Volunteer Spotlight: Erik Forbes

Erik Forbes is a junior at Eagle Valley High School. He looks forward to a future in music and the arts, and loves to play the piano. He is a “Big Buddy” volunteer with The Literacy Project of Eagle County’s Reading Buddies program, where he not only enjoys reading with his Little Buddies—he challenges them to Soduku competitions.

A collaboration with the Eagle Valley Library District, Reading Buddies pairs teen volunteers (mentors in grades 9-12) with younger kids (students in grades 1-3) for an hour of one-on-one shared reading, once a week.

Over the course of eight weeks, Reading Buddy pairs read together, play reading-based games, and participate in group activities. The purpose of Reading Buddies is to provide a leadership and community service opportunity for the high school mentors, while helping to foster a love of reading in elementary school students.

“As a volunteer, I always try to get the Little Buddies engaged, which is the first step in any learning process,” said Erik. “At the Gypsum Library, our first session consists only of games–we all laugh and get to know each other.”

Erik grew up in Eagle County. He chose to volunteer with The Literacy Project because as he matured into high school, he gained a deeper understanding of how literacy impacts the future. “I also understand the consequences of not fostering the skill,” said Erik, “because I didn’t. I would not want my Little Buddy to make the same mistake I did.”

The heart of The Literacy Project’s life-long learning programs are the volunteer tutors that dedicate their time and energy to teach students in one-to-one tutoring, or group classes. Erik is only in is his first semester volunteering with the program, but the personal payoff has been immediate.

For Erik, one of the most rewarding things about Reading Buddies is observing his Little Buddy’s “aha” moments. A few weeks ago, he was working with his Buddy and made a conscious effort to go deeper into the learning opportunity. “He and I sat and dissected words like ‘balloon.’ You can obviously sound that out, but only to a certain point. [We] made a grammar chart and started to look deeper into the structure and phonetics of the word ‘balloon’ and what the double O sounds like. And like that, a light bulb went off!”

Erik chose to be a big buddy because he has experienced the impact of a mentor himself. His math teacher at EVHS, Greg Tibboel, has had a profound influence on Erik’s own style of learning. Once his worst subject, Erik is now thriving in his math class. “Tibboel says Math is not like your piano, Erik. Math is about understanding why and how to use the formula. You will not get better from muscle memory–you cannot re-do the same problem over and over.” Erik applies Mr. Tibboel’s advice to his own learning and teaching. “I have taken this to heart and have looked deeper into everything I do,” said Erik.