Founded in 2005, The University of Arizona College of Education's Project Student Outreach Access, and Resiliency (SOAR) is a service-learning experience that routinely places over one hundred University of Arizona undergraduate mentors in under-resourced middle schools in the Tucson area. These students are enrolled in HED 350 which explores cultural, social and environmental factors affecting middle schoolers' academic achievement and pathways to higher education. Mentors meet one-on-one or with a small group of middle school youth weekly, addressing topics including academic strengths, self-esteem, conflict resolution, career exploration, and the college search process. Mentoring pairs or groups remain consistent throughout the semester in order to develop a strong, positive relationship. This University of Arizona College of Education program is housed within the Center for the Study of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Policy Studies and Practice.
Project SOAR is a one-semester course (HED350, fall or spring, 3 units, gen ed) which encourages students to consider the public education system as both a historical source of inequity and also as a potential space for transformation, hope, and change. Project SOAR is open to all undergraduate students at the University of Arizona. Our mentors are service-oriented and get to mentor a local middle school student weekly, in addition to attending lectures and discussions, in an effort to contribute to the life of a young person.
Our mentors end each semester with a Creative Project, which often involves their mentee(s):
Mentoring is a great opportunity to develop a skill that lies within personal experiences. Everyone has the potential to be a mentor and influence change in the community and in the lives of youth.
Project SOAR mentors are assigned to a participating middle school and visit that school for 1-2 hours per week throughout the semester. Mentors are required to complete 20 hours per semester, which includes travel time, preparation time, and actual mentoring time. Mentoring sessions can include discussions about everyday life or share specific skills for the future (ie. goal setting, career exploration, the college search process, and academic skill-building).
In addition to mentoring, SOAR mentors are enrolled in a UA course (HED 350 (3 units, counts toward general education) that focuses broadly on the social, political, and systemic issues associated with academic opportunity and college access.
- Over 30,000 mentoring hours have been logged by SOAR students since 2005
- Over 2,500 middle school students have benefited from a SOAR mentor since 2005
- A mentee survey revealed that 73.3% of the middle school students believed they had a mentor who motivated them to do well in school, believed they could be a success (74%), and had increased their motivation to get good grades (67.9%).
- 72% of the middle school mentees surveyed agreed that their mentors had increased their interest in going to college. Additionally, mentors were credited for increasing their knowledge about getting into college (69.4%) and future careers (67%).