SOAR Program celebrates 30 years

August 2018

Mayland Community College’s S.O.A.R. (Support Options for Achievement and Retention) Program is celebrating 30 years.1988 marked the beginning of the S.O.A.R. Program at MCC. The program began under the leadership of Nancy Godwin, who directed the program until 2014, and currently continues under the directorship of Debbie Stafford, MS. The S.O.A.R. staff includes counselors Jeannette Murray, PsyD and Dora Smith, MA, Administrative Assistant, Debra Cagle, with faculty support from English instructor, Elizabeth Hardy and Math instructor, Larry Shook. The S.O.A.R. Program is one of the U.S. Department of Education’s TRIO Programs called Student Support Services. Other TRIO Programs include Talent Search and Upward Bound.

The purpose of TRIO Programs is to promote academic achievement by providing financial, personal, and academic support services necessary for college success. Members of the S.O.A.R. Program must qualify based on one of three criteria: being first generation (neither parent has a bachelor’s degree), having low income according to Federal guidelines, or having a documented disability. Students must be seeking a degree (or diploma) and be able to complete their program of study, graduate, or transfer within a four-year period.

S.O.A.R. provides tutoring, study skills training, reading, writing, and math assistance, academic advising, supportive counseling, transfer advising, financial resources, a computer lab, and a tutoring center. Counselors work individually with students to develop an action plan tailored to their needs. Some S.O.A.R. students are hired by the Program to provide tutoring and peer mentoring services. There is a general consensus among graduating S.O.A.R. students that the Program’s support and encouragement enabled them to become engaged in college life and facilitated their success. Students have said participating in the program helped removed obstacles that would have prevented them from staying in college and reaching their goals.

The S.O.A.R. Program is funded by a grant that must be renewed every 4 years. The grants are competitive and sought after by colleges and universities across the United States. The latest grant award funding the Program until 2021 was for $1,474,965. MCC is fortunate to have such a program which has served over 4,515 students over the past thirty years. For more information about the S.O.A.R. Program at MCC, visit or call 828-766-1263.