Students who wish to have a private school education but can’t afford one may have the opportunity next year to attend one of 10 private schools in the SOAR of Racine network that are committed to welcoming children in poverty.
SOAR – Scholarships, Opportunities & Access in Racine – will host a parent orientation session at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 14, in the Great Hall at DeKoven Center, 600-21st St., for parents interested in the scholarship program.
At the orientation, parents will learn what becoming a SOAR family means, which schools are participating, what openings exist in which grades and how they can apply. SOAR application packets will be available at the orientation and starting Friday at the SOAR office, 600-21st St.; Gateway Technical College Main Building, participating schools and the Racine Public Library.
SOAR will begin taking applications for the 2010-11 school year at 9 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, in the Great Hall of DeKoven Center. Application must be made in person and will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. All application materials must be complete to be placed on the SOAR scholarship waiting list.
The primary qualification for SOAR eligibility is to be living in poverty. Students who qualify for the federal free and reduced lunch program are eligible. SOAR families sign an agreement that expects family participation and communication with SOAR and the school of their choice and expects the student to maintain a 2.0 grade-point average and appropriate behavior.
The 10 participating SOAR schools – seven grade schools and three high schools – have all made a commitment to welcome students in poverty and to work with SOAR and the families to support the students’ progress and success. The schools are: John Paul II Academy, St. Edward School, St. John’s Lutheran School, St. Joseph Catholic School, St. Lucy Parish School, Trinity Lutheran School, Wisconsin Lutheran School, Racine Lutheran High School, Shoreland Lutheran High School, and St. Catherine’s High School. All are faith-based schools.
The schools will provide at least one-hour a week of teacher-supervised study time after school to assist SOAR students, and mentors will work to support students.
SOAR was created to expand the educational opportunities for Racine children living in poverty. This year, more than 12,000 students attending Racine public schools are eligible for the federal free and reduced lunch program and are living in poverty. As a group, they are performing far below their grade levels. According to standardized test scores, no more than 60% of the students in poverty at any grade level are academically proficient in that grade in reading or math. Only six of 10 children in poverty tend to graduate from high school. Of those who do graduate, area technical schools and universities say many are ill-prepared for post-secondary education and are enrolled in remedial or preparatory classes.
SOAR endeavors to broaden the options for families who cannot afford to pay for an alternative education for their children.
SOAR launched operations in August. Its goals this year are to build a network of SOAR schools and a way to support the success of SOAR children; to raise $300,000 in scholarships, half for 2010 and the rest for 2011; and to place students from San Juan Diego Middle School in private schools of their choice.