to become a better outdoors woman. She has done many different outdoor activities, but her favorite is backpacking! She says she likes this activity most because it allows for more beauty to be experienced and is humbling knowing people can live off of so little! In Loren’s free time, she loves to play ultimate frisbee, try new food, read, and travel!
Academy Field Instructor
Ian has spent his entire life learning and playing in the outdoors. As a local to Asheville, he has fueled his fascination with the outdoors by camping, mountain biking, backpacking, canoeing, and kayaking. Ian grew up playing baseball and participating in the Boy Scouts. He earned his Eagle Scout as a result of hard work and commitment. He first came to SOAR in the summer of 2015 as a backpacking staff for the Summer Camp at SOAR. Ian took a position with the Academy following the summer season, and spent the next year teaching students outdoor skills and academics in beautiful places across the country. He returned as the NC Expedition Course Director for the 2016 summer season facilitating many activities including caving and whitewater rafting. Ian is very excited to return to the Academy as an Instructor helping his students grow both academically and holistically. He wants to continue sharing his passion for the outdoors, and show how an outdoor setting is the best possible classroom for the students to grow and thrive.
MICHAEL ‘PATCHES’ MORGAN
Academy Field Instructor
Michael, otherwise known as “Patches”, is originally from Marietta, GA where his love for the outdoors began. Patches attended Georgia Southern University and graduated with a degree in Outdoor Recreation Management. Patches has been with SOAR as a summer camp course director and a field instructor with the Academy at SOAR. Patches is a valuable member of the Academy at SOAR team for his ability to build one on one relationships and find unique strategies to benefit each individual student. Patches enjoys hiking and is always up for a game of badminton or Frisbee!
Academy Field Instructor
Shiloh grew up in a rural town in central Massachusetts where her interests included exploring trails, skiing down the mountains, and running cross-country. Her first working position was at a children’s discovery farm, where she became passionate about sharing knowledge with curious students. After graduating from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in therapeutic recreation, her journey led her down to SOAR. After working one summer as an outdoor trip leader for SOAR’s Horseback Riding course, her interest blossomed. She wanted to continue empowering young individuals to excel in personal growth, which offered her the opportunity to become an instructor at the Academy at SOAR.
Academy Field Instructor
Ella is a 2016 graduate from Knox College where she majored in Psychology and minored in Studio Art. She loves mountains and all bodies of water, especially the ocean. Ella likes swimming, surfing, climbing, running, painting, photography and drawing. She loves working with kids and teens in the outdoors because she believes adventure based challenges facilitate the most growth. Ella is returning to the Academy for a second year because she feels that the growth and changes she witnessed in her students has been the most rewarding experience in her life and she can’t wait to be a part of that again.
Academy Campus Instructor
Mark is a recent graduate of Western Carolina University where he studied Geology and Parks and Recreation Management. This summer Mark joined SOAR and worked with the California Coastal and California Expedition camps. He enjoys hiking, skiing, and rock climbing.
Academy Campus Instructor
Stephen joined SOAR this summer as a NC Backpacking instructor where he was able to challenge himself and those around him. In the past he has worked for other non profits, including a youth homeless shelter in Denver. He loves playing the guitar, learning, reading, writing, playing games, and being outdoors. He wants each child he works with to have fun and to excel in finding their unique strengths.
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 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 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 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.
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 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.