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MEET THE SOAR TEAM

Working at SOAR is one of the most unique, adventurous, challenging, and rewarding experiences that you will ever have. If you want to impact the lives of campers, students, and Gappers with ADHD or a similar learning difference through high-adventure activities, then SOAR is the place for you!

Executive Director

John Willson, M.S., LRT/CTRS

EDUCATION

  • Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
  • University of Colorado @ Boulder, Experiential Education, and Outdoor Leadership
  • Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration

EXPERIENCE

John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with Learning and Attention challenges. 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 led 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 a Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina and a former 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, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothy are the proud parents of two magnificent children living with ADHD.

Director of Programs

John Rogers

EDUCATION

  • B.S. in Aerospace Administration
  • M.S. in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from Middle Tennessee State University

EXPERIENCE

John has been in camping since 1985, over 35 years. He started with SOAR in 1989 and was the Community Based Director until 1996; when he returned to the Navigators Eagle Lake Camp to start their east coast program in North Carolina. He moved to Colorado in 200 to head up Eagle Lake’s Wilderness and Excursions programs.

In 2006 He joined Montreat College to teach and direct their Backcountry program outreach to the Western North Carolina community. During that time Montreat built a state of the art challenge course facility and John transition to be the Team and Leadership Center Director. He designed and launched the program where he served until returning to SOAR in 2020.

John also started the Virtuoso Series in 2014, a high-quality tanning resource; which features national and internationally known speakers, authors, and trainers. Guest speakers have included: Jim Cain, Jenifer Stanchfield, Michelle Cummings, Greg Robinson, and Chris Cavert. The series is open to students, and professionals.

John is also a trainer for Signature Research Inc. Signature’s Facilitator Training Workshops are designed to provide Practitioner Certification for workshop participants. Workshops cover appropriate technical and course management issues for your personnel to develop the skills to operate your challenge course program.

He is an entrepreneur, owner, and founder of Re-New Headlight Restoration. He has taught at Middle Tennessee State University, Western Carolina University, and Montreat College.

Director of Business

J.D. Jones

Education:

  • United States Military Academy, West Point, B.S. in International Relations
  • Colorado State University, Masters in Business Administration

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

Executive Assistant

Lucero "Lucy" Madrid

EDUCATION

  • Accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant License, Avanza Training in Colorado Springs
  • Certified Early Childhood Teacher, Front Range Community College

EXPERIENCE

Lucy is a born and raised Texan. She recently moved to North Carolina with her husband Jonathan and son Ryder. She grew up living in a border city, frequently walking across the border to Juarez to visit family and relish in Mexican culture and all the Al Pastor tacos her heart desired. As a first-generation American Lucy’s first language was Spanish and she learned English in grade school. She played soccer from the age of 5 until her senior year in high school and is thrilled to now share the sport with her 4 year old son Ryder.  She loves hiking, fishing, “creeking” with her son, and is starting her first garden this summer.  She is a licensed CNA and former preschool teacher, where she discovered a passion for working with children and believes children are the key to creating a better future.  No matter her role at SOAR she believes that this is a great place where lives can be changed and where success starts.

Director of Admissions

Caroline Hamilton

Education:

B.S. in Leisure Services from Carson-Newman University

Master’s level education in Outdoor Recreation at Indiana University, Bloomington

Caroline was born and raised in Marietta, Georgia with a fun and exciting family. She played all kinds of sports and went camping with the family often. A curiosity and deep love of all things leisure and recreation-related was developed early on in her life and proved to be a guiding force in deciding on a career. Outdoor play was often encouraged, and spending time outdoors is second nature for her now; she would rather be outside.

She worked at summer camps in North Carolina and Tennessee while in college; this experience only solidified her desire to become a camp professional in some capacity. While in grad school, she worked for SOAR at Eagle View Ranch for a summer as a Field Instructor in 2011. That fall she made the decision to stop writing her thesis, quit grad school, and forgo a Master’s degree. With no regrets, she moved back to Dubois to be a Course Director at SOAR in 2012. She stayed in Wyoming for seven years working for Boys and Girls Clubs and local Parks and Recreation districts. Most recently, and after a big move from Wyoming back to Georgia, Caroline was a Referrals and New Patient Coordinator at a specialty doctor’s office in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This in-between job further prepared her for joining SOAR again and becoming the Admissions Director at Balsam Base in the fall of 2022.

Previous training includes Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, Lifeguarding (14 years), Wilderness First Responder, Leave No Trace Trainer, and some others along the way.

Caroline is very excited to be with SOAR again and is looking forward to all the upcoming adventures she’s going to have with her dog, Trigger, in Western North Carolina. 

Admissions Coordinator

Hannah Evans

About

Hannah is a graduate from Western Carolina University with a degree in Education. She previously worked in the public school system and have found myself working for this nurturing school! Being a lover of the outdoors, Hannah is a raft guide for the Ocoee river and loves to hike (especially if there is a view). Hannah lives in the beautiful area of Western North Carolina and plans to explore this Disney world of hiking one trail at a time!

Registrar

Karina Lorenc

EDUCATION

Green Mountain College, B.S. Adventure Education

EXPERIENCE

Karina’s love for the outdoors stems from her childhood as a young homeschooler in Connecticut when an hour outside every day, no matter the season, was the rule! In high school, she had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in New Jersey, Michigan, and Montana. It was during those three summers when she realized the intense healing power of nature. In college, Karina studied Adventure Education and Sociology/Anthropology. The experiential, varied nature of her education led her to have a wide variety of interests and always be open to new challenges! She has worked as a therapeutic field instructor, climbing and kayaking instructor, administrator, tutor, supervisor, farmhand, and much more.

Karina first joined SOAR in 2015 as an NC Expedition Instructor and then as the FL Activity Specialist in 2016. She is thrilled to be back with the SOAR family as an administrator and can’t wait to help SOAR students and campers realize their full potential and have fun! Karina holds or has held many certifications including Wilderness First Responder, ARC Adult, and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, ARC Emergency Oxygen Administration, ARC Life Guard, ARC Small Craft Safety Instructor – Canoe, ACA River Kayak II Instructor, and Whitewater Raft Guide.

Comptroller

Lori Belt

EXPERIENCE

Lori was born and raised in the Sunshine State, where she developed a deep love for the ocean and a passion for helping others. She pursued a career in finance, but soon discovered that her true calling was in serving individuals with special needs. That’s why she joined the team at SOAR, where she can combine her professional experience with her desire to make a positive impact on the world.

When Lori isn’t crunching numbers or advocating for SOAR students, she loves to unwind by reading a good book or trying out new recipes in the kitchen. She’s also an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time near the water whenever possible. And as much as she loves her work, there’s nothing quite like the joy of spending time with her beloved chihuahua, Angus, or taking trips back home to Florida to visit her daughter.

Marketing Director

Sarah Fisher

EDUCATION

  • Flagler College, B.A. in Psychology
  • Liberty University, M.S. in Sports Marketing and Media

EXPERIENCE

Sarah grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Following high school graduation she moved to St. Augustine, Florida to attend Flagler College. While in school Sarah would spend her free time night swimming with friends after class, surfing on the weekends, and searching for adventure. After graduating with a degree in Psychology from Flagler, Sarah started on her journey to earn her Master’s in Marketing with a focus in Sports Marketing and Media.

The outdoors have always brought her an inner peace, so when Sarah discovered SOAR she instantly fell in love with the companies mission. She believes that SOAR allows her to pursue all of her passions in one place. When Sarah is not working she enjoys rock climbing, trail running, and shark tooth hunting with her partner, Kasey, and their dog, Samoa. Sarah is excited to help the next generation thrive through SOAR.

Marketing and Social Intern

Liza Vinson

EDUCATION

  • University of North Carolina, B.S. Biology

EXPERIENCE

Liza grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina with a strong love for reading, crafting, and the outdoors. As she got older she became involved in programs like SOAR, where she met life-long friends who shared her passion for travel and adventure. Having been diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, Liza found a sense of purpose in SOAR’s mission, and she is super excited to help those with learning disabilities develop life skills through the power of nature and adventure like she did. Liza’s loves all sorts of activities like horseback riding, crocheting, hiking, kayaking, and so many more. She is currently attending UNC Chapel Hill and is about to graduate this May. Liza is super excited to be a part of the SOAR team and grow her experience as a marketer!

Director of NC Programs

Kevin Williams

EDUCATION

  • Western Carolina University, B.S. in Parks and Recreation Management

 

EXPERIENCE

Growing up in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Kevin’s family vacationed most summers in the mountains of Western NC. Kevin grew very fond of his summer time in the mountains. He grew up in a musical family and spent most of his younger years learning to play the trumpet. So, after high school he applied to the music program at Western Carolina University and was accepted into the trumpet studio program. Moving to the mountains of NC was his primary goal at a young age and this was his chance!  During his time at WCU he spent a lot of time paddling whitewater around the area and became a proficient class 5 kayaker. Working within the outdoor programs at WCU he taught many staff to become whitewater guides, kayak instructors and caving trip leaders.

After graduation he worked for 10 years as a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Instructor primarily with Landmark Learning. At Landmark he taught courses such as Swiftwater Rescue, Wilderness Lifeguarding, Wilderness First Responder, and EMT Intensive programs. He has worked as a precepting instructor and on Instructor Training Courses to develop new wilderness medicine instructors, he understands the need for quality, experienced staff. Kevin’s most recent role was working as a clinical coordinator managing 400 clinical and non clinical/volunteer staff for the WCU Regional COVID-19 vaccine clinic. He developed the training for the clinic and facilitated the administration of over 15,000 COVID-19 vaccines in rural Western North Carolina.

Kevin joined the SOAR team in April of 2022 as the Director of NC Programs and can’t wait to have a fun, successful summer season!

