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Nurturing Bonds Beyond Academics at Hendrix

SOAR Team of young adult mentors excels at welcoming fellow students


CONWAY, Ark. (August 25, 2023) — The reflection below was written by Christy Coker, director of student outreach services, who serves as advisor to the SOAR Team.

In an inspiring tale of camaraderie and support, a group of young adults at Hendrix College has taken the concept of mentorship to a new level, forming an unbreakable bond that goes beyond academics. What started as a student organization has evolved into a tight-knit family, proving that a shared vision and genuine care can create lasting relationships that transcend the confines of an educational institution. Student Outreach Alternative Resources, or SOAR, transcends the mentoring norm, focusing not on academics, but on all subjects non-academic in personal, social, and community realms.

The journey of this unique mentor team program began in January of 2013 when a group of college students united under a common goal: to provide guidance and mentorship to their peers who were struggling with various aspects of life. Initially, their focus was on social support, helping fellow students navigate connecting with people in the community. However, as they spent more time together, they realized that their impact could extend far beyond the classroom. Their goal became to provide support “unto the whole person,” a motto well-known by those at Hendrix.

“We were there for each other during both triumphs and challenges, celebrating not only our academic successes but also supporting one another through personal hardships,” said SOAR Team member Alicia McCloria ’24. “The trust and companionship we developed were unlike anything I’d experienced before.”

Over time, the mentor team expanded its activities to encompass a wider range of areas, including emotional well-being, physical care, and even social events and hobbies. This shift from purely social mentorship to holistic support was a natural evolution driven by the deep connections the members had forged. Certifications acquired by each individual team member now include Basic Mentoring, Mental Health First Aid, Title IX Awareness, Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST), Safe Zone, Substance Addiction & Abuse, Emotional Intelligence (Adulting 101), Campus Safety, and Becoming a Proactive Bystander. In 2023, Narcan Administration, Personal Self-Defense, and Situational Problem-Solving through a ropes course were added to the training agenda. This team arrives two weeks before classes start for the sessions needed to equip them with these skill sets.

“We realized that being a mentor goes beyond just sharing knowledge; it’s about being a source of comfort, motivation, and inspiration,” said Marah Rice ’24, another member of the team. “We became more than just co-mentors – we became friends, confidantes, and ultimately, a family.”

As word spread about the transformative impact of the mentor team, more students sought their guidance, leading to the creation of a structured mentorship program that incorporated workshops, events, and peer-to-peer interactions. Despite the growth in numbers, the team remained true to their original ethos of fostering personal connections and understanding. Whether it is providing meals, hosting alternative events, providing supportive programs, or more, SOAR wants everyone on the Hendrix campus to feel like they have a place or group where they belong. Inclusion and diversity are SOAR’s hallmarks.

“We were intentional about keeping the group size manageable to ensure that each member received the attention and care they deserved,” said Ben Ault ’14, who played a pivotal role in shaping the mentorship program. “Our focus was on quality over quantity.”

The influence of the mentor family has extended far beyond the campus, as they have continued to support each other even after graduating. From celebrating milestones to offering a shoulder to lean on during difficult times, the bonds they’ve created have transcended geographical barriers. In fact, three couples who have met through SOAR have now married, with SOAR advisor Christy Coker officiating the most recent wedding.

In an era where virtual connections often dominate, SOAR’s commitment to in-person interactions stands out. Regular meetups, retreats, and social gatherings have kept their relationships strong and vibrant.

As the mentor family enters a new phase with the onset of a new academic year, they remain committed to their core values of empathy, compassion, and unwavering support. Their story serves as a testament to the potential for meaningful connections to form even in the most unlikely of places, reminding us of all that we have the power to create our own chosen families.

In a world that can sometimes feel disconnected, the SOAR mentor family stands as an example of the profound impact that genuine care and human connection can have, proving that sometimes, the most valuable lessons are taught not in the classroom, but in the bonds we forge with one another.

About Hendrix College

Founded in 1876, Hendrix College is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges and celebrated among the country’s leading liberal arts colleges for academic quality, engaged learning opportunities and career preparation, vibrant campus life, and value. The Hendrix College Warriors compete in 21 NCAA Division III sports. Hendrix has been affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884. Learn more at  

“… Through engagement that links the classroom with the world, and a commitment to diversity, inclusion, justice, and sustainable living, the Hendrix community inspires students to lead lives of accomplishment, integrity, service, and joy.” —Hendrix College Statement of Purpose