SOAR’s Secondary School – Academy at SOAR

by Andrea Wackerle

By: Lynne Neaves- Admissions Director

For forty plus years SOAR has provided summer camp experiences for young campers who have been diagnosed with ADHD and/or learning disabilities. Not only is it a long-running program, it is also one of the largest of its type in the country. Some people do not realize that SOAR also has a secondary school program, the Academy at SOAR,  based in Balsam, NC, and serves similar student profiles as the camp serves campers.

The private boarding school has a capacity of 32 students, is co-educational, and runs for a typical school year beginning in early September and finishing up early May. The model of teaching and learning is an experiential, hands-on, project-based one and allows for strong consideration of each student’s individual learning style.

The student body is divided into four groups that are named according to the meridian points, North, South, East, and West Houses. Each House operates much like a family with two adults (one male and one female),  titled either Campus Instructors or Expedition Instructors, with the group at all times. The school year consists of four expeditions or adventure-based trips each semester. Two of the Houses travel together and the other two remain on campus with typical school schedules. The transitions between “on campus” and “on expedition” occur approximately every two weeks.

The learning continues on the expeditions as the teachers and instructors work together to meld the curriculum that’s happening in the classroom to the various trips. The students have 4-5 hours of class work to complete while under the supervision of the Instructors on the days of expedition and that work is returned to the teachers for review. The travel to different locations provides opportunities for exploration of the different areas and participation in various exciting and challenging activities with both resulting in more learning.

Providing a positive experience within a structured program, along with maintaining a low ratio of campers and students to professional staff, are mainstays of the programming at SOAR. The Academy at SOAR takes pride in continuing with these endeavors to provide an optimal environment and culture for the students who are enrolled in the school.