Young people should be able to have fun, be well protected, and be given proper guidance. This does not always happen naturally and it is difficult to achieve when a youth is placed in foster care.
We believe that foster youth should receive high quality support, opportunities, and rapport as soon as they reach middle school age (grades 6-8). To accomplish this goal, SOAR hosts residential summer academies for foster youth on the UC Berkeley campus and continues to add new resources for academic support and career development until our young people graduate from high school and through their second year in college.
Once selected, each youth is invited to attend four summer pre-collegiate academies (“Prepare To SOAR”, “Learn To SOAR”, “Time To SOAR”, and ”SOAR To College”). The summer program curriculum includes:
- Academic enrichment in critical subject-areas like writing and math.
- College orientation and guidance, including college application assistance.
- Outdoor adventures where bonding and teamwork are key.
- Success stories from former foster youth and career role models in various professions.
- Life-skills training, including help with personal finance.
- Career development, including job search and interview skills.
- Connection to emancipation services and college scholarship programs that continue to provide a safety net for our program graduates.
In addition to the summer academies, we host events to help our young people stay connected throughout the school year. In doing so, we create a home base they can look forward to returning to, provide a peer group they feel secure in connecting with, and offer a program that reminds them that there are people who care about their future.
SOAR provides resources and support to help ensure that our participants are on track to be eligible for college admission. This includes recruiting and training Academic Advocates (both voluntary and paid), making these advocates available to work with SOAR youths (weekly, monthly, and annually), and providing college preparation workshops, and tutoring, as well as interaction with school counselors. On a case-by-case basis, Academic Advocates work to help ensure that students’ grade-point averages consistently increase and that our young people pursue an educational course leading to the fulfillment of their life goals and a bright future. This academic support is provided until our young people finish their first year in college.
In 2018, SOAR launched our newest program offering, a summer internship program to motivate and reward our academically successful summer program graduates and provide them with real world work experiences. SOAR partners with prestigious employers in the Bay Area such as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and City of Emeryville. Each intern receives a stipend, plus transportation costs if needed.
With sustained attention and support from SOAR over a five-to-eight-year period, with real follow-through to encourage their progress, we expect that unlike their foster peers, 80% of SOAR youths will graduate from high school, and more than 50% of them will attend college. We expect every SOAR youth will become a contributing member of society.