Assistant Director of NC Programs

C. Ryan Smith

About

Growing up in a rather nomadic family as an Air Force and Commercial pilot’s son, Ryan likes to say:  “I was born in Denver, lived all over the US, but was raised in North Carolina”.  Though he lived in Texas, Washington State, Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia- summers were spent in North Carolina, either at the beach or in the mountains.  Both sides of his family have deep roots in NC, his mom from Wilmington and his Dad from Clyde.

He currently resides in Waynesville, NC with his wife, Kathryn, and two daughters, Elsie and Carolina.

His passion for the outdoors and experiential education was fostered at YMCA Camp Cheerio, where he was a lifelong camper turned counselor.  He loved teaching students how to roll kayaks and encouraging students to reach for that last hold on the climbing wall.

He attended the Virginia Military Institute and then Emory and Henry College, graduating with degrees in Economics and Business Administration. Though much of his early career development was centered around the corporate world, first managing rental properties and then climbing the ladder to become an Operations Manager for FedEx Ground, his heart and soul longed to be outside- guiding, teaching, and experiencing as much of the natural world as possible.

Ryan is a passionate white water canoeist, instructor, and sometimes- captain of the swim team!  Ever since taking a course from Fritz Orr and learning how to peel out of an eddy in a tandem canoe, the rest is history…..  He says: “ I had no idea a canoe could do that!”  If he is not hanging out with his family, you can bet you’ll find him on one of the many creeks and rivers in the South East, especially if it has been raining.  His other professed “fountain of youth” is riding boards of any kind- specifically surf, skate, and snow.  He is very proud to be a rad dad!

Ryan began working for SOAR in 2020, as a Whitewater and River Safety Specialist for the NC canoe and rafting adventure programs. Prior to that first SOAR experience, he was managing logistics and staffing for Landmark Learning and NOLS Wilderness Medicine in the South East. He currently teaches ACA L4 Swift Water Rescue and ACA Solo/Tandem Canoeing coursework and was a graduate of the Landmark Outdoor Educator Semester program in 2015.  He also is a Leave No Trace Master Educator.

Logistics Director

Caleb Parchman

EXPERIENCE

Caleb has lived in Western North Carolina for about 7 years and has been working in outdoor education and experiential education for the past 11 years. The emphasis of his work has been on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts. He most recently spent 7 years working for North Carolina Outward Bound in many roles including Logistics, Field Instructor, and River Staff. Caleb spends most of his free time paddling on all of the rivers and creeks throughout the Southeast. He joined SOAR in 2022 and is excited to work with the Physical Plant Director, all the SOAR staff and the ADHD/LD community!

He is currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder, ACA Level 4 Whitewater Canoe Instructor, raft guide, and Swiftwater Rescue.

Director of Wyoming Programs

Kate Gilbert

Education: 

Master of Social Work- Western Carolina University

Bachelors in Film Studies, French Minor- UNC Wilmington

Associate of Arts- Limestone College

 

Certifications:

SOLO Wilderness First Responder

Red Cross Lifeguard & Lifeguard Instructor

SSI Open Water & Rescue Diver

CPI Non-Violent Crisis Intervention

Kate was born in Florida and from there quickly began her journey of growing up around the country. From the Northeast in Massachusetts to Texas’ big, open skies and finally landing in the Southeast between Eastern Tennessee and Central North Carolina, her love for adventure started at an early age. Always on-the-move, swimming became her outlet and would ultimately lead her to competing in college, scuba diving around the world, and becoming a swim and lifeguard instructor and real-life certified mermaid.

Since graduating college the first time, Kate has worked on Hollywood film sets, in the service industry, as a yoga instructor, and in experiential education. Her time at SOAR began in 2020, and since she’s been with the organization, she has been a Field Instructor at the Academy in North Carolina for 2 years and a paddling Activity Specialist and Course Director in Wyoming for 3 summers. Most recently, while finishing her Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on working with adolescents and families, she naturally moved into the role of “Director of the Wild, Wild West” (aka Wyoming Programs) and is thrilled to bring her knowledge, experience, and fun-loving energy back to Eagle View Ranch for her 4th season.

In her free time Kate still enjoys time outside hiking, swimming, canoeing and paddleboarding, rock climbing, snowboarding, and identifying plants and really cool rocks.

Assistant Director of GAP and Wyoming Programs

Kevin Evers

Education

  • Ohio University, B.S. in Outdoor Recreation and Education

About

Kevin grew up in Dayton, Ohio, but has been very fortunate to have traveled throughout the world in pursuit of his love of all things outdoors. He began rock climbing at a young age and soon after developed passions for backpacking, camping, paddling, fly fishing, sailing, and much more. He attended Ohio University, serving as an undergraduate teaching assistant in, and graduating from the Outdoor Recreation and Education program.

Throughout his career, Kevin has worked as a wilderness field instructor for at-risk and adjudicated youth, freshman orientation programs, as well as various other populations; As a rock climbing gym general manager, a summer camp director, an after-school program coordinator, a retail store manager within the outdoor industry, as well as a program and special events manager within multiple municipal and county level parks and recreation organizations. Kevin is a Leave No Trace Master Educator, a Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, a SOLO Wilderness First Responder, a NASP Basic Archery Instructor, and is ACA Swiftwater Rescue Trained.

At SOAR, Kevin is beyond excited to contribute to the culture of excellence, and to help guide young people with learning challenges towards successful and meaningful lives in any and every way that he can.

Academy at Soar, Head of School

Joseph Geier

EDUCATION

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, B.A. / B.S Program in Anthropology and History Education

EXPERIENCE

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.

Academy at Soar, Director of Academics

Nettie Black

EDUCATION

M.S. in Outdoor Pursuits Recreation Administration from Aurora University
B.S. in Biology from Loyola University

EXPERIENCE

Nettie fell in love with the outdoors at a young age and was able to pursue this passion and make it a career. She has been working in the Adventure Education field since 1997 and has had the privilege of working with Outward Bound, Wilderness Challenge, and taught Outdoor Leadership at Warren Wilson College. She joined the Academy at SOAR for the 2020-2021 school year where she enjoyed working with the ADHD/LD population and the program itself. She was a Camp Director this past summer and has accepted the position as Director of Academics for the 2021-2022 school year. She looks forward to working with the students and staff to make it a memorable experience full of great adventures!

Nettie and her husband Tony have two children and a slew of animals including a dairy cow, poultry, and reptiles. In her spare time, she loves hiking, backpacking, flatwater paddling, and gardening!

Academy at SOAR, Program Director

Leigh Whaley

PRONOUNS

she/her/hers

EDUCATION

Antioch University of New England, M.S. in Environmental Education
Western Carolina University, B.S. in Parks & Recreation Management, Outdoor Leadership & Instruction

EXPERIENCE

As a native of North Carolina, Leigh attended summer camp in various parts of the state where she quickly discovered her passion for the outdoors. After earning her B.S., Leigh spent time in Washington state where she shared her love and knowledge of the natural environment with young people through leadership roles at different summer camps. Beyond her environmental education background, Leigh is also a skilled swim instructor and enjoyed teaching swim lessons as a lifeguard when camp wasn’t in session.

Shortly after wrapping up her last camp season in Washington, Leigh set out to expand her knowledge in the field by earning her Master’s Degree in Environmental Education. Upon graduation, she worked with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Massachusetts AmeriCorps program where she led the implementation of environmental education programs in local schools. During her time with the corps, she also assisted with trail building and maintenance while living in that community setting.

More recently, Leigh returned to her camp roots as the Outdoor Adventures Manager for the Girl Scouts of Southeast Virginia. She not only increased the frequency of event offerings but also added unique high outdoor adventure programs, including axe throwing and high rope course challenges. These helped encourage every member to step out their comfort zone and try new things! Leigh also led overnight and day camp for members while ensuring the best experience possible for each and every camper!

Leigh is thrilled to join the Academy at Soar community and is excited to contribute to the growth and well-being of the students and the instructors.

Academy at SOAR, Field Supervisor

Sadie Belt

About

Sadie grew up in Northern VA and enjoyed spending time on the Chesapeake Bay waterskiing, kayaking, and crabbing. She attended multiple resident camps while growing up and fell in love with summer camp life. As soon as she was old enough Sadie began working at YMCA resident camps. She spent three summers as a ropes instructor at Camp Silver Beach in VA, before moving to TX to work as an assistant land program director at Camp Cullen. Sadie has spent the past three summers at SOAR, both as a field instructor and course director of the Llama Trekking program in NC and Horsepacking Adventure in WY. Outside of summertime, Sadie explored her love of math and science while at school and recently graduated with her B.S. in Neuroscience from Christopher Newport University. Sadie is incredibly excited to be returning to the Academy at SOAR team where she can bring together her passion for education and outdoor exploration.

Academy at SOAR, Electives Teachers

Ash Manning

About

Ash is originally from the Northeast Georgia mountains but made a smooth transition to the nook outside Asheville, where SOAR is located! In the summer she is a whitewater guide in West Virginia! She loves dancing and creating art with the students, working out early in the mornings, or yoga during PE with them!

Academy at SOAR, Literature Teacher

Shelia Sumpter

About

Shelia Radford Sumpter has been teaching children of all ages for over 30 years in the public school, private studio, and university settings.  Her undergraduate studies were in theatre and dance and her graduate studies were in language arts education. Mrs. Sumpter has worked as a professional actress, dancer, director, and choreographer.  She currently consults with professional, academic, and community organizations. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Kids at HART which is part of Haywood Arts Regional Theater.

Academy at Soar, Humanities Teacher

Gene McNabb-Friedmann

EDUCATION

Ohio State University, M.A. and doctoral studies in Latin American Literature, Culture and Semiotics
B.A. Spanish

EXPERIENCE

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 Teacher

Andrea Gerard

EDUCATION

Elementary & Special Education, Western Georgia University

EXPERIENCE

Anka first joined SOAR in 2017 from Charlotte, NC and since then has worked in many different capacities at SOAR. Currently, she is the Academy at SOAR Math Teacher and also works during the summer months as the Florida Keys Adventure Course Director. She loves every minute of working with our ADHD and LD kids and making sure that they have a fun, educational time doing all the different adventure activities they can!  She enjoys fishing and swimming, especially in the sunny Florida Keys.

