SOAR Shapes a Student Leader at MCC

Moving from foster home to foster home, a ward of the state, Daryl Byrd did not envision himself as a future college student or a leader. By age 17 he had dropped out of high school and had three misdemeanors and a felony on his record.

“I was really good at making bad decisions,” Byrd admits. Working as a landscaper instilled in him a strong work ethic and a desire to do something productive, but his career ended when he injured his back and found himself seeking a new direction in life.

“I was always told I had potential, but had no idea what that meant,” Byrd said. “It wasn’t until I started at Mayland Community College that I finally understood that potential meant intelligence. I could do college work. I could even earn a degree.”
Byrd chose to major in Human Services. His goal is to work with at-risk youth, helping them make good choices and change the direction of their lives. He joined the SOAR (Support Options for Achievement and Retention) Program to get help with his studies and, in particular, receive counseling support.

“I had a lot of issues from my past that I needed to straighten out,” said Byrd. “I was on the verge of giving up, but my SOAR counselor helped me understand myself better and develop a new perspective about the more troubling aspects of my youth.”

Byrd’s advice to all new students is, “Join SOAR immediately, don’t wait. Coming back to school after a ten-year absence was tough. Just getting back into the routine of studying, taking tests, keeping up with deadlines and balancing work and school is a challenge for most students. Getting information and help in applying for scholarships and grants is great. The extra support you get from SOAR makes a huge difference. SOAR has something to offer everyone.”

Student retention, graduation and transfer are the focus of the SOAR Program, now in its 26th year at Mayland. It provides comprehensive services to first-generation college students, students who meet income requirements and those with a documented disability. Services include study skills training, tutoring, learning styles assessment, progress monitoring, academic advising, financial literacy, scholarship referral, computer assistance, personal counseling and transfer assistance.

“As a member of SOAR, you have a staff working for you that is truly interested in your success,” Byrd said. “The services are free and counseling is provided by a licensed professional counselor. All of the services are designed to help you reach your goals, whatever they may be.”

Byrd is now part of the SOAR Program’s staff, working as a peer mentor, tutor and computer lab assistant. He also founded the college’s first music club, now the largest club on the campus, boasting a membership of 37. Being on the President’s List, Dean’s List, and maintaining a GPA of 3.66 has earned Byrd scholarships and grants he never would have expected years ago. He joined the Student Government Association and serves as a senator, bringing him in contact with more students whom he encourages to join the SOAR Program. 

Byrd looks forward to continuing his education and obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Human Services.

“SOAR’s transfer advising is so important,” Byrd said. “You have to know early on where you are headed, what courses are transferable, and how to apply to the university. It really helps to visit the campuses and the SOAR transfer counselor not only arranges the visits but accompanies you there. Anyone planning to transfer needs to be in the SOAR Program.”

For more information on the SOAR Program at Mayland Community College visit or call 828-766-1263.
Pictured are SOAR peer mentor, tutor and computer lab assistant Daryl Byrd working with Mayland student Omayra Reeves. 

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