by: Anna LoPinto
“Good leaders must first become good servants”
Rober K. Greenleaf
Forty-five years. Four and a half decades. Nearly half a century.
That is the amount of time SOAR has served youth and young adults with ADHD/LD. It is a substantial accomplishment, achieved by a lifelong commitment to service, and a dedication to a greater purpose.
In celebration of this 45-year achievement, we will spend the next 5 months exploring the legacy of SOAR. A legacy that isn’t something of the past, but one that is constantly evolving and adapting to meet the needs of today’s ADHD/LD community.
The story of SOAR began in 1977 with two individuals who devoted their lives to fostering positive growth in people by focusing on their strengths, instead of their deficits. These two individuals were Jonathan and Wandajean Jones.
Here in his own words, founder Jonathan Jones shares the origins of SOAR (excerpt from 2007):
“SOAR began as a class project for a college graduate course. The assignment was to design an outdoor education program for a special population. My own learning disabilities prompted me to choose the LD and AD/HD population as the focus of the model program. My supervising professor, Dr. Vincent Cyphers, liked the proposal and noted on the grading sheet – ‘Do you have what it takes to make this work?’ Never one to back down from a healthy challenge, I began looking for an opportunity to develop SOAR.
That opportunity came from the Spring ACLD, a support group for children and adults with LD and AD/HD, and their interest in developing a teen outreach program. Over the course of the next thirty years, SOAR moved from infancy to adulthood and experienced all of the growing pains along the way. The challenges were many, but the rewards far greater still in both scope and number.
SOAR’s success has always been linked to three guiding principles:
1) Give students ownership of the experience
2) Create experiences that build on student interests and enthusiasms
3) Success is the most powerful of motivators.
I am convinced SOAR’s future success, as the success of youth with LD and AD/HD will remain linked to these guidelines.”
In addition to focusing on strengths instead of deficits, Jonathan also was aware of the power of the outdoors. That the wilderness can be a place for personal growth, development, and most importantly— fun! Through the decades programming has included incredible once-in-a-lifetime experiences. In SOAR’s infancy, a few of the 70s programs included:
- Gymnastics Program in Houston, TX
- Outdoor classroom on Galveston Island
- Weekend courses in the Texas Hill Country
- Expeditions to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP)
- Instruction in snow and ice techniques for expeditions
Our approach of focusing on strengths instead of deficits, along with incredible outdoor adventures, has been critical to ensuring the success of thousands of campers and students throughout our 45 years. The best part, we are just getting started!
Would you like to be a part an integral part of our mission? You have the ability to change the life of an ADHD/LD child. Please consider donating $45 for our 45 years. As a 501(C)(3) nonprofit, your donations will be used for our Scholarship Endowment Fund. We envision a day when any child with a learning or attention challenge will have an opportunity to experience these life-changing adventures. We thank you for your continued support and interest in SOAR! Next month, the 80s!
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