Academy at SOAR humanities teacher standing in front of a mountain range.
Academy at SOAR, Humanities Teacher

Anna Kopecki

Education:

  • B.S. in Education with a focus in Mathematics and History

About

Anna has a passion for outdoor sports with over 8 years of experience guiding on the Chattooga River, guiding in Glacier National Park, rowing down the Grand Canyon and zipline guiding. It was when she began working with children in these outdoor spaces that she realized that she enjoyed seeing children understand what she was teaching to them. This led her to the University of North Georgia where she got her degree in Education with a focus on mathematics and history.
She taught students with ADHD and learning disabilities in public school for three years until she finally found The Academy at SOAR. She is very happy to be working at a school who’s pedagogy aligns with hers. As someone who grew up with learning disabilities, she finds experiential learning is the best way for a child to succeed.
Academy at SOAR, Science Teacher

Hannah Skelton

About

Hannah Skelton is originally from the North Georgia Mountains where she grew up on a farm. Hannah always loved the outdoors and this passion grew stronger when she became a river guide on the Chattooga River in 2017. Since then, Hannah has adventured all over the country including a river expedition through the Grand Canyon! Amidst these travels, Hannah earned a B.A in K-12 Drama Education from Piedmont University. Upon graduation, Hannah taught theatre in public schools for 2 years. After this experience, Hannah wanted to find a way to marry her two passions: teaching and the outdoors. It was then she began working in outdoor education, which led her to working at experiential therapeutic schools and eventually the Academy at SOAR! Hannah is thrilled to be at SOAR and to be working with the students here.
Academy at SOAR, Science Teacher

Spencer Forbes

Education

  • B.S. in Natural Resources- Wildlife Management

About

Spencer has been learning outdoor education, guided hikes, and outdoor skills programing since graduating from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in 2018. He has lived and traveled across the country working in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Montana. He has also had the opportunity to lead Highschool trips internationally to Cambodia and VIetnam, as well as two domestic trips to Hawaii. The 2023-2024 School year is Spencer’s First time teaching at SOAR and in a formal classroom setting. Spencer is teaching our Middle School Math and Science courses along with Highschool Environmental Science. He is excited to work with a wide age range and share all he knows about Science and Math.
Academy at SOAR, Counselor

Cade Ingle

EDUCATION

Capella University,  Master of Science in School Counseling

EXPERIENCE

Cade grew up in Runnells, Iowa near the capital city of Des Moines. Outdoor adventure has been a large part of his personal growth, self-care, and connection nature provides. Cade worked for SOAR as a campus instructor, field instructor, and summer staff dating back to 2018. Cade has hiked a dog part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and spent a lot of time backpacking in various parts of the western United States and Europe but fell in love with the beauty of western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains while at SOAR.  He believes that the wilderness offers a unique learning environment to further a child’s education as well as their socio-emotional growth. Cade earned his master’s degree in school counseling, has worked on a crisis line supporting teens in mental health crises and safety emergency situations, and has spent several years teaching and counseling in public school settings. Cade works as a school counselor with SOAR’s students, staff, and parents as a socio-emotional educator, support, and resource to help create an inclusive, safe, and growth-minded environment.

Cade is pretty good at ping-pong, loves Thai and Indian cuisine, enjoys audiobooks, drawing, hiking, climbing, and CrossFit workouts. If he had to choose his favorite backpacking meal it would be peanut butter and beef jerky, generally separate but when you’re out there long enough weird combos start looking pretty appealing!

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Marley Neal

About

Marley grew up in metro Atlanta and found a passion for the outdoors at a young age. She enjoys spending time on the river, exploring the backcountry, and learning about native plants. She has worked many summers at camps, most recently as a Field Staff at SOAR for Summer 2022. Marley went to school at Clemson University where she graduated with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with a concentration in Recreational Therapy. Marley is so excited to work with the students and help prepare them for the rollercoaster of life!

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Kaylie Bean

About

Kaylie graduated from Montreat College with a bachelor’s in Exercise Science and a concentration in Health and Fitness. Kaylie enjoys activities such as hiking, backpacking, and climbing. Kaylie began to fall in love with the outdoors during her time at school and that lead her to take some outdoor recreation classes before she graduated in 2022. After graduation, she had the opportunity to work for SOAR Summer camp as a backpacking instructor in NC. She loved the environment of SOAR and wanted to continue to gain more outdoor and leadership experience so she accepted a position at the Academy! Kaylie is excited for what’s to come this season and is ready to learn and grow more as an instructor.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Charlotte Masters

About

Charlotte grew up in St. Augustine Florida, where she spent most summer days playing in the water fishing, sea kayaking, canoeing, or body surfing. Her family often took trips to western NC to hike, bike, and play in Linville Falls. Her love of the Blue Ridge grew and she chose Western Carolina University to attend college. While at WCU she studied Parks and Recreation Management where she fostered her love of experiential learning, trip leading, and working with youth in the outdoors. She chose SOAR summer camp in the summer of 2018 as her capstone internship to complete her degree. The summer provided her with the fast-paced environment that she works best in and a lifetime of memories she will never forget! After she graduated, she moved home to Florida where she worked in several different positions over the years; kayak guide for eco-tours and as a beach life guard to name a few. Nothing compared to her time at SOAR and she made her way back to Balsam, NC for 2022 SOAR summer as the North Carolina Backpacking Course Director. Charlotte is thrilled to be back and working as Field staff for the Academy this year! In her off time, you can find her somewhere near a body of water splashing about or just going for a dip. She holds certifications as an Open Water Lifeguard, WFA, and Raft Guide.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Laura Brown

About

Laura grew up in Roanoke Rapids, NC where her family encouraged her to hike, bike, camp, and swim. She spent most of her free time running around outside with her siblings and dogs which fostered a connection to the outdoors from a young age. Laura decided to attend Elon University where she majored in Adventure Based Learning. She developed knowledge and passion for experiential education and working with kids. During her time at Elon, she also completed a NOLS semester in the Southwest of the US which gave her a lot of confidence in living and learning in the backcountry. Over the past few years, Laura has worked at a number of other outdoor places as a paddling and backpacking instructor and as an environmental educator. She’s excited to be working this year as a field instructor for the Academy.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Mary Kate Crisp

About

MK was born-and-raised Western North Carolina, where she grew up hiking, camping, tubing and exploring all the wonders that the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer. She has a passion for community service and has spent several years working as a community organizer to make WNC a better place for all. MK studied Early Childhood Education, Substance Abuse Counseling and Human Services while in school. Her experience with children began with teaching preschool, but continues to be excited for the challenges and triumphs that come with working with adolescents. She takes pride in her empathy and patience, and looks forward to helping the students develop a strong sense of justice, a soft heart for those in need, and an appreciation for the outdoors!

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Sarah Malone

About

Sarah is from Fuquay Varina, North Carolina and attended Elon University. Sarah discovered her love for the outdoors on a backpacking trip with her college. She took this passion as well as her desire to help others in pursuing her degree in adventure based learning. During her time in college, she developed her skills needed for working with children by volunteering within her community through the service fraternity, alpha phi omega. When she graduated, she moved to Hilo Hawaii, where she spent a year working at a horticultural therapeutic program. During her time in Hawaii, she continued to learn about how healing the outdoors can be healing for youths mental health. After working at SOAR summer camp in North Carolina for two years Sarah decided to continue her work with SOAR by joining the Academy as field staff.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Darby Edmonson

About

Darby is originally from outside of Chicago, but calls her Texas family farm home. She is the older sister of an Academy at SOAR graduate, and has worked two summers at SOAR’s Wyoming camp as one of the wranglers. Before her involvement with SOAR, Darby attended Miami University and studied psychology and linguistics before transferring to the University of Texas at Austin, graduating with a degree in psychology with a minor in English. She was a writing tutor and an ESL tutor throughout college and loves to teach…but she also loves to play and have FUN. She played ice hockey and ran track growing up, and you can find her playing football with her group during outside time or winning at dodgeball during gym class. 

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Rin Dell

About

Rin grew up in Charlotte, NC.  After studying Film at Western Carolina University, they fell in love with the mountains and the outdoors. Rin loves anything that has to do with being outdoors; that includes but is not limited to hiking, biking, running, swimming in rivers and lakes, and backpacking. Rin has enjoyed their time with the Academy at SOAR so far and is looking forward to the adventures ahead! 

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Wyatt Edmondson

About

My name is Wyatt, and I am a middle school  instructor here at The Academy at SOAR. I attended the Acadmey for three years until my graduation. I aspire to nurture the social and emotional development of Academy students through outdoor experiences and holistic learning. I approach this mission with compassion, honesty, and high expectations, striving to instill not only outdoor proficiency but also the values and qualities that lead to personal growth and character development in the students.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Adrienne Wander

About

Adrienne grew up in Oakland, California, spending as much time outside as possible, hiking with their family in the nearby regional parks, swimming in the chilly East Bay of the Pacific, and  camping and backpacking all over the state. In their sophomore year of college, Adrienne took time off to complete a Leadership Semester program with the Voyageur Outward Bound School. Through dog sledding in the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota and canoeing on the Rio Grande in Texas, Adrienne’s confidence in living and learning in the backcountry grew. After graduating with a degree in philosophy, Adrienne returned to VOBS to lead canoe trips in the BWCAW and is now excited to be joining SOAR as an Academy Instructor. In their off time you can find Adrienne playing rugby, contra dancing, and watching basketball- go Connecticut Sun!

It is Adrienne’s belief that conflict resolution skills, appreciation for differences, and radical compassion are key ingredients to building peaceful community. What better place to start than with the next generation here at SOAR!

