Project SOAR is a dynamic cross-sector public-private partnership between SoCal CAN and the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA) that provides free college and career advising to residents in public housing. Public housing is home to nearly 21,000 Angelenos whose average household income is $24,424. Children and youth make up almost 50% of the resident population. Students in public housing score lower on standardized tests, have higher rates of absenteeism, and are less likely to graduate from high school or attend college than their LAUSD peers. They also attend schools where the student to counselor rate is 850 to 1, and often receive little to no college advisement over the course of their high school experience. Despite the conditions working against them, students in public housing have college and career aspirations. In light of these challenges, Project SOAR’s goal is to address the gap in postsecondary support for public housing residents and increase the rate of college enrollment and graduation for public housing residents.
Project SOAR serves any resident living in designated HACLA housing, regardless of age, education level, or citizenship status. The program prides itself on being able to meet residents at any point along their postsecondary path. This means that in addition to working with 9-12th graders, SOAR also provides advising for returning adult learners, community college and transfers students, and adult residents interested in vocational training, GED/HS Diploma completion, or certificate programs. Unlike other college access programs, Project SOAR does not have minimum GPA or attendance requirements; SOAR participants can access SOAR counselors at any point in their academic journey.
Project SOAR places Education Navigators in the community centers and computer labs of HACLA housing sites to provide free college access counseling, workshops, and supports for postsecondary success. Currently, Project SOAR holds physical space at Ramona Gardens, William Mead Homes, Nickerson Gardens, and Avalon Gardens, and will be expanding to Pico Gardens and Mar Vista Gardens in Fall of 2022. Residents from any HACLA housing site are eligible to receive virtual and remote support from Project SOAR through video conferencing and other digital communication.
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.