Helping Sonoma students SOAR

Nika Gorman received assistance from the SOAR Sonoma program.|

Nika Gorman always knew she wanted to help people, but she didn’t know she could start doing that in high school.

Gorman has wanted to pursue many things in the medical field, whether being an Army field medic or a heart surgeon, but entering her senior year at Sonoma Valley High School pushed her to decide on becoming a paramedic. Excited to begin this journey after graduation in June, Gorman and her mom started looking into the EMT program at Santa Rosa Junior College. It was then they discovered SOAR Sonoma (Student Outside Academic Resource Sonoma) program.

With SOAR, SVHS students (grades 9-12) can get help in taking college classes while still in high school. This assistance includes dual enrollment help and scholastic guidance, as well as financial support with application and textbook fees. In essence, SVHS students can take college classes for free.

“SOAR paid for my class, funded my uniform, and my textbook... everything is just provided through this program,” said Gorman.

Selma Blanusa, with the help of her son Gavin, 17, launched the nonprofit last year, with the spring semester being their first round of students enrolled at SRJC. Gorman will be taking EMT 100, the prerequisite to start the SRJC EMT program.

“I was not aware I needed a prerequisite in order to actually get into the EMT program so when I found this out, and that I could go straight into the EMT program after high school, I was so excited,” Gorman said. “I just went over the rubric the other day and I will be learning all sorts of things...By the end of the class I will know how to treat almost every emergency situation.”

After her EMT 100 class and graduating SVHS in June, Gorman hopes to continue her EMT studies at SRJC and will see where in the medical field it leads her. SOAR can also help students after they graduate by donating $1,000 toward eligible participant’s college tuition.

Gorman hopes to take advantage of this offer as well when she continues at SRJC. Gorman has already tried on her uniform for class and is feeling professional and confident, despite being the youngest in the class.

“I am not nervous whatsoever. I am excited to see what I am capable of, because I’m not quite sure yet,” Gorman said.

SOAR is still accepting sign ups for the spring semester starting in two weeks.

"Nika demonstrates that even in a difficult time, students can plan for their future, that help is out there, and that a unique path also can be forged,“ said Selma Blanusa.

More information on the SOAR program can be found at

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