Adrienne holds certifications as a Wilderness First Responder and in Wilderness Water Safety.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Patricia Pasana

About

Growing up, Patricia always loved the outdoors, traveling, and overall found peace in nature. As a 2023 graduate of SUNY Cortland with a Bachelor’s Degree in Inclusive Childhood Education with a  concentration in humanities, while being fairly new to the field, Patricia has years of experience in childhood education and special education programs. Trading the beaches of Long Island, New York for the mountains of North Carolina, she is diving head first into the unique outdoor education experience that the Academy at SOAR offers. Learning along the way, Patricia is excited be a part of the team as an Instructor for the Academy and overall experience what the program has to offer.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Marco Oyarzo

About

Marco was born in Santiago, Chile. He spent 19 years enjoying sports and the beautiful natural environments that the country has to offer. Since he lived in a big city, Marco always tried to stay active and go outside. Marco grew up going to the beach to visit his grandmother, so the waves are a special place for him. He also loved going to the mountains on hikes to get out of the fast pace city and have some peace connecting with nature. In 2018 Marco came to the US with a soccer scholarship, where he eventually  transferred to Montreat College and chose Outdoor Education as his major. You can always count on him if you want to go climbing, backpacking, rafting or canoeing! Marco worked SOAR California summer camp in 2023, and afterwards began working at the Academy for the 23-24 school year. He enjoys sharing his love for the outdoors with his students, while making an impact on them as well. 

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Emma Peoples

About

Emma is a passionate outdoor enthusiast hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan. As an active and adventurous child she spent her time, playing the guitar, skiing up north, building forts and exploring in the great outdoors. Emma attended Western Michigan University, where she studied communication. Emma was introduced to outdoor education when she spent a semester studying leadership through the Outward Bound School. The semester sparked Emma’s love for the river, the snow, outdoor education and its attention to social emotional development. After the semester, Emma began working for SOAR and became hooked on the environment that SOAR creates. One with an emphasis on personal growth, overcoming challenges, and conquering adversity. Emma is a Wilderness First Responder and holds a Swift Water Rescue IV certification. She obtained these while working in Idaho as a Raft Guide and Ski Instructor. Throughout her time at SOAR Emma has served as a GAP West Mentor, Field Instructor and Summer Course Director. She is excited to be working with the Academy team!

GAP Director

Amelia Weber

EDUCATION

Flagler College, B.A. in Fine Art

EXPERIENCE

Amelia grew up playing in the Gulf Coast waters of Florida. During college, she traded the calm waters of the gulf to play in the big waves on the Atlantic coast. Amongst surfing, swimming, and kayaking in St. Augustine, FL, Amelia received her degree in Fine Art and minored in Education. Driven to express the intricacies of the natural world, Amelia spends time crafting pottery and drawing the environment around her. You can find Amelia exploring the woods and following her curiosities. She aims to encourage students to explore their curiosities as well.

Amelia is excited to join us now as the Gap East Program Director! She has worked as a field staff for the NC Expedition course, Course Director for the NC Academic Discovery and Canoeing courses, and worked both as campus and field staff for the Academy at SOAR. She has a deep love of learning outdoors and experiencing the world first hand with campers and students alike! She has also worked at summer camps in Florida and spent time directing a writing center tutoring program at the college level.

GAP Mentor

Annslee Shields

EDUCATION

B.S. in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies
Minor is Psychology

EXPERIENCE

Annslee has worked at SOAR for the past two summers as field staff in North Carolina and Wyoming, as well as the Christmas in the Keys program. She has enjoyed working with and building great relationships with such incredible kids during her time at SOAR and is looking forward to continuing that at the GAP East program. An unusual talent of Annslee’s is that she has many of the dances of the Wii Just Dance songs memorized and can still do them about 8 years since she has learned them. To Annslee, a perfect day is being outside either riding horses or hiking somewhere beautiful with her friends and family. And, the day must end with ice cream.

GAP Mentor

Grace Noonan

Education

  • Montreat College, B.A. in Outdoor Education, Minor in Art 

About

Grace spends time between adventures based from her car, Western North Carolina, and  Chattanooga, TN. She brings 3 seasons of working with SOAR to the Gap East program: working  as a Field Staff for NC Llama Trek, and as a Course Director for NC Academic Discovery, NC  Llama Trek, and California Summer Programs. Grace has a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor 

Education and a minor in Art from Montreat College in Black Mountain, NC. Grace has  experience and skills in a plethora of outdoor sports and activities. Some of those include sport  and traditional climbing, bouldering, ice climbing, white water rafting, backpacking, and sea  kayaking. Her certifications are in Lifeguarding, Behavioral First Responder, and Wilderness  First Responder. She has a great love for the outdoors and it brings her a lot of joy to get others  outside and join them on the journey of finding out what they love. Her most recent job has been  the California Course Director for SOAR Summer 2023. A perfect day for Grace would be  waking up with the sunrise, eating a yummy breakfast and climbing and laughing all day. Eating  dinner close to some water so she can swim and fall asleep with a nice view of the stars makes it  even more perfect as well.

Founder, Director Emeritus, Chairman of the Board

Jonathan Jones

About

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.

Founder, Director Emeritus

Wandajean Jones

About

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.

Board Member

Danny Benjamin

About

Danny is a Pediatrician; he and his wife Donna have four children. Their oldest son was initially enrolled in SOAR’s summer camp program in NC and was then a student at the Academy at SOAR for 3 years.

Danny obtained his medical degree and completed a pediatric residency at the University of Virginia. He then completed a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at Duke University and a Masters in Public Health and PhD in Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research group pioneered much of the methods in completing pharmacokinetic (dosing) and safety trials of medicines in premature infants. This led to bipartisan legislation in 2012 that required the study of all new medicines in premature neonates. His group has since expanded to the study of medicines in children of all ages and most therapeutic areas as evidenced by >300 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Danny continues to lead multi-center studies and is the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH and FDA-sponsored grants and contracts of $250,000,000 in current federal funding including the Pediatric Trials Network; the Trial Innovation Network; the Environmental Impact on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program; and Global Pediatric Clinical Trials Network Sponsored. Danny has won 7 awards for teaching and mentorship at Duke University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and University of Virginia; and he is recognized nationally for mentorship through his work as PI and/or mentor for Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology programs including a T32, a K24, and an R25 to train the next generation of pediatric clinical trials researchers.

Board Member

Corky Cootes

About

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.

Board Member

Jim Drawdy

About

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.

Board Member

Dale Harris-Sparacino

About

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.

Board Member

Annette Kesgen

About

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.

Board Member

Catey McClarey

About

Catey Terry grew up just south of Nashville, TN. She attended Appalachian State University where she earned a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. After college, she completed a fisheries internship with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, before setting off on a 500-mile adventure along the Appalachian Trail. Ready to get off of her feet (literally) and back on her feet (figuratively), she took a summer position at SOAR as a Wilderness Field Instructor in 2005. For 13 years, she remained with SOAR serving in a variety of roles, from Office Manager, Manager of the Administrative Team, and ultimately CFO. During this time she was involved with various aspects of the organization including marketing, admissions, IT support, and finances.

In August of 2018, Catey took on the role of President and CEO at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, a non-profit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that provides residential environmental education programs, connecting people of all ages to nature. She previously served on the advisory board for the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. She is an active board member for Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Board Member

Korey Ramsey

About

Korey Ramsey received his degree in Recreational Therapy in 1997 from Western Carolina University.  He has been working with SOAR since 1995, beginning with the weekend programs, then he worked as a course director from 97 to 2001. He became the full-time director of the Appalachian semester course in the fall of 97 and Desert southwest semester in the spring of 98.  He then completed 3 additional semesters running the program. Additionally, he was instrumental in developing the NC Expedition course.o

While in college he also worked construction, then worked with a local contractor building homes in between course programs at SOAR.  During that time frame, Korey built 4 of the SOAR Adirondack style shelters from scratch and converted 3 of the single shelters to double shelters. He also built the bathhouse/conference room.

In 2001 Korey obtained his EMT certification, and in 2002 received his EMT/ Intermediate.  In 2006 he completed his RN degree from Southwestern and began working in the emergency department at Mission Hospital.

In 2017 he was hired as a flight nurse with the air medical program known as MAMA (Mountain Area Medical Airlift).  In 2020 Korey began a specialty position with trauma services at Mission as a Trauma nurse lead, while still working part-time as a flight nurse. His certifications include:

CEN – Certified Emergency Nurse

TCRN – Trauma certified RN

TNCC – Trauma Nurse Core Course

ENPC – Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course

NRP – NeoNatal Resuscitation program\

BLS / ACLS / PALS

Swift Water Rescue level 3.

In addition, both his children have attended SOAR.  His son Brandon completed his 5th summer in 2019. His wife continues to work at SOAR helping facilitate specialty courses, and Korey routinely volunteers his time to help with physical plant projects.

Ramsey quote: “I believe strongly in the mission of SOAR and would consider it an honor to bring my medical and construction skills to support the organization.”

Board Member

Drex Rogers

About

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.

Board Member

Joan Teach

About

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.

Board Member

Logan Walters

About

Catey Terry grew up just south of Nashville, TN. She attended Appalachian State University where she earned a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. After college, she completed a fisheries internship with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, before setting off on a 500-mile adventure along the Appalachian Trail. Ready to get off of her feet (literally) and back on her feet (figuratively), she took a summer position at SOAR as a Wilderness Field Instructor in 2005. For 13 years, she remained with SOAR serving in a variety of roles, from Office Manager, Manager of the Administrative Team, and ultimately CFO. During this time she was involved with various aspects of the organization including marketing, admissions, IT support, and finances.

In August of 2018, Catey took on the role of President and CEO at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, a non-profit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that provides residential environmental education programs, connecting people of all ages to nature. She previously served on the advisory board for the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. She is an active board member for Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Executive Director

John Wilson, M.S., LRT/CTRS

EDUCATION

  • Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
  • University of Colorado @ Boulder, Experiential Education, and Outdoor Leadership
  • Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration

EXPERIENCE

John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with Learning and Attention challenges. 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 led 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 a Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina and a former 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, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothy are the proud parents of two magnificent children living with ADHD.

