Empowering Youth to Fly Higher      

An area nonprofit helps students overcome challenges

BY Kristin Reeser

Kevin Pitarra, a student from UNCW, explains math strategies to this fourth grader. Photo by Kim Ceasar
Kevin Pitarra, a student from UNCW, explains math strategies to this fourth grader. Photo by Kim Ceasar

A few years ago, an inspiring story circulated about eagles. It explained that crows are the only birds that sit on eagles’ backs and attack their necks. The eagle does not waste its energy by fighting, but rather flies higher. The lack of oxygen causes the crow to fall away, and the eagle is set free.

Helping kids open their wings and fly higher is the heart and soul of Soaring As Eagles, a nonprofit outreach ministry founded by Venessa Kim Ceasar that serves students who attend Title I schools in New Hanover County.

Title I schools are composed of 40 percent (or greater) low-income families. Students often face a variety of challenges at home and can lack the basic supplies or necessities to live well, let alone advance at school.

Soaring As Eagles provides strategies that empower school students and their families.

“We provide resiliency skills that impact the whole life,” Ceasar says. “We want parents in New Hanover County to know that Soaring As Eagles is a place where they can come for help. We are on a mission to touch every part of a person’s life.”

In 2022, the organization reached 100 kids and it plans to reach even more this year. The ministry has grown to include six programs that serve the family.

In the aftermath of school closures in 2020 and 2021, students are academically struggling. The New Hanover school district reported in November 2022 that its students are on average three to five years behind due to Covid-era learning losses.

Soaring as Eagle’s Saturday Academy is a tutoring program that provides a 1:1 tutor-to-student ratio for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. Participants meet at Rachel Freeman School of Engineering for help in math and reading strategies to improve End of Grade (EOG) test scores. The Saturday Academy also supports Title I sixth-grade students at Williston Middle School. Parents can register their children at www.soaringaseagles.net.

Liz Carbone of Good Shepherd is a favorite of the students of Saturday Academy shown with this fifth-grader holding a snack pack from Nourish NC. Photo by Kim Ceasar

“Children have to be exposed to opportunities out of their normal environment so they can get a taste of what is possible,” Ceasar says. “They can do whatever they put their minds to, and we help to show them.”

Volunteers are the lifeblood of the ministry. Students are taught how to fly higher in reading and math, but the deeper work happens in the relationships being formed.

“Relationship building is the foundation of life,” Ceasar says.

In addition to serving children, Soaring As Eagles also practices SMART goals — an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely — with parents who are looking for support on building healthier homes and families.

“We want all parents to know they can do this. They are more than conquerors,” Ceasar says.

Ceasar, who was raised in a single-parent home by a single mom, has overcome great challenges in her own life, including being a teen mom. Today she lives by Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose.”

She says even challenges can work for good with the support of the right people.

Volunteers who would like to work with Soaring As Eagles can register on the website.


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