To help increase enrolment and engagement with postsecondary education among Indigenous communities, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education initiated the Soar Indigenous Youth Gathering program. Soar, which was launched in 2009, is a week-long program held during March break that exposes a group of Indigenous youth to university life.
The program requires that applicants be Indigenous youth aged 14–17, residents of Ontario, and committed to participating in the full week of events. Participants stay at the Chelsea Hotel and may receive up to $400 for travel expenses. Information regarding Soar is communicated through postcards sent out to Indigenous communities, while coordinators visit local Indigenous events and communities in addition to sending emails to the Toronto District School Board.
“Each year, we introduce high school students to Indigenous role models — faculty and students — so they can see themselves in a few years coming to higher education,” Susan Lee, who manages co-curricular diversity and equity programs within the faculty, said to U of T News in 2017.
The program is meant to increase awareness of postsecondary education opportunities among Indigenous youth, as well as engage them in leadership opportunities. “It’s just opening up the doors for them to say, ‘here’s an opportunity for you,’” Lee added.
Soar offers an exciting opportunity for Indigenous students to gain an idea of what university life has to offer, and to bring together Indigenous youth with similar desires. By playing games, touring campus, attending workshops, and learning about the school’s many different programs, Indigenous students in the Soar program are made to feel welcome at U of T.
Programs such as Soar provide Indigenous students with a fun and exciting March break while also showing them that U of T is excited to have them.