Director of Programs

John Rogers

EDUCATION

  • B.S. in Aerospace Administration
  • M.S. in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from Middle Tennessee State University

EXPERIENCE

John has been in camping since 1985, over 35 years. He started with SOAR in 1989 and was the Community Based Director until 1996; when he returned to the Navigators Eagle Lake Camp to start their east coast program in North Carolina. He moved to Colorado in 200 to head up Eagle Lake’s Wilderness and Excursions programs.

In 2006 He joined Montreat College to teach and direct their Backcountry program outreach to the Western North Carolina community. During that time Montreat built a state of the art challenge course facility and John transition to be the Team and Leadership Center Director. He designed and launched the program where he served until returning to SOAR in 2020.

John also started the Virtuoso Series in 2014, a high-quality tanning resource; which features national and internationally known speakers, authors, and trainers. Guest speakers have included: Jim Cain, Jenifer Stanchfield, Michelle Cummings, Greg Robinson, and Chris Cavert. The series is open to students, and professionals.

John is also a trainer for Signature Research Inc. Signature’s Facilitator Training Workshops are designed to provide Practitioner Certification for workshop participants. Workshops cover appropriate technical and course management issues for your personnel to develop the skills to operate your challenge course program.

He is an entrepreneur, owner, and founder of Re-New Headlight Restoration. He has taught at Middle Tennessee State University, Western Carolina University, and Montreat College.

Director of Business

J.D. Jones

Education:

  • United States Military Academy, West Point, B.S. in International Relations
  • Colorado State University, Masters in Business Administration

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

Director of Admissions

Caroline Hamilton

EDUCATION

  • Carson-Newman University, B.S. Leisure Services
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Master’s level course work in Outdoor Recreation

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

Marketing Director

Sarah Fisher

EDUCATION

  • Flagler College, B.A. in Psychology
  • Liberty University, M.S. in Sports Marketing and Media

EXPERIENCE

Sarah grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Following high school graduation she moved to St. Augustine, Florida to attend Flagler College. While in school Sarah would spend her free time night swimming with friends after class, surfing on the weekends, and searching for adventure. After graduating with a degree in Psychology from Flagler, Sarah started on her journey to earn her Master’s in Marketing with a focus in Sports Marketing and Media.

The outdoors have always brought her an inner peace, so when Sarah discovered SOAR she instantly fell in love with the companies mission. She believes that SOAR allows her to pursue all of her passions in one place. When Sarah is not working she enjoys rock climbing, trail running, and shark tooth hunting with her partner, Kasey, and their dog, Samoa. Sarah is excited to help the next generation thrive through SOAR.

Registrar

Karina Lorenc

EDUCATION

Green Mountain College, B.S. Adventure Education

EXPERIENCE

Karina’s love for the outdoors stems from her childhood as a young homeschooler in Connecticut when an hour outside every day, no matter the season, was the rule! In high school, she had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in New Jersey, Michigan, and Montana. It was during those three summers when she realized the intense healing power of nature. In college, Karina studied Adventure Education and Sociology/Anthropology. The experiential, varied nature of her education led her to have a wide variety of interests and always be open to new challenges! She has worked as a therapeutic field instructor, climbing and kayaking instructor, administrator, tutor, supervisor, farmhand, and much more.

Karina first joined SOAR in 2015 as an NC Expedition Instructor and then as the FL Activity Specialist in 2016. She is thrilled to be back with the SOAR family as an administrator and can’t wait to help SOAR students and campers realize their full potential and have fun! Karina holds or has held many certifications including Wilderness First Responder, ARC Adult, and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, ARC Emergency Oxygen Administration, ARC Life Guard, ARC Small Craft Safety Instructor – Canoe, ACA River Kayak II Instructor, and Whitewater Raft Guide.

Executive Assistant

Lucero "Lucy" Madrid

EDUCATION

  • Accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant License, Avanza Training in Colorado Springs
  • Certified Early Childhood Teacher, Front Range Community College

EXPERIENCE

Lucy is a born and raised Texan. She recently moved to North Carolina with her husband Jonathan and son Ryder. She grew up living in a border city, frequently walking across the border to Juarez to visit family and relish in Mexican culture and all the Al Pastor tacos her heart desired. As a first-generation American Lucy’s first language was Spanish and she learned English in grade school. She played soccer from the age of 5 until her senior year in high school and is thrilled to now share the sport with her 4 year old son Ryder.  She loves hiking, fishing, “creeking” with her son, and is starting her first garden this summer.  She is a licensed CNA and former preschool teacher, where she discovered a passion for working with children and believes children are the key to creating a better future.  No matter her role at SOAR she believes that this is a great place where lives can be changed and where success starts.

Marketing and Social Intern

Liza Vinson

EDUCATION

  • University of North Carolina, B.S. Biology

EXPERIENCE

Liza grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina with a strong love for reading, crafting, and the outdoors. As she got older she became involved in programs like SOAR, where she met life-long friends who shared her passion for travel and adventure. Having been diagnosed with ADHD at a young age, Liza found a sense of purpose in SOAR’s mission, and she is super excited to help those with learning disabilities develop life skills through the power of nature and adventure like she did. Liza’s loves all sorts of activities like horseback riding, crocheting, hiking, kayaking, and so many more. She is currently attending UNC Chapel Hill and is about to graduate this May. Liza is super excited to be a part of the SOAR team and grow her experience as a marketer!

Director of NC Programs

Kevin Williams

EDUCATION

  • Western Carolina University, B.S. in Parks and Recreation Management

 

EXPERIENCE

Growing up in the Piedmont of North Carolina, Kevin’s family vacationed most summers in the mountains of Western NC. Kevin grew very fond of his summer time in the mountains. He grew up in a musical family and spent most of his younger years learning to play the trumpet. So, after high school he applied to the music program at Western Carolina University and was accepted into the trumpet studio program. Moving to the mountains of NC was his primary goal at a young age and this was his chance!  During his time at WCU he spent a lot of time paddling whitewater around the area and became a proficient class 5 kayaker. Working within the outdoor programs at WCU he taught many staff to become whitewater guides, kayak instructors and caving trip leaders.

After graduation he worked for 10 years as a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Instructor primarily with Landmark Learning. At Landmark he taught courses such as Swiftwater Rescue, Wilderness Lifeguarding, Wilderness First Responder, and EMT Intensive programs. He has worked as a precepting instructor and on Instructor Training Courses to develop new wilderness medicine instructors, he understands the need for quality, experienced staff. Kevin’s most recent role was working as a clinical coordinator managing 400 clinical and non clinical/volunteer staff for the WCU Regional COVID-19 vaccine clinic. He developed the training for the clinic and facilitated the administration of over 15,000 COVID-19 vaccines in rural Western North Carolina.

Kevin joined the SOAR team in April of 2022 as the Director of NC Programs and can’t wait to have a fun, successful summer season!

Assistant Director of N.C. Programs

C. Ryan Smith

About

Growing up in a rather nomadic family as an Air Force and Commercial pilot’s son, Ryan likes to say:  “I was born in Denver, lived all over the US, but was raised in North Carolina”.  Though he lived in Texas, Washington State, Colorado, Michigan, and Virginia- summers were spent in North Carolina, either at the beach or in the mountains.  Both sides of his family have deep roots in NC, his mom from Wilmington and his Dad from Clyde.

He currently resides in Waynesville, NC with his wife, Kathryn, and two daughters, Elsie and Carolina.

His passion for the outdoors and experiential education was fostered at YMCA Camp Cheerio, where he was a lifelong camper turned counselor.  He loved teaching students how to roll kayaks and encouraging students to reach for that last hold on the climbing wall.

He attended the Virginia Military Institute and then Emory and Henry College, graduating with degrees in Economics and Business Administration. Though much of his early career development was centered around the corporate world, first managing rental properties and then climbing the ladder to become an Operations Manager for FedEx Ground, his heart and soul longed to be outside- guiding, teaching, and experiencing as much of the natural world as possible.

Ryan is a passionate white water canoeist, instructor, and sometimes- captain of the swim team!  Ever since taking a course from Fritz Orr and learning how to peel out of an eddy in a tandem canoe, the rest is history…..  He says: “ I had no idea a canoe could do that!”  If he is not hanging out with his family, you can bet you’ll find him on one of the many creeks and rivers in the South East, especially if it has been raining.  His other professed “fountain of youth” is riding boards of any kind- specifically surf, skate, and snow.  He is very proud to be a rad dad!

Ryan began working for SOAR in 2020, as a Whitewater and River Safety Specialist for the NC canoe and rafting adventure programs. Prior to that first SOAR experience, he was managing logistics and staffing for Landmark Learning and NOLS Wilderness Medicine in the South East. He currently teaches ACA L4 Swift Water Rescue and ACA Solo/Tandem Canoeing coursework and was a graduate of the Landmark Outdoor Educator Semester program in 2015.  He also is a Leave No Trace Master Educator.

Logistics Director

Caleb Parchman

EXPERIENCE

Caleb has lived in Western North Carolina for about 7 years and has been working in outdoor education and experiential education for the past 11 years. The emphasis of his work has been on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion efforts. He most recently spent 7 years working for North Carolina Outward Bound in many roles including Logistics, Field Instructor, and River Staff. Caleb spends most of his free time paddling on all of the rivers and creeks throughout the Southeast. He joined SOAR in 2022 and is excited to work with the Physical Plant Director, all the SOAR staff and the ADHD/LD community!

He is currently certified as a Wilderness First Responder, ACA Level 4 Whitewater Canoe Instructor, raft guide, and Swiftwater Rescue.

COMING SOON!

Executive Director

John Wilson, M.S., LRT/CTRS

EDUCATION

  • Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
  • University of Colorado @ Boulder, Experiential Education, and Outdoor Leadership
  • Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration

EXPERIENCE

John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with Learning and Attention challenges. 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 led 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 a Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina and a former 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, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothy are the proud parents of two magnificent children living with ADHD.

