The University of Arizona’s Native SOAR Program is making waves nationally by helping middle and high school students discover resources in higher education through the lens of indigenous teachings. KGUN 9s Bri Pacelli recently visited the Tucson High Magnet School, where this program is engaging with high school students.

Known as SOAR, the Native Student Outreach Access and Resiliency Program has operated since 2005. Its mission is to provide support to Native students from middle school through their doctoral studies.

Director of Native SOAR Felisia Tagaban Jaskan explained the program not only educates students about Native American scholars and the history of American Indian education. It also empowers them to become mentors themselves.

She describes these two parts as the main components of SOAR:

Class for undergraduate students Mentoring program

Beyond student support, the program extends its assistance to families as well.

Importantly, the program is not exclusive to students and families from Indigenous backgrounds. Alina Sierra, a mentor at Native SOAR, emphasized that the program is open to anyone, contributing to the creation of a diverse and welcoming community.

For many SOAR students, being the first in their families to attend college brings a significant transition. Ruben Aguirre, a senior at Tucson High Magnet School, shared, In my family, I’ll be the first person to attend college in person. So, I figured, I needed to get a head start on learning about what college is and learning about the resources.

Alina Sierra further pointed out the program not only helped her navigate the complexities of college. She attests it also boosted her self-confidence, saying, They’ve just helped me a lot with finding what to do, and I’ve come out of my shell a lot more.

Additionally, SOAR offers an online mentoring program accessible through their website via Zoom. The UArizona’s Native SOAR Program is paving the way for underrepresented students to achieve their higher education goals, foster a sense of community and empower students from all backgrounds.