Native SOAR

The University of Arizona (UArizona) College of Education's Native Student Outreach Access, and Resiliency (SOAR) is a high impact service-learning course and multigenerational mentoring program. Grounded in Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing, our COURSE and MENTORING PROGRAM centers the needs of Native students and provides engaging and effective programming for students, families, and educators at no cost.

Native SOAR was based on the success and structure of another COE program called Project SOAR (please add hyperlink), which was established by Dr. Jenny Lee in 2005. In 2013, Dr. Amanda Tachine (Diné), UArizona alumna and Indigenous Higher Education scholar, partnered with Dr. Lee to Indigenize the program with the purpose of serving Native communities. Today, Native SOAR continues to increase college access among Native youth and families in southern Arizona and beyond!

In addition to providing culturally responsive programming and services, Native SOAR strives to support educational pathways for students from middle school through doctoral education. The program has been recognized nationally, including by First Lady Michelle Obama's Reach Higher initiative and in 2022, Native SOAR was also awarded the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Community's "Outstanding Student Support Program Award."

Since 2016, 238 undergraduates have served as Native SOAR mentors, representing over 70 majors. 90% of our mentors identify as citizens and/or enrolled members of Native nations, and represent 36 tribes across the country. In addition to serving as college mentors for middle/high school students, undergraduates also receive mentorship from Native graduate students, professionals, and/or community members. In this sense, Native SOAR is a multi-generational mentoring program, featuring familial and community values.

  • IN-PERSON MENTORING: College mentors meet one-on-one or in small groups with Indigenous youth. Open to Indigenous middle and high school youth in Southern Arizona.
  • VIRTUAL MENTORING: College mentors meet one-on-one or in small groups with Indigenous youth via Zoom. Native SOAR graduate students oversee the virtual meetings. Open to middle and high school students in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado.
  • CAMPUS VISITS: In the fall and spring, one-day events are offered to Indigenous youth and their families at UArizona. Participants learn college information that helps them prepare for their future. Open to all grade levels.
  • VIRTUAL CAMPS: We offer virtual camps designed to engage Indigenous kindergarten through 12th-grade students throughout the year. Camps are open to students in the Southwest.
  • PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES: Native SOAR staff facilitates virtual and in-person Indigenous-focused educational workshops for Arizona educators and communities.

Become a Mentor

Felisia Tagaban Gaskin
Native SOAR Director

Felisia is Diné (Navajo) of the Tódich'ii'nii (Bitter Water) and Tachii'nii (Red Running Into the Water) clans, she also is Tlingit and of the Wooshkeetaan (Shark) clan. Felisia is a doctoral student in the Center for the Study of Higher Education. In her former roles as a Native SOAR graduate assistant (2018-21) and as a Sunnyside CATS (Connecting for Access and Transition Success)coordinator (2021-22), Felisia worked directly with American Indian/Alaska Native high school students and their families to support their pathways into higher education. During her service, she found inspiration to pursue her research interests, which include studying the embedded (and often invisible) effects of colonization and assimilation in educational settings. Through her work and her future research, she plans to create solutions by disrupting harmful institutional practices and by problematizing the systems, structures and policies that offer little to no support for Indigenous students. As she continues to advocate for Native students and communities, she is honored to work alongside the Native SOAR team, campus partners, community leaders, and allies.

Kayleigh Paddock
Outreach Specialist

Kayleigh (she/her) is Diné (Navajo) and she grew up in Tuba City, AZ before moving to Tucson for her undergraduate studies. Her clans are Tsé’deeshgizhníí (Rock Gap clan) born for 'Áshįįhi (Salt People clan). Kayleigh participated in Native SOAR from 2021-2023 as an undergraduate mentor for two semesters; between her formal enrollments in HED 397C, she supported Native SOAR as a remote volunteer mentor and facilitated the 2022 Indigenous Arts Program (IAP) with Dr. Amanda Cheromiah. In 2023, Kayleigh received her Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) - Physiology & Medical Sciences in the College of Medicine. Her prior work includes researching dietary therapies for type 2 diabetes within Native populations in the Nutritional Sciences & Wellness department at the UA. Aside from her research background, Kayleigh has a passion for serving Native youth in the higher education spaces; she is excited to foster relationships with Native SOAR collaborators and help spread the Native SOAR message.

Karla Smith
Native SOAR Program Coordinator

Belonging to the Indigenous Mayan communities of the Americas, specifically from the Yucatan Peninsula region of Guatemala, Karla is deeply committed to serving and mentoring ethnically diverse populations. With a background in Biomedical Sciences and Public Policy and Administration from the University of Arizona, and 11 years of experience working for higher education institutions such as Duke University and the University of Arizona, she has developed a passion for advocating for underrepresented groups. She is particularly excited to work with Native SOAR and become a strong advocate for the Native American community. Currently, she is expanding her expertise through a certification in Behavioral Analysis, with the goal of continuing my impactful work in higher education to ensure equitable opportunities for all.


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