Director of Programs

John Rogers

EDUCATION

  • B.S. in Aerospace Administration
  • M.S. in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from Middle Tennessee State University

EXPERIENCE

John has been in camping since 1985, over 35 years. He started with SOAR in 1989 and was the Community Based Director until 1996; when he returned to the Navigators Eagle Lake Camp to start their east coast program in North Carolina. He moved to Colorado in 200 to head up Eagle Lake’s Wilderness and Excursions programs.

In 2006 He joined Montreat College to teach and direct their Backcountry program outreach to the Western North Carolina community. During that time Montreat built a state of the art challenge course facility and John transition to be the Team and Leadership Center Director. He designed and launched the program where he served until returning to SOAR in 2020.

John also started the Virtuoso Series in 2014, a high-quality tanning resource; which features national and internationally known speakers, authors, and trainers. Guest speakers have included: Jim Cain, Jenifer Stanchfield, Michelle Cummings, Greg Robinson, and Chris Cavert. The series is open to students, and professionals.

John is also a trainer for Signature Research Inc. Signature’s Facilitator Training Workshops are designed to provide Practitioner Certification for workshop participants. Workshops cover appropriate technical and course management issues for your personnel to develop the skills to operate your challenge course program.

He is an entrepreneur, owner, and founder of Re-New Headlight Restoration. He has taught at Middle Tennessee State University, Western Carolina University, and Montreat College.

Director of Business

J.D. Jones

Education:

  • United States Military Academy, West Point, B.S. in International Relations
  • Colorado State University, Masters in Business Administration

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

Executive Assistant

Lucero "Lucy" Madrid

EDUCATION

  • Accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant License, Avanza Training in Colorado Springs
  • Certified Early Childhood Teacher, Front Range Community College

EXPERIENCE

Lucy is a born and raised Texan. She recently moved to North Carolina with her husband Jonathan and son Ryder. She grew up living in a border city, frequently walking across the border to Juarez to visit family and relish in Mexican culture and all the Al Pastor tacos her heart desired. As a first-generation American Lucy’s first language was Spanish and she learned English in grade school. She played soccer from the age of 5 until her senior year in high school and is thrilled to now share the sport with her 4 year old son Ryder.  She loves hiking, fishing, “creeking” with her son, and is starting her first garden this summer.  She is a licensed CNA and former preschool teacher, where she discovered a passion for working with children and believes children are the key to creating a better future.  No matter her role at SOAR she believes that this is a great place where lives can be changed and where success starts.

Academy at Soar, Head of School

Joseph Geier

EDUCATION

Indiana University of Pennsylvania, B.A. / B.S Program in Anthropology and History Education

EXPERIENCE

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.

Academy at Soar, Director of Academics

Nettie Black

EDUCATION

M.S. in Outdoor Pursuits Recreation Administration from Aurora University
B.S. in Biology from Loyola University

EXPERIENCE

Nettie fell in love with the outdoors at a young age and was able to pursue this passion and make it a career. She has been working in the Adventure Education field since 1997 and has had the privilege of working with Outward Bound, Wilderness Challenge, and taught Outdoor Leadership at Warren Wilson College. She joined the Academy at SOAR for the 2020-2021 school year where she enjoyed working with the ADHD/LD population and the program itself. She was a Camp Director this past summer and has accepted the position as Director of Academics for the 2021-2022 school year. She looks forward to working with the students and staff to make it a memorable experience full of great adventures!

Nettie and her husband Tony have two children and a slew of animals including a dairy cow, poultry, and reptiles. In her spare time, she loves hiking, backpacking, flatwater paddling, and gardening!

Admissions Coordinator

Hannah Evans

About

Hannah is a graduate from Western Carolina University with a degree in Education. She previously worked in the public school system and have found myself working for this nurturing school! Being a lover of the outdoors, Hannah is a raft guide for the Ocoee river and loves to hike (especially if there is a view). Hannah lives in the beautiful area of Western North Carolina and plans to explore this Disney world of hiking one trail at a time!

Academy at SOAR, Program Director

Leigh Whaley

PRONOUNS

she/her/hers

EDUCATION

Antioch University of New England, M.S. in Environmental Education
Western Carolina University, B.S. in Parks & Recreation Management, Outdoor Leadership & Instruction

EXPERIENCE

As a native of North Carolina, Leigh attended summer camp in various parts of the state where she quickly discovered her passion for the outdoors. After earning her B.S., Leigh spent time in Washington state where she shared her love and knowledge of the natural environment with young people through leadership roles at different summer camps. Beyond her environmental education background, Leigh is also a skilled swim instructor and enjoyed teaching swim lessons as a lifeguard when camp wasn’t in session.

Shortly after wrapping up her last camp season in Washington, Leigh set out to expand her knowledge in the field by earning her Master’s Degree in Environmental Education. Upon graduation, she worked with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) Massachusetts AmeriCorps program where she led the implementation of environmental education programs in local schools. During her time with the corps, she also assisted with trail building and maintenance while living in that community setting.

More recently, Leigh returned to her camp roots as the Outdoor Adventures Manager for the Girl Scouts of Southeast Virginia. She not only increased the frequency of event offerings but also added unique high outdoor adventure programs, including axe throwing and high rope course challenges. These helped encourage every member to step out their comfort zone and try new things! Leigh also led overnight and day camp for members while ensuring the best experience possible for each and every camper!

Leigh is thrilled to join the Academy at Soar community and is excited to contribute to the growth and well-being of the students and the instructors.

Academy at SOAR, Counselor

Cade Ingle

EDUCATION

Capella University,  Master of Science in School Counseling

EXPERIENCE

Cade grew up in Runnells, Iowa near the capital city of Des Moines. Outdoor adventure has been a large part of his personal growth, self-care, and connection nature provides. Cade worked for SOAR as a campus instructor, field instructor, and summer staff dating back to 2018. Cade has hiked a dog part of the Pacific Crest Trail, and spent a lot of time backpacking in various parts of the western United States and Europe but fell in love with the beauty of western North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains while at SOAR.  He believes that the wilderness offers a unique learning environment to further a child’s education as well as their socio-emotional growth. Cade earned his master’s degree in school counseling, has worked on a crisis line supporting teens in mental health crises and safety emergency situations, and has spent several years teaching and counseling in public school settings. Cade works as a school counselor with SOAR’s students, staff, and parents as a socio-emotional educator, support, and resource to help create an inclusive, safe, and growth-minded environment.

Cade is pretty good at ping-pong, loves Thai and Indian cuisine, enjoys audiobooks, drawing, hiking, climbing, and CrossFit workouts. If he had to choose his favorite backpacking meal it would be peanut butter and beef jerky, generally separate but when you’re out there long enough weird combos start looking pretty appealing!

Academy at SOAR, Science Teacher

Hannah Skelton

About

Hannah Skelton is originally from the North Georgia Mountains where she grew up on a farm. Hannah always loved the outdoors and this passion grew stronger when she became a river guide on the Chattooga River in 2017. Since then, Hannah has adventured all over the country including a river expedition through the Grand Canyon! Amidst these travels, Hannah earned a B.A in K-12 Drama Education from Piedmont University. Upon graduation, Hannah taught theatre in public schools for 2 years. After this experience, Hannah wanted to find a way to marry her two passions: teaching and the outdoors. It was then she began working in outdoor education, which led her to working at experiential therapeutic schools and eventually the Academy at SOAR! Hannah is thrilled to be at SOAR and to be working with the students here.
Academy at SOAR, Science Teacher

Spencer Forbes

Education

  • B.S. in Natural Resources- Wildlife Management

About

Spencer has been learning outdoor education, guided hikes, and outdoor skills programing since graduating from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in 2018. He has lived and traveled across the country working in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Montana. He has also had the opportunity to lead Highschool trips internationally to Cambodia and VIetnam, as well as two domestic trips to Hawaii. The 2023-2024 School year is Spencer’s First time teaching at SOAR and in a formal classroom setting. Spencer is teaching our Middle School Math and Science courses along with Highschool Environmental Science. He is excited to work with a wide age range and share all he knows about Science and Math.
Academy at SOAR, Electives Teacher

Ash Manning

About

Ash is originally from the Northeast Georgia mountains but made a smooth transition to the nook outside Asheville, where SOAR is located! In the summer she is a whitewater guide in West Virginia! She loves dancing and creating art with the students, working out early in the mornings, or yoga during PE with them!

Academy at SOAR, Math Teacher

Andrea Gerard

EDUCATION

Elementary & Special Education, Western Georgia University

EXPERIENCE

Anka first joined SOAR in 2017 from Charlotte, NC and since then has worked in many different capacities at SOAR. Currently, she is the Academy at SOAR Math Teacher and also works during the summer months as the Florida Keys Adventure Course Director. She loves every minute of working with our ADHD and LD kids and making sure that they have a fun, educational time doing all the different adventure activities they can!  She enjoys fishing and swimming, especially in the sunny Florida Keys.

Academy at SOAR, Literature Teacher

Sheila Sumpter

About

Shelia Radford Sumpter has been teaching children of all ages for over 30 years in the public school, private studio, and university settings.  Her undergraduate studies were in theatre and dance and her graduate studies were in language arts education. Mrs. Sumpter has worked as a professional actress, dancer, director, and choreographer.  She currently consults with professional, academic, and community organizations. She is the founder and Artistic Director of Kids at HART which is part of Haywood Arts Regional Theater.

