At regular meetings of the Vernon School District, seven trustees sit at the table, making decisions, listening to presentations and asking questions.
On Tuesday, trustees welcomed an eighth member to the group when they made Ruth Kovacs an honourary trustee.
The Vernon senior probably won’t be attending many meetings, though; she’s too busy as a longtime volunteer and coordinator of the One to One Children’s Literacy Program at Mission Hill elementary school.
Kovacs was recently nominated by school staff for the Woman of the Year competition sponsored by Vernon Women in Business, and was visibly moved as trustees rose out of their seats to shake her hand and offer a hug.
“Ruth, you are truly a remarkable individual,” said board chairman Bill Turanski. “Your nomination was certainly an indication of the high regard in which you are held by Mission Hill school and the community.”
Kovacs has been a volunteer with the program for 16 years. Debbie Schiller, executive director of the Junction Literacy Centre, which facilitates the program, said the dedicated volunteer has been with One to One since the beginning.
“She has survived three life-threatening illnesses and when she was very ill a year ago and not expected to make it, I went and visited her in hospital and she told me, ‘Debbie, I’m going to be OK, I have to get back to the kids.’”
Mission Hill teachers Tracy Barrie and Emily Fraser nominated Kovacs, and said she is passionate about helping children read and has been a tireless supporter of the school.
“She does an amazing job of training and organizing volunteer tutors,” said Barrie.
Fraser added that in recognizing Kovacs, staff learned about her past, which included living in the north and requesting that the town mining company install a blackboard in the basement so she could teach immigrant women to learn to speak, read and write English.
“Another side effect of the nomination is the great pride and joy it created at school,” said Fraser. “The students and staff felt the reciprocal nature of doing something kind. We all felt good knowing that recognizing Ruth had meant a lot to her.
“She is an amazing lady and we’re proud to call her our Mission Hill Woman of the Year.”