Volunteer Spotlight: Karen Zavis

Karen Zavis has been a volunteer tutor with The Literacy Project’s Study Friends program for six years. The Study Friends program is designed to help middle school students improve their reading, writing, math, and homework skills by pairing them with a trained adult volunteer tutor, though Karen is the first to tell you that Study Friends is not just about homework help.

“Tutoring goes beyond the completion of school assignments,” said Karen. “Developing good life skills, particularly in organization and time management, are critical to school success.”

A native of Southern California, Karen worked first as a CPA and then as a corporate controller in Los Angeles and Newport Beach. When the savings and loan industry collapsed in the early 90s, Karen decided it was time for a lifestyle change. “I was ready to escape the crazy-busy corporate world and the Southern California traffic, smog and crowds,” said Karen. She headed for the Vail Valley and sought ways to give back to her new community.

“I have always had a passion for education and believe that it is the key to a successful life for all,” said Karen. In addition to volunteering with the Study Friends team at The Literacy Project, Karen has volunteered with both the Eagle County Schools’ AVID program and the Bright Future Foundation’s Buddy Mentor program. She also served on the Eagle County Ambulance District Board of Directors for 12 years.

To date, Karen has been paired as a Study Friend with five Eagle County Schools’ students, including the two that she is currently working with at Berry Creek Middle School. “The need for tutoring support in the middle schools is great,” said Karen. “I recognize how easy it is for students to get discouraged, and it is my goal to help them overcome some of the basic obstacles to a successful middle school experience.”

Her perseverance with Study Friends has been rewarding: “My most memorable students have been those who I worked with for multiple years, up to their graduation from middle school,” said Karen. “They each graduated with stronger skills, both academically and personally, and with more confidence to face the challenges of high school.”

As evidenced by her own determination to grow and learn from her work with young people, Karen believes that lifelong learning is one of the keys to happiness. “Lifelong curiosity and learning make for a meaningful life. School is just one of the ways to learn.” Through her work, she hopes to set her students up for a better chance at success: “In today’s America, literacy is the foundation to embarking upon a meaningful life, no matter the career path.”

The Literacy Project is always seeking volunteer tutors who would like to make a difference in our community. Visit their website for more information: www.literacyprojecteaglecounty.org.