Nedgie Paul, a junior at Florida State University, and other students share an intimate look at Karen Clawson, the “ordinary mom” who created K is for Kids Foundation.
Editor’s Note: Karen Clawson, K is for Kids’ founder and volunteer executive director, was nominated to be Collier Citizen of the Year by her student leaders, grantees, and friends. Although she didn’t win, she felt truly humbled and honored after reading their heartfelt testimonials.
Graduate of Distinction 2015, Palmetto Ridge High School, Nedgie is now a rising junior at Florida State University
“Karen Clawson is a woman that radiates light and a passion unlike any other. Karen is the Founder and Executive director of the K is for Kids Foundation. This nonprofit focuses mainly on literacy and promotes youth leadership. Upon meeting Karen she exudes a very bright and optimistic outlook in almost every situation. Her interest in helping others is the most genuine I have ever encountered. Truly, one of her most admirable qualities is her effervescent personality and her ability to balance the roles and requirements of running a nonprofit organization and raising a family. Knowing someone who skillfully balances so much is a pleasure and Karen is, surely, one of the finest credits to our community.
Karen remains, simply, a kind person to know. She is positive, organized, and exceptionally caring. These qualities allow her to work so well with others, and support her accolades within the foundation and throughout the community. The connections she has made throughout the community further exemplify her engaging social and her devotion to a cause that is close to her heart.
I, myself, am captivated by her poise and her wisdom. She serves as, not only, a well-respected community figure but she is also beloved by the students and volunteers involved in the organization. She puts forth 100% effort in everything she does and there has never been a doubt in my mind that she will do everything in her capability to see others succeed.
I began volunteering for the foundation during my junior year of high school and I was astounded by the growth and progress I made with Karen’s help as my mentor, role model and friend. She allowed me to see things in myself that I would have never realized before. Karen gave me the opportunity to venture off into uncharted waters and discover my true passions. Through roles such as being the Co-Chair of the K is for Kids Teen Fashion Show, the top youth leader and spokesperson, and the youth representative at the National Publicity Summit in New York City, I began to see myself as a leader with greater potential than I ever thought possible. She pushed me towards paths of success and I was able to build my confidence and discover my leadership capabilities. And I am forever grateful.
The inspiration for K is for Kids began at Laurel Oak Elementary in 2002 in efforts solely rooted in advocating literacy in young children but the foundation has since expanded and branched into an organization that builds character and develops initiative, strengthens communication and problem solving skills, and ultimately cultivates the leaders of tomorrow.
It takes a very special and strong person to handle so many tasks and responsibilities and Karen manages to do so with grace. I have appreciated everything she has done for me in more ways than I can express and I hope this nomination serves her justice for the great impact she has had on my life and the lives of others.
K is for Kids “Testimonials” webpage shines an even brighter light on the momentous effect that Karen and K is for Kids Foundation has had on so many students and individuals throughout the community.
Graduate of Barron Collier High School, Class of 2016, Gabriella is now a rising sophomore at the University of Florida
Karen Clawson is an absolutely remarkable woman who will go to the ends of the earth to help others. Not only has she made an impact in my life, but she has changed the lives of thousands of children and teens in both Collier and Lee County.
Karen has opened my eyes to the world of giving, and she has shown me how the simplest of actions of just one person can change another’s life completely. She has promoted literacy for many years through her charity that she started herself, the K is for Kids Foundation, and her amazing educational programs that stem from it. She started as a stay-at-home mother and has transformed herself into a driven entrepreneur who donates 100% of her profits, which is an honor that not many people in this world choose to achieve.
Karen has played the main role in re-creating local school libraries by collecting and buying books through K is for Kids, and she has created an environment in the schools where kids can’t wait to come see what the library has to offer. [The foundation also enriches students’ personal libraries at home by providing books that students may earn, take home and keep through their school’s reading incentive programs.]
