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Clark State Announces Fifth Class of SOAR Program Participants

Clark State Announces Fifth Class of SOAR Program Participants

June 16, 2021

The fifth class of Clark State College SOAR participants will begin their mentorship under the guidance of Clark State President Dr. Jo Alice Blondin this fall.

SOAR – Serving Our Own through Leadership and Retention – was developed in order to facilitate mentoring of faculty and staff on campus and assist them in identifying current and future leadership opportunities that will result in personal and professional growth. The SOAR program was featured in the American Association of Community Colleges Community College Daily:

“This program has received national recognition and is totally focused on creating a culture of student success at Clark State,” said Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, president of Clark State. “The benefits of this program accrue every year as SOAR participants impact their colleagues in positive ways.”

Selected participants – three faculty members and three staff members - must attend all meetings and events and complete all program requirements. Each will receive a one percent increase in base salary (in addition to any annual salary adjustments) at the successful completion of the program, special recognition at Charter Night and a well-developed career/mentoring plan.

Shani Newton, success coach at Clark State, is a member of the 2020-21 SOAR Class.

“The experiences and professional growth that I’ve gained in the SOAR program are paramount to my professional growth as a future leader,” she said. “While navigating through an unconventional and challenging time, due to the pandemic, the comradery and teamwork with my colleagues and leadership of the college provided a positive and unforgettable experience.”

Blondin said the 2021-22 SOAR participants represent a diverse and talented group of faculty and staff from across campus, and she looks forward to getting to know them better and encouraging them in their future ambitions.

2021-22 SOAR Participants

Camille Akey

Coordinator Student Services, Clark State Greene Center

“The SOAR program is a unique opportunity to work closely with President Blondin in a mentorship capacity,” she said. “Since my time at Clark State, and working in a one-stop campus model, I have been fortunate to learn the unique roles of Student Services (admissions, advising, records, etc.).  My professional experience and development have sharpened my skills to see the big picture and areas for process improvements.  My hope, with this program, is to put into practice what I learn to enhance student success at Clark State College.”

Mary Bower

Coordinator, Academic Support Services, Clark State Greene Center

“I wanted to pursue this unique professional development opportunity to increase my impact on students not only within my current position but throughout the college,” she said. “I was especially interested in the professional reading and reflection as well as the career development opportunities.”

Mark Brown

Adjunct II, Arts and Sciences

“I applied to the SOAR program because of the enormous growth opportunities that it provides,” he said. “I feel that it is an excellent opportunity to become a leader at the college and further my professional growth.  Additionally, I am excited at the opportunity to utilize my interests and talents to better serve the students in the Clark State community.  I am confident that, due to participating in the program, I will be a better educator, colleague, and leader.” 

Dr. Arly Drake

Assistant Professor, Agriculture

“I applied for the (SOAR) program because I would like to augment my professional competence and become a better resource for our students,” she said. “I believe the SOAR program will help me to do that and I am looking forward to this wonderful opportunity.”


Asiah Jeffries

Support Technician, Information Technology

“Being a part of the Clark State IT department had been a goal of mine ever since I separated from the United States Air Force in 2012 and returned home to Springfield,” he said. “Becoming part of the Clark State family was the first major milestone that made me happy with where my IT career was going and SOAR is the next step. I am passionate about supporting the community I grew up in and believe SOAR will help me gain a better understanding of the higher education environment, strengthen my skills as a team member as well as provide me with the leadership skills necessary to reach my long-term career goals and further enhance Clark State’s mission of student/community success. I am beyond excited to have been chosen for this amazing opportunity. I look forward to working with Dr. Blondin and engaging with the other participants throughout this process.”

Dr. Patience Olajide

Assistant Professor, School of Health, Human and Public Services

“I joined Clark State College barely a year ago and am happy to have this opportunity to work alongside Dr. Blondin,” she said. “As a teacher, I understand that each individual is a unique person who needs a stimulating atmosphere in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. Therefore, The SOAR mentoring program will be an added advantage that will help me to achieve my interest in advocating for diversity, equity, inclusion, and student success in this milieu.”

Media Contact

Crystal Jones Vice President of Marketing, Diversity and Community Impact