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The History of the SOAR Program

The Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church on North Links Avenue.

Mrs. Paulk, Mrs. Campbell, Carolyn Harper, and Reverend Mazie Rojas with students in the first SOAR class.

The SOAR Center, just before the fence was installed.

Mr. Samuel Hicks, SOAR tutor, working with Janiah Gregory and SOAR students

Students enjoy outdoor activity and the new playground equipment

Technology provided for the SOAR program enhanced student learning  

Jasmine Reddings and Blake Curry participated in the SOAR's Community Tutor Training Program.

SOAR Teacher, Makaya Moran with students

Roxie Jerde, President of Community Foundation of Sarasota County with SOAR teacher Trufaye Wiggins and SOAR students.



Greater Hurst Chapel AME Church of Newtown, Florida purchased an old building, with the hopeful intention of offering free after-school tutorial services and homework assistance to students in the not-too-distant future.  This dream was a product of its historic commitment to the education of children beset by poverty, and school failure by supplementing what was missing in homes and schools.


Reverend Mazie Rojas, the newly appointed AME pastor revisited the commitment to address the educational needs of the community's children.


The Church created a high-quality after-school program with low child-to-adult ratios, small group sizes, and a child-centered approach in which children can acquire knowledge and social skills that predict high achievement. Under the leadership of Jacquelyn Paulk, a retired educator, Seed of Academic Resources (SOAR), a volunteer tutorial after-school program, was established and dedicated to the ministry of education.


SOAR became a participating site for the 21st Century Learning Center, a federally funded program for academic enrichment opportunities for children during non-school hours. Working in partnership with the 21st Century program, SOAR served as an advocate for the academic at-risk students and was recognized as a valued community resource.


After two years of communication with Florida Department of Health Child Care Nutrition program, SOAR was approved to participate in the Child Care Food Program.  SOAR soon received a grant from Community Foundation of Sarasota County to purchase age-appropriate playground equipment, as a way of providing opportunities for activities that promote physical development. That same foundation provided quality reading and math materials.


A partnership between SOAR and the First Baptist Church was formed to address some of the building’s physical needs. Sidewalks, light fixtures, storage space and cabinets were installed. The interior was painted and the grounds were landscaped. The building was equipped with computers, providing access to high-speed internet.


SOAR implemented a Community Academic Tutor Training program. The purpose of the program was to provide on-the-job training opportunities for tutors to gain hands-on experience — in learning instructional strategies and teaching techniques— while providing staff support to the Center. The program was funded by the city of Sarasota and it made a huge impact on the program. Space limitations prevented the continuation of the program.


SOAR was required to discontinue participation in the 21st Century Learning Center program because of facility noncompliance with Florida’s child care law or regulations for School-Age Child Care.   


SOAR was celebrated for its participation and success in The Campaign for Grade Level Reading Initiative— with the goal of grade-level reading by the end of third grade.  Soon, though, the program again ceased operation due to  building requirements.

Late in the year, a dynamic team of community members came together and formed the SOAR Exploratory Team, and set out to explore possibilities and issues involved in renovating or building a new facility to house this extraordinary program. The team addressed building code, land lease, building permits, architect, building plans, funding, established SOAR as independant 501c3, and created a Board of Directors with a bold vision to sustain the program for generations to come. 



SOAR Learning Center opens the doors of the new Jacquelyn Paulk Campus— with four classrooms with large interactive smartboards, two homework rooms, a computer wing, a library, and two outdoor learning areas.







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