It’s not your typical high school. Fresno EOC School of Unlimited Learning, also known as SOUL, was initially designed for students facing challenges which could prevent them from graduating, but is now open to everyone. SOUL Principal Susan Lopez said, “We believe every student can be successful regardless of where they stand when they arrive at SOUL. Some students may not feel they fit in at traditional high school, and some may need an alternative, due to work or family life. Whatever the issue, we are here for all students; providing options and support to enable them to be their best selves.”
SOUL is housed in a handsome brick building at 2336 Calaveras Street in downtown Fresno. The charter high school currently has 167 students and with a staff of ten full-time teachers, each student gets plenty of one-on-one time. Evelyn Ayala has attended SOUL for four years. She says, “I should get my diploma by December and walk the stage. It was hard because I have two babies, but all my teachers helped me get through it.”
SOUL offers a hybrid independent study program, which has students meet with their teachers in-person once a week to pick up and go over assignments. There are no virtual classes this year. Students also have the option to enroll in small group classes focusing on career exploration, intervention courses and personal enrichment.
SOUL employs a team of support staff professionals who are trained to identify and address social issues which can often prevent students from realizing their full academic potential. Michael Allen is the school’s Social-Emotional Intervention Specialist. “I meet with each student who wants to get some coaching on focus, discipline, and decision-making. I say, ‘Here you are, let’s grow!’ Because nothing in the past is going to help you. If it hasn’t helped you yet, it’s not going to help you in the future.”
For students who are pregnant or already have a child, SOUL offers parenting support programs as well as a Head Start 0 to 5 location on site. Case Manager and Data Resource Specialist Patricia Billeadeau says, “We connect them to any service they could possibly need. We are part of the Fresno Unified School District. We have support services through Fresno Unified as well as Fresno EOC. It’s like this sort of web connects all of us to support each other as a community here.”
The offerings at SOUL also include motivation and support outside the classroom. The school has an Interact Club, Rotary International’s service club for young people ages 12 to 18. Patricia says “The Interact Club is important because we are part of a community action organization. We want students to understand the importance of giving back to their communities.” The latest Interact project involves assembling backpacks for the school’s college-bound seniors. Club members are organizing to gather donated backpacks as well as hygiene products and snack packs to put inside them, giving others a little boost as they begin their journey into higher education.
With a December graduation just around the corner, SOUL charter high school senior, Evelyn, says she is open to new possibilities. Thanks to teachers, staff and guidance from the career center, she plans to continue her education. “I plan to go to Fresno City College and I want to find my career. I initially wanted to do cosmetology but I am not quite sure yet. I also want to take a look at careers like dental or medical assistant.”
If you feel a student could benefit from the educational programs of SOUL, please call (559) 500-1352 for more information or visit their website. Registration is open at any time during the school year. Students needing a 5th year of high school to earn their diploma are welcome!
SOUL was first chartered in 1998 through Fresno Unified. It is operated by Fresno EOC and accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.