Group Spotlight: SOAR Program seeking volunteers

Marywood+University%E2%80%99s+SOAR+program+%28Students+On-Campus+Achieving+Results%29+is+a+program+designed+to+encourage+independent+living+and+prepare+students+with+an+autism+spectrum+disorder+for+future+employment.

Photo credit/ Photo credit/ Jack Kirby

Marywood University’s SOAR program (Students On-Campus Achieving Results) is a program designed to encourage independent living and prepare students with an autism spectrum disorder for future employment.

Esperanza Gutierrez, Asst. Community Editor

Marywood University’s SOAR program (Students On-Campus Achieving Results) is a program designed to encourage independent living and prepare students with an autism spectrum disorder for future employment.

In order to continue with their special education services, the SOAR program, which in the past had relied on work-study student workers to serve as mentors and to assist the SOAR students, is now in search of volunteers as a result of budget cuts.

“These mentors are a valuable and a necessary resource to help ensure success of the SOAR students on the job site,” said Dr. Patricia Arter, founder and director of the SOAR program for the past eight years.

Arter decided to create the program nearly a decade ago when she spoke with a woman from the Northeastern Intermediate Unit (NEIU).

The NEIU takes care in providing special education services to students with autism, according to Arter.

There were no resources for students on the autism spectrum transitioning from school to work, which is how Arter thought of the SOAR program.

“The goal of the whole program is to give students realistic work skills so that they can go into competitive employment,” said Arter.

Students have various opportunities to work in real job settings such as the mail room, cafeteria, lawn crews and cleaning.

All of the jobs depend on the student’s skill level and interests.

Jack Kirby, from the NEIU, works with the students all day.

In the morning, students participate in functional life skills. Then in the afternoon, the students have a job on campus in which they learn job skills.

Friday afternoon’s students go to the game room in Nazareth Hall to have free time for an hour to interact with Marywood students in groups.

In the spring once Marywood students leave for the semester, students from the SOAR program simulate a move-in day. Students learn to go shopping, clean, cook, how to maintain an apartment and other life skills.

“The backbone of this program is the Marywood employees that take our students and teach them these job skills,” said Kirby. “Without them, we’re no different from any other special education classrooms.”

The SOAR program allows eight students in their program every year. There are currently seven students enrolled in the program, and a student can stay in the program for up to two years.

Volunteers are encouraged and welcomed to serve as job coaches in the SOAR program. Volunteer hours are between 11:30-2:30 Monday thru Thursday.

If interested, contact Stephanie Major at [email protected] or Jack Kirby at [email protected]

Contact the writer: [email protected]