One of my favorite parts of being the President of the Putnam City Schools Foundation is visiting our schools and the students in them. This week, I made it over to visit with the leaders at the SOAR program, and I was so impressed. This program serves as a resource for those students who, for a variety of reasons, are not completing their academic work in the traditional school structure, and need an adaptive schedule to reach graduation. SOAR is an acronym for “students of academic recovery” and is part of our Academy (another opportunity for students to reach graduation through non-traditional methods).
From what I can tell, the teachers and leaders in this program are making extraordinary efforts to reach each child where they are, providing them the learning atmosphere conducive to that particular child’s needs, to the best of their means. As with most teachers, this includes purchasing supplies from their own pockets, but here it also includes help searching for jobs, finding transportation, getting uniforms, and getting food. To be sure, many of these kids have real problems- those associated with poverty abound, as well as the results of poor choices the students themselves have made- but SOAR offers one last attempt to get them on track.
The things these people need to make each day a little more productive, a little more comfortable, are not egregious-books, school supplies, coats etc. The PC Foundation has such giving donors; I know we can make a difference for these kids by filling in a few of those gaps in the short term.
Some might question whether resources should be spent on children who have had serious lapses in judgement. Let me cite a few examples of these young people. One young woman I met is on track to graduate soon, and is already enrolled in Francis Tuttle’s legal assistant program. Another young woman has been accepted to Oklahoma City University (Go Stars!) with a scholarship coming her way. I don’t know what path brought these girls to SOAR, but I am so impressed at their resilience and the dedication of the staff to ensure that their lives are not defined by their worst choices.
My favorite part of the tour was hearing leadership say, “we want this to be a place of reformation.” That attitude is crucial to getting these students ready for adulthood. We may disagree on what kind of help to offer people, but surely we would all want grace extended to our children when he or she is at the beginning of life and needs strong guidance. I’m very proud of Putnam City for offering SOAR as yet another opportunity to turn children into citizens.