After spending five years ramping up Friends of V.I. National Park’s seminar series and other educational programs, Audrey Penn recently accepted a position on St. Thomas.
While Penn leaves behind big shoes to fill, Friends of VINP’s new program manager brings a rare combination of local knowledge and a passion for education.
Karen Jarvis has called St. John home since 1993 and has been an entrepreneur since 2002. After running a successful childcare business for years, she launched a new company last year, Love City Paddleboards.
While she will continue to rent and teach stand up paddle boarding, Jarvis is excited to jump into her new role as Friends of VINP’s program manger.
“I’m really excited,” she said. “It’s a real departure for me and it feels really good to be flexing different muscles. It seems like the right time to do something a little bit different.”
Jarvis’ love for the community is what inspired her to apply for the position, she explained.
“I’m a very community oriented individual and working with Friends really felt like a good fit for me,” said Jarvis.
While she has attended various Friends of VINP’s programs and events for years, Jarvis has gained a new appreciation for the group.
“Working here has given me a really big insight into how much of an integral part of the park Friends is,” said Jarvis. “Friends of VINP really carries the park in a lot of ways. From the School Kids in the Park to Ticket to Ride, they literally enable hundreds of kids and teachers and classes each year to use the park as an outdoor classroom.”
“So this position kind of combines my love of children and teaching with working in the non-profit world,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for me to still impact the lives of young people. That is my favorite aspect of the job so far.”
While still in the “knowing phase,” Jarvis has been focusing on learning as much as she can about each program Friends of VINP sponsors.
“I really want to immerse myself so I know all about the different programs,” said Jarvis. “That’s what I’m focusing a lot on right now, knowing each and every one of the programs.”
She won’t have too much time to learn the ropes before hosting the Friends of VINP’s annual Litter Stomp Parade and Earth Day Environmental Fair on Friday, April 19, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Jarvis will follow up the Earth Day fair by helping to host the Reef Fest on Saturday, April 20, at Trunk Bay from 12 to 5 p.m.
The group is also gearing up for the 10th Annual Beach-to-Beach Power Swim, set for Sunday, May 26, for which Jarvis is hoping to recruit about 80 volunteers.
All of those activities will help Jarvis to achieve one of her main goals — getting youth involved with Friends of VINP.
“Obviously my goal is to expand upon the framework that Audrey did such a good job of laying out,” said Jarvis. “She definitely left big shoes to fill and I’d like to continue adding more seminars, and new and interesting seminars to the series. I want to keep that being fresh and creative.”
“My biggest goal though is to continue reaching out to the island youth,” she said. “If we can educate the youth, that is the most important thing because they will be the future ambassadors of the park. They are the future stewards of the island and the park.”
And integrating her love for paddleboarding is not out of the question either, Jarvis added.
“I would love to organize a paddle event sponsored by Friends,” she said. “That is definitely still a passion of mine. We haven’t set a date yet, but it’s something I’d really like to see happen.”
For more information on Friends of VINP or how to get involved with the group, call Jarvis at 779-4940.