A nonprofit organization, SOAR (Scholarships, Opportunities & Access in Racine), is launching to provide scholarships to students from low-income families, allowing them to attend a network of approved, area private schools; grow in their academic achievement; and find success.
SOAR has named Laura Sumner Coon, former executive director of San Juan Diego Middle School, as its executive director.
The organization's first-year goal is to raise $300,000 for scholarships; it hopes to award the first scholarships in the 2010-11 school year, for attendance at accredited schools that will work with SOAR "to provide the compassion and support needed by scholarship recipients and their families."
In an initial inquiry, about 15 private schools indicated willingness to work with SOAR for children who could not otherwise afford to attend. Sumner Coon said SOAR hopes to offer $2,500 elementary school and $5,000 high school scholarships, with students' families having to pay no more than $500. Although tuition rates typically are somewhat higher than that -- $7,700 - $8,300 at two faith-based high schools -- the organization expects the schools -- like Lutheran High School, St. Catherine's and Shoreland Lutheran High School -- will offer their own scholarships to make up the difference.
So far, only faith-based schools have offered to work with SOAR. The Prairie School has declined to participate, Summner Coon said; Prairie School has its own scholarship program.
In this first year, SOAR is also working to find sponsors for former San Juan Diego Middle School students who wish to continue their middle-school years in a private school. Several students are awaiting sponsors.
“Diverse educational options benefit our community,” said Angela Bartzen, SOAR chair. “Helping students and their families have access to these accredited schools is our mission.”
Randy Baganz is the executive director of Lutheran High School, a potential SOAR school. “More and more students are in need of assistance, and I hope this organization flies to give young people an opportunity to take advantage of a school like ours and have a different opportunity in life.”
Sumner Coon said she is excited about the future of SOAR, its scholarship recipients, SOAR schools and the greater Racine community. “An indication of a community’s strength is the educational achievement of its children,” she said. “Racine is in need of a wider array of excellent schools open to economically disadvantaged youth so that each may find the best fit that will nurture their academic, personal and social growth. Better education makes better citizens and a better community. This is SOAR’s mission.”
For more information about SOAR, contact Laura Sumner Coon at (262) 498-9425 or by mail, PO Box 1782, Racine WI 53401.