How It Works

Soar-logo.pngStudents On-Campus Achieving Results (S.O.A.R.) was founded by Marywood University and the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit (NEIU) in 2008. The first program of its kind, S.O.A.R. provides an age-appropriate environment in which high-school age students with Autism Spectrum Disorder can prepare for competitive employment and learn to live independently.

S.O.A.R. students spend half of their day at Marywood in classes taught by NEIU teachers. Instruction focuses on independent living, communication, life skills, and career education.

The rest of the day is spent in vocational placements that pair students with Marywood staff. S.O.A.R. students work in housekeeping, food services, maintenance, the library, information technology, groundskeeping, and the print shop.

Collaboration with NEIU 19

S.O.A.R. is a collaborative program of Marywood University and the Northeastern Educational Intermediate Unit. The NEIU supports local school districts in educating students through collaboration and innovation. Classes for SOAR students are taught by NEIU instructors.

Bob McTiernan | Executive Director
Kelly Dickey | Director of Special Education
Kristen Samsell | Supervisor of Special Education

Real-World Job Training

  • Life Skills Education
  • Family Involvement & Collaboration
  • Marywood Student Involvement
    • A graduate assistant facilitates the program.
    • Undergraduate education students act as job coaches and mentors.
    • Graduate psychology and education students help S.O.A.R. students develop social skills.
  • Research
    • Graduate and doctoral students conduct research for their thesis and dissertation.
    • Faculty members utilize the program as a research on program evaluation, social skills, and integration of universal design principles

Real Life Experiences

S.O.A.R. provides students with autism "real life experiences" in an age-appropriate environment. The six enrolled students attend classes at Marywood, participate in a half-day of vocational activities in various offices and departments at the University, and participate in student activities.

Community Support

Marywood work-study and volunteer students act as job coaches and mentors for SOAR students. It's a transformational experience for all involved.

Regina Fidiam | NEIU Educator
rfidiam@maryu.marywood.edu 

Dr. Jennifer Barna | Marywood Associate Professor, S.O.A.R. consultant
jbarna@marywood.edu 

Maryann Colbert | Lackawanna-Susquehanna Behavioral Health / Intellectual Disabilities/ Early Intervention (Lack-Susq BH/ID/EI), Director of Intellectual Disability Services
ColbertM@lsbhidei.org 

Kelly Dickey | Director of Special Education, NEIU 19
kdickey@iu19.org

Dr. Maria Montoro Edwards | President and CEO, Maternal & Family Health Services, Inc.
mmontoroedwards@gmail.com

Diane Russell | Grant Specialist, Marywood University
drussell@maryu.marywood.edu 

Dr. Tammy Brown | Marywood University Associate Professor, SOAR Director
tammybrown@marywood.edu 

Dr. Diane Keller, LSW | Assistant to the Provost for Research and Sponsored Programs
keller@marywood.edu 

Dr. Monica Law | Associate Professor of Human Resources and Leadership, SOAR Consultant
mlaw@marywood.edu 

Dr. James Sullivan | Dean of the College of Professional Studies
jimsullivan@marywood.edu 

Dr. Renee Zehel | Marywood University Vice President for University Advancement
rzehel@marywood.edu 

Staff

Regina Fidiam | NEIU Educator
rfidiam@maryu.marywood.edu 

Bianca Gifford  | Graduate Assistant
bgifford2@m.marywood.edu 
570-348-6211 x2474

Lisa Walters | NEIU Paraeducator
mwalters@iu19.org 

Dr. Jennifer Barna  | Marywood Associate Professor, SOAR consultant
jbarna@marywood.edu 

Dr. Tammy Brown  | Marywood University Associate Professor, SOAR Director
tammybrown@marywood.edu 

Dr. James Sullivan  | Dean of the College of Professional Studies
jimsullivan@marywood.edu 

Work Supervisors

John Ferraro | Courier/Department Assistant, Maintenance
jferraro@marywood.edu 

Sr. Catherine Luxner, IHM  | Director of Marywood Campus Ministry
luxner@marywood.edu 

Sunny Schwartz  | Housekeeper, Maintenance Building

Jeffrey Thomas  | Director of Dining Services/Executive Chef
jeffreythomas@marywood.edu 

Lunch Buddies - Students with a meal plan can stop by the Nazareth Dining Hall any day from 11:3 0a.m.-12:30 p.m. to join our S.O.A.R. students for lunch!

Fun Fridays - Clubs can prepare an activity to engage the S.O.A.R. students in or individual students can just stop by and hang out with S.O.A.R. students in the game room in Nazareth Hall while they play pool or board games! Every Friday from 1-2 p.m.

Job Coaching - S.O.A.R. Students are placed in a job on campus as part of their vocational training and job coaches go with them to make sure that they are being safe, staying on task, and getting appropriate feedback during their "work day." Job coaching takes place from 12:30-2 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Interested students do not need to attend every day (they can do just Mondays, or just Tuesdays and Thursdays, etc.), but they do need to attend for the entire time slot for the entire semester. Clearances are required by the state to work with these students.

