Judge Peary Fowler, longtime president and supporter of Literacy Volunteers of America in Key West, passes the gavel to former LVA student Viktor Slavov. CONTRIBUTED

Talk about a success story. For the first time ever, a former student of Literacy Volunteers of America in Monroe County has become the local organization’s board president.

Viktor Slavov, who used LVA’s tutoring services to become proficient in English, recently acquired the presidential gavel from longtime president and LVA supporter Judge Peary Fowler. 

“We’ve never had one of our clients rise to such a position and he is a really interesting, funny guy,” said LVA executive director Mary Casanova.

Judge Peary Fowler, who has been the organization board president for several years, said she could not be more proud of Slavov. 

“He came here from Eastern Europe not speaking English, and dying to be part of the American culture and society,” she said. “He went all the way through our tutoring program with so much success and dedication that his tutor finally suggested Viktor become a tutor himself. He then became a board member and now is the president.”

Slavov also utilized LVA’s citizenship program, which teaches students what to expect from the test, and he became a U.S. citizen, Fowler added.

“I’m bursting with pride for him and can’t say enough good things about Viktor.”

In the Florida Keys, LVA has three sites to cover the Lower, Middle and Upper Keys, with its main office in Key West, 2405 N. Roosevelt Blvd.

“There are LVA tutors and students everywhere in between: Islamorada, Big Pine, Cudjoe and more. Last year, 114 volunteer tutors assisted 326 students countywide, helping them achieve personal goals through increased literacy skills. We believe the ability to read, write and communicate in English is critical to personal freedom,” the organization’s website states. 

Literacy Volunteers of America began in Monroe County in 1984 under the auspices of Friends of the Library. Since then, LVA Monroe has helped more than 5,897 students obtain personal goals through increased literacy skills. 

LVA offers free, confidential, one-on-one and small group literacy training by a trained LVA volunteer. Services are available to Monroe County residents who desire to improve reading, writing and English communication skills.

Its core programs are basic reading and English as a Second Language. 

Volunteer tutors are always needed, and there is no need to speak another language. Volunteers receive official training from LVA.

“If you can read and write and can spare two hours a week, you can be a tutor,” Casanova said.

To become a student, a tutor or a donor, visit

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.