Academy at SOAR humanities teacher standing in front of a mountain range.
Academy at SOAR, Humanities Teachers

Anna Kopecki

Education:

  • B.S. in Education with a focus in Mathematics and History

About

Anna has a passion for outdoor sports with over 8 years of experience guiding on the Chattooga River, guiding in Glacier National Park, rowing down the Grand Canyon and zipline guiding. It was when she began working with children in these outdoor spaces that she realized that she enjoyed seeing children understand what she was teaching to them. This led her to the University of North Georgia where she got her degree in Education with a focus on mathematics and history.
She taught students with ADHD and learning disabilities in public school for three years until she finally found The Academy at SOAR. She is very happy to be working at a school who’s pedagogy aligns with hers. As someone who grew up with learning disabilities, she finds experiential learning is the best way for a child to succeed.
Academy at Soar, Humanities Teacher

Gene McNabb-Friedmann

EDUCATION

Ohio State University, M.A. and doctoral studies in Latin American Literature, Culture and Semiotics
B.A. Spanish

EXPERIENCE

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, Field Instructor

Marley Neal

About

Marley grew up in metro Atlanta and found a passion for the outdoors at a young age. She enjoys spending time on the river, exploring the backcountry, and learning about native plants. She has worked many summers at camps, most recently as a Field Staff at SOAR for Summer 2022. Marley went to school at Clemson University where she graduated with a degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management with a concentration in Recreational Therapy. Marley is so excited to work with the students and help prepare them for the rollercoaster of life!

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Charlotte Masters

About

Charlotte grew up in St. Augustine Florida, where she spent most summer days playing in the water fishing, sea kayaking, canoeing, or body surfing. Her family often took trips to western NC to hike, bike, and play in Linville Falls. Her love of the Blue Ridge grew and she chose Western Carolina University to attend college. While at WCU she studied Parks and Recreation Management where she fostered her love of experiential learning, trip leading, and working with youth in the outdoors. She chose SOAR summer camp in the summer of 2018 as her capstone internship to complete her degree. The summer provided her with the fast-paced environment that she works best in and a lifetime of memories she will never forget! After she graduated, she moved home to Florida where she worked in several different positions over the years; kayak guide for eco-tours and as a beach life guard to name a few. Nothing compared to her time at SOAR and she made her way back to Balsam, NC for 2022 SOAR summer as the North Carolina Backpacking Course Director. Charlotte is thrilled to be back and working as Field staff for the Academy this year! In her off time, you can find her somewhere near a body of water splashing about or just going for a dip. She holds certifications as an Open Water Lifeguard, WFA, and Raft Guide.

Academy at SOAR, Campus Instructor

Laura Brown

About

Laura grew up in Roanoke Rapids, NC where her family encouraged her to hike, bike, camp, and swim. She spent most of her free time running around outside with her siblings and dogs which fostered a connection to the outdoors from a young age. Laura decided to attend Elon University where she majored in Adventure Based Learning. She developed knowledge and passion for experiential education and working with kids. During her time at Elon, she also completed a NOLS semester in the Southwest of the US which gave her a lot of confidence in living and learning in the backcountry. Over the past few years, Laura has worked at a number of other outdoor places as a paddling and backpacking instructor and as an environmental educator. She’s excited to be working this year as a field instructor for the Academy.

Academy at SOAR, Field Instructor

Kaylie Bean

About

Kaylie graduated from Montreat College with a bachelor’s in Exercise Science and a concentration in Health and Fitness. Kaylie enjoys activities such as hiking, backpacking, and climbing. Kaylie began to fall in love with the outdoors during her time at school and that lead her to take some outdoor recreation classes before she graduated in 2022. After graduation, she had the opportunity to work for SOAR Summer camp as a backpacking instructor in NC. She loved the environment of SOAR and wanted to continue to gain more outdoor and leadership experience so she accepted a position at the Academy! Kaylie is excited for what’s to come this season and is ready to learn and grow more as an instructor.

Academy at SOAR, Field Supervisor

Sadie Belt

About

Sadie grew up in Northern VA and enjoyed spending time on the Chesapeake Bay waterskiing, kayaking, and crabbing. She attended multiple resident camps while growing up and fell in love with summer camp life. As soon as she was old enough Sadie began working at YMCA resident camps. She spent three summers as a ropes instructor at Camp Silver Beach in VA, before moving to TX to work as an assistant land program director at Camp Cullen. Sadie has spent the past three summers at SOAR, both as a field instructor and course director of the Llama Trekking program in NC and Horsepacking Adventure in WY. Outside of summertime, Sadie explored her love of math and science while at school and recently graduated with her B.S. in Neuroscience from Christopher Newport University. Sadie is incredibly excited to be returning to the Academy at SOAR team where she can bring together her passion for education and outdoor exploration.

Executive Director

John Wilson, M.S., LRT/CTRS

EDUCATION

  • Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
  • University of Colorado @ Boulder, Experiential Education, and Outdoor Leadership
  • Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration

EXPERIENCE

John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with Learning and Attention challenges. 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 led 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 a Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina and a former 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, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothy are the proud parents of two magnificent children living with ADHD.

Director of Programs

John Rogers

EDUCATION

  • B.S. in Aerospace Administration
  • M.S. in Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from Middle Tennessee State University

EXPERIENCE

John has been in camping since 1985, over 35 years. He started with SOAR in 1989 and was the Community Based Director until 1996; when he returned to the Navigators Eagle Lake Camp to start their east coast program in North Carolina. He moved to Colorado in 200 to head up Eagle Lake’s Wilderness and Excursions programs.

In 2006 He joined Montreat College to teach and direct their Backcountry program outreach to the Western North Carolina community. During that time Montreat built a state of the art challenge course facility and John transition to be the Team and Leadership Center Director. He designed and launched the program where he served until returning to SOAR in 2020.

John also started the Virtuoso Series in 2014, a high-quality tanning resource; which features national and internationally known speakers, authors, and trainers. Guest speakers have included: Jim Cain, Jenifer Stanchfield, Michelle Cummings, Greg Robinson, and Chris Cavert. The series is open to students, and professionals.

John is also a trainer for Signature Research Inc. Signature’s Facilitator Training Workshops are designed to provide Practitioner Certification for workshop participants. Workshops cover appropriate technical and course management issues for your personnel to develop the skills to operate your challenge course program.

He is an entrepreneur, owner, and founder of Re-New Headlight Restoration. He has taught at Middle Tennessee State University, Western Carolina University, and Montreat College.

Director of Business

J.D. Jones

Education:

  • United States Military Academy, West Point, B.S. in International Relations
  • Colorado State University, Masters in Business Administration

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

Executive Assistant

Lucero "Lucy" Madrid

EDUCATION

  • Accelerated Certified Nursing Assistant License, Avanza Training in Colorado Springs
  • Certified Early Childhood Teacher, Front Range Community College

EXPERIENCE

Lucy is a born and raised Texan. She recently moved to North Carolina with her husband Jonathan and son Ryder. She grew up living in a border city, frequently walking across the border to Juarez to visit family and relish in Mexican culture and all the Al Pastor tacos her heart desired. As a first-generation American Lucy’s first language was Spanish and she learned English in grade school. She played soccer from the age of 5 until her senior year in high school and is thrilled to now share the sport with her 4 year old son Ryder.  She loves hiking, fishing, “creeking” with her son, and is starting her first garden this summer.  She is a licensed CNA and former preschool teacher, where she discovered a passion for working with children and believes children are the key to creating a better future.  No matter her role at SOAR she believes that this is a great place where lives can be changed and where success starts.

Marketing Director

Sarah Fisher

EDUCATION

  • Flagler College, B.A. in Psychology
  • Liberty University, M.S. in Sports Marketing and Media

EXPERIENCE

Sarah grew up in a small town in New Jersey. Following high school graduation she moved to St. Augustine, Florida to attend Flagler College. While in school Sarah would spend her free time night swimming with friends after class, surfing on the weekends, and searching for adventure. After graduating with a degree in Psychology from Flagler, Sarah started on her journey to earn her Master’s in Marketing with a focus in Sports Marketing and Media.

The outdoors have always brought her an inner peace, so when Sarah discovered SOAR she instantly fell in love with the companies mission. She believes that SOAR allows her to pursue all of her passions in one place. When Sarah is not working she enjoys rock climbing, trail running, and shark tooth hunting with her partner, Kasey, and their dog, Samoa. Sarah is excited to help the next generation thrive through SOAR.

Registrar

Karina Lorenc

EDUCATION

Green Mountain College, B.S. Adventure Education

EXPERIENCE

Karina’s love for the outdoors stems from her childhood as a young homeschooler in Connecticut when an hour outside every day, no matter the season, was the rule! In high school, she had the amazing opportunity to volunteer with the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service in New Jersey, Michigan, and Montana. It was during those three summers when she realized the intense healing power of nature. In college, Karina studied Adventure Education and Sociology/Anthropology. The experiential, varied nature of her education led her to have a wide variety of interests and always be open to new challenges! She has worked as a therapeutic field instructor, climbing and kayaking instructor, administrator, tutor, supervisor, farmhand, and much more.

Karina first joined SOAR in 2015 as an NC Expedition Instructor and then as the FL Activity Specialist in 2016. She is thrilled to be back with the SOAR family as an administrator and can’t wait to help SOAR students and campers realize their full potential and have fun! Karina holds or has held many certifications including Wilderness First Responder, ARC Adult, and Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED, ARC Emergency Oxygen Administration, ARC Life Guard, ARC Small Craft Safety Instructor – Canoe, ACA River Kayak II Instructor, and Whitewater Raft Guide.

Director of Admissions

Caroline Hamilton

EDUCATION

  • Carson-Newman University, B.S. Leisure Services
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Master’s level course work in Outdoor Recreation

Experience

J. D. has a long history with SOAR and has watched the program grow into what it is today. Frequently joining his father on multiple programs since 1993, J. D. joined the SOAR team while in High School as a Wrangler for summer programs in WY and Sea-Doo activity specialist and Rescue Diver in FL. Participating in all of these adventures enabled J. D. to experience and fall in love with almost all of the outdoor activities SOAR has to offer.After receiving his bachelor’s degree from West Point, J. D. served in the U.S. Army for 8 years. After service, he began getting his MBA at Colorado State University while simultaneously acting as a consultant for SOAR. J. D. joined the SOAR Board of Directors Investments Committee soon after.Upon graduation from CSU, J. D. joined the SOAR Team as a full-time member at its NC Base where he started June 2021. J. D. and his beautiful wife Lucee have a 3-year-old son and are excited about this next great adventure!

