SOAR is hidden gem of Haywood County

By James Jones | Nov 20, 2012
Photo by: Donated photo John Willson, executive director belays his son J. Willson, during one of SOAR's High Adventure, Wilderness Program Sessions.

SOAR (Success Oriented Achievement Realized) is a residential summer adventure camp serving youth specifically diagnosed with learning disabilities and AD/HD. While the program's headquarters are in Haywood, they also have a 50-acre ranch in Dubois, Wyoming, and programs in Florida, California, and New York.

“As the terms Learning Disabilities and AD/HD, (Attention Deficit / Hyperactive Disorder) have gained prominence in the last few years, it is interesting to note that one of the nation’s largest and most well known summer camps serving that population is located right here in Haywood County," said John Willson, executive director of SOAR Inc.

Willson continued, "For over 35 years SOAR has been serving this specific population of children in a deeply purposeful way. Campers work on important life skills while on extraordinary adventures
like rock climbing, canoeing, rafting, backpacking, and horseback riding.
SOAR maintains a low staff to student ratio of 1 to 4, allowing each
student to maximize the growth potential presented with each adventure.”

SOAR is a private, nonprofit corporation dedicated to LD and AD/HD Services providing adventure based wilderness programs and experiential education services to individuals and families dealing with these issues.

“We are also a community based service, providing adventure based wilderness programs and experiential education services to school-aged youth in the local community,” he said. “SOAR believes all individuals identified with learning disabilities (LD) and attention deficit disorder (AD/HD), possess inherent talents and gifts. These abilities can mean incredible success in adulthood, once these students negotiate the challenging obstacles of childhood, adolescence, and a traditional education system, which is usually unable to respond to individual learning styles.

“The SOAR model is based on two fundamental principles,” said Willson. ”First, youth with LD and AD/HD flourish when they are encouraged to focus on their strengths in an experiential setting. The second principle acknowledges that success can be generalized by encouraging our students to develop and utilize strategies which enable them to compensate for those challenging characteristics of LD and AD/HD. To this end, SOAR staff strive to ensure success for each student across a wide range of experiences. Such success, in turn, builds essential self-esteem and self-confidence.”

Based on these two foundations, Willson said SOAR participants develop problem-solving skills, effective communication strategies, increased self-awareness, and social skills.

Program activities include a broad base of wilderness adventure experiences which empower the student to make healthy choices, learn more about themselves, overcome challenges, and relate lessons learned from these experiences to other aspects of their lives.

For information, contact SOAR at 456-3435 or by mail at P.O. Box 388, Balsam, NC 28707.