Project SOAR is a college access program focused on increasing the number of residents in public housing pursuing and fulfilling their college and career dreams. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Project SOAR was launched by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) and SoCal CAN in 2017. College counselors were placed on the following five housing sites to provide one-on-one advising to residents: Ramona Gardens, William Mead Homes, Nickerson Gardens, Avalon Gardens and Gonzaque Village. Students and families receive assistance in completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), applying for scholarships, submitting college applications, selecting the right school, and making a smooth transition into college, among other supports.
In 2019, the HUD pilot project and federal funding for this work came to an end, but fortunately Project SOAR continues with funding from private foundations. In it’s newest iteration, Project SOAR has been able to expand the scope of its reach, and now serves any resident living in HACLA housing, regardless of age, education level, or citizenship status and prides itself on being able to meet residents at any point along their postsecondary path. In addition to working with traditional college-bound students in 9-12th grade, SOAR provides 1:1 advisement for returning adult learners, community college and transfers students, and residents interested in vocational training or certificate programs. Project SOAR holds physical space at the original five sites in East and South Los Angeles, but residents from any HACLA housing site are eligible for participation in Project SOAR.
Over the past few years, three SoCal CAN member organizations have played an instrumental role in lending their expertise to this project: College Access Plan provides the 9-12th grade curriculum implemented and adapted by the Education Program Specialists on site; UNITE-LA’s LA Cash for College helps students and families complete the FAFSA; and Families in Schools has trained the Project SOAR team on how to engage parents and caring adults in the college-planning process.
Project SOAR Supports
COLLEGE ACCESS Project SOAR participants receive support with academic planning, college fit and match selection, college application & enrollment support, financial literacy, financial aid completion, and scholarship assistance. College access at Project SOAR encompasses any form of postsecondary education, including 2-year college, and vocational or certificate programs to increase job opportunities for public housing residents.
COLLEGE SUCCESS Once enrolled in a postsecondary program, Project SOAR participants receive support in matriculation, academic planning, financial aid application renewals, finding paid internships, fellowships, and career advising tools. SOAR participants receive continued support and services throughout their postsecondary journey regardless of academic GPA, progress, or enrollment status.
Project SOAR understands the importance of engaging the entire family in the college-going process. Throughout the year, Project SOAR provides parents and caring adults with 1:1 advisement and workshops to demystify the college-going process, financial aid and funding options for college, and facilitates parent-to-parent conversations about how to best support their scholars.