Admissions Coordinator

Hannah Evans

About

Hannah is a graduate from Western Carolina University with a degree in Education. She previously worked in the public school system and have found myself working for this nurturing school! Being a lover of the outdoors, Hannah is a raft guide for the Ocoee river and loves to hike (especially if there is a view). Hannah lives in the beautiful area of Western North Carolina and plans to explore this Disney world of hiking one trail at a time!

GAP Director

Amelia Weber

EDUCATION

Flagler College, B.A. in Fine Art

EXPERIENCE

Amelia grew up playing in the Gulf Coast waters of Florida. During college, she traded the calm waters of the gulf to play in the big waves on the Atlantic coast. Amongst surfing, swimming, and kayaking in St. Augustine, FL, Amelia received her degree in Fine Art and minored in Education. Driven to express the intricacies of the natural world, Amelia spends time crafting pottery and drawing the environment around her. You can find Amelia exploring the woods and following her curiosities. She aims to encourage students to explore their curiosities as well.

Amelia is excited to join us now as the Gap East Program Director! She has worked as a field staff for the NC Expedition course, Course Director for the NC Academic Discovery and Canoeing courses, and worked both as campus and field staff for the Academy at SOAR. She has a deep love of learning outdoors and experiencing the world first hand with campers and students alike! She has also worked at summer camps in Florida and spent time directing a writing center tutoring program at the college level.

GAP Mentor

Annslee Shileds

EDUCATION

B.S. in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies
Minor is Psychology

EXPERIENCE

Annslee has worked at SOAR for the past two summers as field staff in North Carolina and Wyoming, as well as the Christmas in the Keys program. She has enjoyed working with and building great relationships with such incredible kids during her time at SOAR and is looking forward to continuing that at the GAP East program. An unusual talent of Annslee’s is that she has many of the dances of the Wii Just Dance songs memorized and can still do them about 8 years since she has learned them. To Annslee, a perfect day is being outside either riding horses or hiking somewhere beautiful with her friends and family. And, the day must end with ice cream.

GAP Mentor

Grace Noonan

Education

  • Montreat College, B.A. in Outdoor Education, Minor in Art 

About

Grace spends time between adventures based from her car, Western North Carolina, and  Chattanooga, TN. She brings 3 seasons of working with SOAR to the Gap East program: working  as a Field Staff for NC Llama Trek, and as a Course Director for NC Academic Discovery, NC  Llama Trek, and California Summer Programs. Grace has a Bachelor’s Degree in Outdoor 

Education and a minor in Art from Montreat College in Black Mountain, NC. Grace has  experience and skills in a plethora of outdoor sports and activities. Some of those include sport  and traditional climbing, bouldering, ice climbing, white water rafting, backpacking, and sea  kayaking. Her certifications are in Lifeguarding, Behavioral First Responder, and Wilderness  First Responder. She has a great love for the outdoors and it brings her a lot of joy to get others  outside and join them on the journey of finding out what they love. Her most recent job has been  the California Course Director for SOAR Summer 2023. A perfect day for Grace would be  waking up with the sunrise, eating a yummy breakfast and climbing and laughing all day. Eating  dinner close to some water so she can swim and fall asleep with a nice view of the stars makes it  even more perfect as well.

Executive Director

John Wilson, M.S., LRT/CTRS

EDUCATION

  • Texas State University, B.S. Sociology
  • University of Colorado @ Boulder, Experiential Education, and Outdoor Leadership
  • Aurora University, M.S. Outdoor Therapeutic Recreation Administration

EXPERIENCE

John has spent over 25 years working with youth diagnosed with Learning and Attention challenges. 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 led 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 a Past President of the Learning Disabilities Association of North Carolina and a former 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, Therapeutic Recreation, and Leadership courses. His certifications include Wilderness First Responder, Lifeguard, PADI Rescue Diver, State licensed Recreation Therapist, and Nationally Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Finally, and most importantly, he and his wife Dorothy are the proud parents of two magnificent children living with ADHD.

Founder, Director Emeritus, Chairman of the Board, Capital Campaign Cabinet Member

Jonathan Jones

About

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 Emeritus

Wandajean Jones

About

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.

Board Members

Danny Benjamin

About

Danny is a Pediatrician; he and his wife Donna have four children. Their oldest son was initially enrolled in SOAR’s summer camp program in NC and was then a student at the Academy at SOAR for 3 years.

Danny obtained his medical degree and completed a pediatric residency at the University of Virginia. He then completed a fellowship in pediatric infectious diseases at Duke University and a Masters in Public Health and PhD in Epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His research group pioneered much of the methods in completing pharmacokinetic (dosing) and safety trials of medicines in premature infants. This led to bipartisan legislation in 2012 that required the study of all new medicines in premature neonates. His group has since expanded to the study of medicines in children of all ages and most therapeutic areas as evidenced by >300 publications in peer-reviewed journals. Danny continues to lead multi-center studies and is the Principal Investigator of multiple NIH and FDA-sponsored grants and contracts of $250,000,000 in current federal funding including the Pediatric Trials Network; the Trial Innovation Network; the Environmental Impact on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program; and Global Pediatric Clinical Trials Network Sponsored. Danny has won 7 awards for teaching and mentorship at Duke University, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, and University of Virginia; and he is recognized nationally for mentorship through his work as PI and/or mentor for Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology programs including a T32, a K24, and an R25 to train the next generation of pediatric clinical trials researchers.

Board Member

Corky Cootes

About

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.

Board Member

Jim Drawdy

About

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.

Board Member

Dale Harris-Sparacino

About

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.

Board Member

Annette Kesgen

About

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.

Board Member

Korey Ramsey

About

Korey Ramsey received his degree in Recreational Therapy in 1997 from Western Carolina University.  He has been working with SOAR since 1995, beginning with the weekend programs, then he worked as a course director from 97 to 2001. He became the full-time director of the Appalachian semester course in the fall of 97 and Desert southwest semester in the spring of 98.  He then completed 3 additional semesters running the program. Additionally, he was instrumental in developing the NC Expedition course.o

While in college he also worked construction, then worked with a local contractor building homes in between course programs at SOAR.  During that time frame, Korey built 4 of the SOAR Adirondack style shelters from scratch and converted 3 of the single shelters to double shelters. He also built the bathhouse/conference room.

In 2001 Korey obtained his EMT certification, and in 2002 received his EMT/ Intermediate.  In 2006 he completed his RN degree from Southwestern and began working in the emergency department at Mission Hospital.

In 2017 he was hired as a flight nurse with the air medical program known as MAMA (Mountain Area Medical Airlift).  In 2020 Korey began a specialty position with trauma services at Mission as a Trauma nurse lead, while still working part-time as a flight nurse. His certifications include:

CEN – Certified Emergency Nurse

TCRN – Trauma certified RN

TNCC – Trauma Nurse Core Course

ENPC – Emergency Nurse Pediatric Course

NRP – NeoNatal Resuscitation program\

BLS / ACLS / PALS

Swift Water Rescue level 3.

In addition, both his children have attended SOAR.  His son Brandon completed his 5th summer in 2019. His wife continues to work at SOAR helping facilitate specialty courses, and Korey routinely volunteers his time to help with physical plant projects.

Ramsey quote: “I believe strongly in the mission of SOAR and would consider it an honor to bring my medical and construction skills to support the organization.”

Board Member, Capital Campaign Cabinet Member

Joan Teach

About

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.

Board Member

Logan Walters

About

Catey Terry grew up just south of Nashville, TN. She attended Appalachian State University where she earned a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. After college, she completed a fisheries internship with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, before setting off on a 500-mile adventure along the Appalachian Trail. Ready to get off of her feet (literally) and back on her feet (figuratively), she took a summer position at SOAR as a Wilderness Field Instructor in 2005. For 13 years, she remained with SOAR serving in a variety of roles, from Office Manager, Manager of the Administrative Team, and ultimately CFO. During this time she was involved with various aspects of the organization including marketing, admissions, IT support, and finances.

In August of 2018, Catey took on the role of President and CEO at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, a non-profit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that provides residential environmental education programs, connecting people of all ages to nature. She previously served on the advisory board for the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. She is an active board member for Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Board Member

Catey McClarey

About

Catey Terry grew up just south of Nashville, TN. She attended Appalachian State University where she earned a degree in Ecology and Environmental Biology. After college, she completed a fisheries internship with Great Smoky Mountains National Park, before setting off on a 500-mile adventure along the Appalachian Trail. Ready to get off of her feet (literally) and back on her feet (figuratively), she took a summer position at SOAR as a Wilderness Field Instructor in 2005. For 13 years, she remained with SOAR serving in a variety of roles, from Office Manager, Manager of the Administrative Team, and ultimately CFO. During this time she was involved with various aspects of the organization including marketing, admissions, IT support, and finances.

In August of 2018, Catey took on the role of President and CEO at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, a non-profit partner of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that provides residential environmental education programs, connecting people of all ages to nature. She previously served on the advisory board for the Conservation Trust of North Carolina. She is an active board member for Alliance for Better Nonprofits in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Board Member

Drex Rogers

About

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.

Advisory Board Member

Ted Cook

About

Lieutenant (Ret.), Miami Beach Fire Department

Stuart, FL

Advisory Board Member

Dr. Ruth Hughes

About

Expert in non-profit management / ADHD expert and author

Columbia, MD

Advisory Board Member

James Jones

About

Former SOAR Director of Development

Franklin, NC

Advisory Board Member

Dr. Roy Sanders

About

Psychiatrist and expert in ADHD, Autism, and LD

Atlanta, GA

Advisory Board Member

Josh Willson

About

Insurance Advisor

Colleyville, TX