Students SOAR in Salisbury

Papermaking with guest artist and teacher Suzanne Lynn Lacke.

Natalia Zukerman

Students SOAR in Salisbury

SALISBURY — For more than two decades SOAR (Seek Originate Aim Reach) has been helping Salisbury Central School students reach new heights.

A nonprofit founded in 2000 by Zenas Block, SOAR’s enrichment program provides supplemental education to fill the gaps left in traditional classroom curriculums.

In the 2023-24 school year, more than 100 students took SOAR classes each trimester.

The program’s offerings range from jewelry and bookmaking to abstract painting and gardening. More than a dozen classes are available each trimester to cater to a diverse selection of talents and interests.

“We want to provide options that resonate with every child,” said Executive Director Lauren Brown.

Brown’s vision for the program reflects her professional expertise and her deep understanding of the needs of students and their families.

“SOAR was always doing great things,” Brown shared, “but when COVID hit, it became a lifeline for families desperate for ways to keep their children engaged and connected.”

From remote dance classes to innovative online workshops, SOAR adapted to meet the evolving needs of its community.

Central to SOAR’s success is its partnership with Salisbury Central School, where “the support is amazing,” Brown shared. The school allows the program to utilize classrooms and collaborates on curriculum enhancement.

SOAR maintains a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, making sure that no child is turned away due to financial constraints. With support from grants, donations and an endowment through the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Brown explained.

“We do charge a nominal fee, but we offer financial aid, and we’ve gotten grants from Salisbury Family Services to help offset some of those requests. We’ve had more people request financial aid, which is great because we want every kid to be able to have the opportunity.”

SOAR students take part in a wide range of arts and crafts activities at Salisbury Central School.Natalia Zukerman

Each session runs for six to eight weeks and prices range from $9 to $12 per class, which includes all materials. SOAR also provides teacher grants that makes things like field trips, speakers, and assemblies possible.

Looking ahead, Brown is planning for further expansion of the program, with a summer camp in the works and outreach to neighboring schools like Kent and Sharon Center Schools.

The demand for SOAR’s programs is evident, with enrollment numbers steadily increasing. “We’re trying to expand in ways that are meaningful and stay within our mission,” said Brown. “You know, we’ve got a great art program (at Salisbury Central School), but classes are only 45 minutes to an hour each week. There’s just a need for more,” she continued.

Through Brown’s enthusiasm and connections in the community, she has been able to bring in an impressive lineup of guest teachers. She shared, “I’ve gotten professional artists who have come in and maybe don’t have experience with kids and then do amazing work with them.”

Brown also opened the program to kindergarten students. Classes are typically once or twice a week and are an hour to an hour and a half in length.

Brown’s own journey in education is one from classroom teacher to administrator. Previously a third-grade teacher at Indian Mountain School where her wife still teaches, her transition to leading SOAR was driven by a desire to reassess her priorities, particularly in the wake of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The shift couldn’t have come at a better time and Brown excitedly shared, “It was a big decision to leave the classroom…but now I’m able to balance my life and work and make connections with the community. It is really amazing.”

To find out more about the SOAR program, go to www.soarkids.org

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