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Excitement about the Academy year at SOAR

Academy StudentHey everybody! As summer comes to a close and all our campers head back home, we want to remind you all that the fun doesn’t have to end! The Academy at SOAR has a few spots left, and we are still accepting registration for the fall semester here in beautiful North Carolina. We are so excited about this coming year!

The Academy at SOAR is a fully accredited boarding school for kids with AD/HD and Learning Difficulties. We offer a full range of education from mathematics to history, and from science to english. And the best part is that it’s an outdoors based program with expeditions to incredible locations like the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone National Park, Florida, Costa Rica and more!

With an incredible 1:4 staff ratio, who are really great with the kids, we offer an individuated education for each student. This means that each person enrolled in the Academy will have access to education that’s tailored to them and their high school course requirements. Yes that’s right, we allow students to graduate from high school here! What better place than a life-skills oriented, confidence building program that provides great education and adventures?!

Academy at SOAR

Machu PicchuMachu Picchu with LlamaThrough two summers in our Spanish immersion course to Peru, kids can knock out those pesky foreign language credits, learn real Spanish and have an amazing time! The course includes trips to the Galapagos Islands, Machu Picchu incredible beaches, foreign food markets, mountains, deserts and jungles; the culture is rich and the people there are incredibly kind and peaceful!

As you can see, a school year at SOAR is something to get Peru LlamasPeru Boating Adventureexcited about! Help managing AD/HD and LD, building confidence, learning organization, incredible outdoor adventures, and individuated learning makes SOAR a great choice. You can find out more by contacting Lynne Neaves at 828-456-3435 or by visiting our Academy page. And new this year, we now have financial aid options available! Whatever you choose to do, have a great year!

Here is a video introduction of the Academy by SOAR Director John Willson:

Reflections on Base Maintenance

Catey PaintingIn late April, the SOAR Team at the Balsam Base in North Carolina had our annual Base Maintenance Day. Our Executive Director, as well as other leaders of the SOAR program, work from this location, and participate fully in maintaining and keeping our site beautiful. The natural resources are there: mature trees, mountainside declines and inclines, waterfalls, rock formations, creeks, indigenous plants galore, including of course the wildflowers. Our structures, planned settings such as fire pits with benches, dining shelter, high and low rope courses, outposts for our campers’ time here, and paths, all enhance our SOAR setting in western NC. Our shared caring for our special property is an underlying piece and base of our philosophy here at SOAR: operating as a team, cooperating in respectful ways, focusing on strengths, building confidence and self-esteem, perseverance, and meeting challenges. The team camaraderie is strong with encouraging remarks and affirmations as the work progresses, and, at the end of the day, everyone leaves feeling proud of themselves and our work at SOAR.

This year was my first time being a part of the Spring Maintenance Day and, while I knew that one of my team members would be chopping wood to clear trees that had been cut for safety reasons, and to stock our campfire woodpiles, I was curious about my assignment. It turned out to be perfect for me, and addressed one of my strengths of having a green thumb and a passion for gardening. Our Logistics Director had thoughtfully purchased healthy, ready to plant, flowers and vegetables for me and pointed out the places I could garden. Not only was I part of the team, but did something I am pretty good at doing. I felt enormously satisfied with myself. So you could say my self-esteem and confidence was bolstered that day!
One of our team has a particular interest in the aesthetics and character of our SOAR sites. She has the ability to complete projects that add to our setting’s ambiance of outdoor adventure. She contributed by making and applying some stencil work additions to our structures. Now we have an eagle on our landing for the high ropes course as well as a poignant quote by John Muir that reflects our sentiment about our location on our rock climbing wall. Her work was tedious and took plenty of perseverance to finish, but added to the team’s feelings of pride and satisfaction.
There were many more assignments and work projects going on all day. Some members of our team were going from one job to another, and in some cases, making sure all supplies and equipment were available for all projects. They were often making encouraging comments, observations, providing advice, and yes, moving us forward, or motivating us to work even harder.
It occurred to me at the end of the day, as I was leaving feeling tired and happy that all of our being at SOAR is made up of much of the same philosophy we pass on to our campers. We provide structured days of activity with plenty of fun and adventure, focus on strengths, talents, and interest, keep a team-based approach with a purpose of inclusion of all, and hold each other accountable and valued. Our goal here at SOAR is to help each and every camper leave with a positive and light-filled reflection of themselves.

Balsam Base Zip LineLynne Neaves
Admissions Director, SOAR

Live Purposefully – A Reflection

Join Big John Willson on a beautiful reflection of perseverance, purpose, and achievement.


I had a top ten experience the summer of 2000, one of those amazing opportunities that leaves you breathless, invigorated, and rejuvenated.  I had the very good fortune to summit Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in Maine this summer with a wonderful group of students.  The day began at 6:30 am as we rolled out of our tents into a world filled with clouds, mist, a spattering of rain, dashing our hopes of a beautiful summit day.  At nearly sea level we had over 5,000 feet of elevation to gain before reaching the summit.  As we embarked on this tremendous journey, the sun came out and filled our morning with spectacular terrain, lush mountain foliage, and breathtaking vistas.  We worked hard as we ascended upward with each step, and by mid morning felt we were making excellent progress.  Approximately 12:00 noon we summitted and to our dismay realized it was not the peak of Katahdin.  We had not yet traversed the ridge named “The Knife’s Edge”.  We debated the merits of continuing onward and upward, or having reached a respectable goal, descending the mountain.  A vote of 4 to 7, and we forged ahead toward the elusive summit. 


Immediately we realized “The Knife’s Edge” was an entirely different beast.  This daunting and intimidating ridgeline spans 2.5 miles of rocky outcroppings, and requires climbing moves to complete a successful traverse.  This band of adventurers continued to advance on the precious goal of the summit.  The weather changed bringing mist, rain, and its very good friend wind. Howling, knock you down and laugh at you wind turned this day hike into an epic journey of humans testing their spirit and will, and finding the courage and strength to realize their goals.  “It must be soon now” I said, “Surely we are almost there.”  Our bodies reminding us that we are not mountaineers, screaming to stop, to rest, to abandon this assault on our abilities.  Then at 2:30 pm suddenly, through the mist and clouds, our goal was there staring at us.  We had climbed to the top and we were courageous and proud, and most amazingly triumphant.


We had overcome fear, self-doubt, and a daunting physical barrier to achieve our goal.  We stayed together supported one another, and would not be deterred.  I am still so proud of my summit team Drew, Max, Ryan, Andy, Joey, Eric, Jeff, Andrew, Mike, and Mark.  Thank you for reminding me why it is so important to live purposefully.