Progression of SOAR

Muffled voices piling together and brightly lit laptop screens, one of these voices belongs to junior Kyarah Vargas as she converses with her fellow SOAR representatives and officers via Discord. Tiny icons sprinkled across her laptop screen showcase the students she’s addressing as the 2022-2023 school year rolls around and SOAR leadership shifts.

“Since we had a change of president, things have changed a little,” Vargas said. “This semester, our goal is to make a good foundation for study sessions over Zoom and next semester, we want to incorporate more in person sessions.”

SOAR, which stands for Student Organized Academic Refinement, is a student-led organization that was formed in 2020 when learning shifted to virtual. Using online resources, such as Discord and Zoom, students reviewed and refined content that may have been missed or misunderstood during virtual classes.

“SOAR is an organization where students who are not necessarily struggling in class but feeling like they could have a better understanding of the material can come to and review [with],” president Ezyan Bhayani said. “We’re not necessarily trying to reteach the material but review it.”

The virtual meetings are not limited to study sessions but also include other important information such as practice materials and future plans. These might include flashcards, potential test questions or review games.

“Officers and representatives use Discord a lot to be able to divide up the work and make our slides,” Vargas said. “On the Discord, people are free to ask questions and we have different channels for people to ask questions for certain subjects, so we can help.”

During the initial shift from in person to virtual, many students were left detached from their personal lives as well as school lives.

 “During online learning, it was very difficult to make friends with other people,” vice president Amitha Mandava said. “SOAR [allowed me] to [meet] people; I got to improve on my own abilities over time. [Teaching] actually ended up improving my own understanding of the courses. I really enjoyed the whole aspect of teaching other students and being able to interact with everyone.”

While school moved back to in person learning, the convenience of the online resources has not been lost. Instead of focusing all their energy on shifting to in person sessions, they’ve chosen to focus on solidifying what they have already done.

“Last year was our first full year, so this year, we’re kind of focusing on rather than expanding, we’re refining what we’ve already done,” Bhayani said. “I personally see a lot of areas of improvement, especially in the first semester whether that be fixing our reputation with teachers or making sure our content is more thoroughly checked over.” 

SOAR mainly covers subjects such as history and math, focusing on IH, IB and AP courses. Students are offered online peer-to-peer tutoring as well as active chat rooms available for group assistance and study sessions. With SOAR now being a nonprofit organization, students now have other schools in the district they can work with.

“It’s very interesting because we get to see what our branch at Plano West is doing,” Mandava said. “[We] get to give feedback and kind of collaborate with each other on what methods and aspects of the program work or may not work and how we can improve the function of SOAR.”

Since they are still adjusting to becoming a district wide organization and have changed leadership, they are looking forward to their new activities for this year.

“There’s not much interaction quite yet,” Mandava said. “We’re hoping that with all these new changes that we’ll be implementing this year with how we format the sessions and the quality of the sessions. We’re looking forward to interacting with new members this year.”