Publications

Peer-Reviewed

Presentations

  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., Law, M., Barna, J., Fruehan, A., Fidiam, R. & D’aquila, J. (February, 2020). You’re Hired! Supporting interviewing skills in individuals with ASD through virtual reality. Accepted for poster presentation at Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo, Portland, OR.
  • Arban, K.S., Arter, P.S. & Barna, J. (February, 2020). Bridging the Gap: Mental health for individuals with ASD. Accepted for panel presentation at Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo, Portland, OR.
  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., Law, M., Barna, J., Fruehan, A., Fidiam, R. & D’aquila, J. (October, 2019). You’re Hired! Supporting interviewing skills in individuals with ASD through virtual reality. Accepted for presentation at Division on Career Development and Transition International Conference, Seattle, WA.
  • Arter, P.S., Arban, K.S., Barna, J. (October, 2019). Bridging the Gap: Mental health for individuals with ASD. Accepted for panel presentation at Division on Career Development and Transition International Conference, Seattle, WA.
  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., Law, M., Barna, J., Fruehan, A., & Fidiam, R. (January, 2019). Using virtual reality to improve job-interviewing skills of students with autism spectrum disorder. Poster presented at Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo, Indianapolis, IN.
  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., & Paciej-Woodruff, A. (October, 2018). Creating Teaching and Social Presence in Online Courses: 6 Easy to Use Tools. Association for Advancement of Computing in Education: E-Learn, Las Vegas, NV.
  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., Law, M., Barna, J., Fruehan, A., & Fidiam, R. (October, 2018). Virtual Reality: Improving Interviewing Skills in Individuals with ASD.. Association for Advancement of Computing in Education: E-Learn, Las Vegas, NV.
  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., Law, M., Barna, J., Fruehan, A., & Fidiam, R. (June, 2018). Using Virtual Reality to Improve Job Interviewing Skills for Individuals with ASD. International Society for Technology in Education, Chicago, IL.
  • Arter, P.S., Brown, T.B., Law, M., Barna, J., Fruehan, A., & Fidiam, R. (March, 2018). Virtual Reality: Improving Interviewing Skills in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, Washington, D.C..
  • Brown, T.B., Arter, P.S., & Paciej-Woodruff, A. (March, 2018). 6 Easy to Use Tools for Creating Social Presence in Online Courses. Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education, Washington, D.C..
  • Arter, P.S., & DeMatteo, F.J. (April, 2016). Where are they now? Success and challenges with Autism Spectrum Disorder post-graduation. Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo, St. Louis, MO (International).
  • Arter, P.S., DeMatteo, F.J., Williams, T., and Uppling, K. (April, 2014). Transition: It Takes a Village. Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo, Philadelphia, PA
  • Arter, P.S., DeMatteo, F.J., Williams, T., & Uppling, K. (November, 2013). Transition: It Takes a Village. Teacher Education Division (TED) of Council for Exceptional Children, Fort Lauderdale, FL. (National).
  • Arter, P.S., DeMatteo, F.J., Williams, T., & Uppling, K. (October, 2013). Bridging the Gap. Teacher Education Division (TED) of Council for Exceptional Children, Fort Lauderdale, FL. (National).
  • DeMatteo, F. J., Maldonado, C., & Bedwick, M. (February, 2013). Families of students with autism: A resource based transition program. NationalAssociation of School Psychologists 2013 Annual Conference, Seattle, WA.
  • Arter, P. & DeMatteo, F.J., Paulhamus, M., & Reese, A. (November, 2012). Transition: It takes a village. Pennsylvania Counsel for Exceptional Children 2012 State Conference, Harrisburg, PA.
  • Arter, P., DeMatteo, F. J., Paulhamus, M., Reese, A. (October, 2012). Bridging the gap: An interdisciplinary, experiential model between school psychology and special education. Pennsylvania Association of Colleges and Teacher Educators-Teacher Education Assembly, Harrisburg, PA.
  • Arter, P. & DeMatteo, F. J. (June, 2012). reating a community of practice between community agencies, secondary, and post secondary institutions. Lilly Conference on College and University Teaching, Washington, D.C..
  • Arter, P., DeMatteo, F. J., Paulhamus, M., & Reese, A. (January, 2012). Bridging the gap: An interdisciplinary experiential model between school psychology and special education. Pennsylvania Teacher Educator, 11, (51-56).
  • Arter, P. & DeMatteo, F. J., & Paulhamus, M., Reese, A. (November, 2011). Do as I do, do as I say: Using peer coaching to teach social skills to young adults with autism spectrum disorder. Pennsylvania Counsel for Exceptional Children 2011 State Conference, Harrisburg, PA.
  • Arter, P, DeMatteo, F.J., Murphy-Fox, M., & O’Brien, S. (April, 2011). Students on-campus achieving results: A community of practice. Voices of Advocacy Autism Conference, LaSalle University, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Autism Speaks
    Dedicated to funding autism research, increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.
  • Herbert A. and Charles E. Kester Scholarship Fund
    Provides scholarships through the Pittsburgh Foundation to individuals with ASD who require substantial support and whose families do not have the means to provide them with quality experiences or learning opportunities.
  • Parents Education Network
    Provides technical assistance, information, skill development trainings, workshops, and referral services to parents to help children reach their full potential in educational, vocational, and community settings.

Transforming Lives

When S.O.A.R. was founded in 2008, few would have predicted it would have such a profound impact on so many people. The program is transforming the lives of students with autism, as well as those who work with them.

"Each day, I hear stories of how S.O.A.R. students are touching others' lives. This program has brought the Marywood mission to life." — Patricia Arter