Karen continuously provides students with learning opportunities and leadership roles in order to better prepare them for the world ahead. I have never met a more selfless and invested person, and she always provides an optimistic view of any situation. Karen has sparked the imagination and interest in reading for thousands of young, local adults, and will continue to do so for many years. There is no person more deserving of this monumental honor than Karen Clawson.”
Graduate of Barron Collier High School, Class of 2015, Hadrien is now a rising junior at the University of Florida
“I met Karen a few years ago while participating in the annual K is For Kids Teen Fashion Show. Two years later I was one of the student leaders of the organization which was headed by Karen herself. She is by far the most compassionate and caring individual I have ever met, always giving to others before herself. Her passion and strive with her organization is unmatched and is easy to tell by her always smiling face and hard work. She has become a mentor towards me as well as countless others.
Karen gives students the opportunity to give back to the community in ways they probably didn’t think possible. I know if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be where I am today as a strong willed individual because she provided me with good character and leadership skills. Everything she does has a purpose of giving and whenever I think it’s not possible for her to give more, she does. An example would be her devotion to giving back to the students who help the organization by providing countless scholarship opportunities for them. I was fortunate enough to receive one of these scholarships, which was a great honor for me and helped me afford to move to the next level of my education.
Karen is an outstanding person, only looking to better the community and those in it.”
Graduate of Naples High School, Class of 2015, Darice is now a rising junior at Florida Gulf Coast University
“Karen Clawson is the energetic Founder and Executive Producer of the K is for Kids Foundation, a teen-driven foundation that fosters young men and women so they can develop into brilliant leaders and readers. She’s created a vehicle that provides numerous teens with opportunities including work experience, much needed volunteer hours, business opportunities, leadership roles, and much more!
Last year when I was a senior at Naples High School, my art teacher presented me with an email containing information about a Teen Illustration Contest being held by Karen through K is for Kids. Essentially, she had a manuscript, but wanted an illustrator to bring her work to life in exchange for a $3000 scholarship and a percentage of the book’s profits. Though Karen could’ve easily found a more qualified artist, she wanted to use her book as an opportunity for a Collier teen to be a part of a very fruitful and rewarding experience.After a few stages of competition, I found out that I won the Teen Illustration Contest! With this, I chose to embark on an extensive journey. I’ve already learned so many life experiences.
First and foremost, thanks to Karen, I will be able to add a really unique and strong element to my resume as a young artist- a published book. Equally important, I was able to communicate with a very esteemed panel of judges for the competition, including Ronnie Ann Herman (Former Associate Publisher and V.P. at Penguin Books’ Grosset & Dunlap). Each judge involved exchanged encouraging words with me, something that really boosted my esteem as an artist. Also, during the creation of the illustrations, I’ve been able to receive valuable advice from both Karen and Ronnie as we remain in close contact as the book progresses. Karen has provided a network of connections that I couldn’t find anywhere else.
Work ethic, time management, speaking, promoting, and communicating professionally are just some of the skill areas that Karen was generous enough to lend her time and energy to help me develop. We’ve discussed business over lunches to become more comfortable partners and she’s even invited me to her home to show me the art in her home that shared the same theme as the book to spark inspiration. She is a very hands-on mentor who is willing to put in that extra time with her teens to make sure they understand the task at hand. I’ve seen how poised and refined her teen volunteers are, and the experience she’s provided them is all too apparent.
If you’ve ever been in her presence and observed the way she moves and speaks you’d wonder how such a busy woman is able to maintain her high energy and effervescence. To me, she’s superwoman, succeeding as a mother, organization leader, partner, and mentor. She’s planting so many good seeds, cultivating strong leaders from youth, not mention SHE WORKS WITH TEENS, an age group that takes lots of energy to mold and tend to.
The bulk of her time is spent tending to the K is for Kids Foundation, so I believe she deserves recognition for her investment in us children because we are essentially the future, and Karen is helping to make it a good one.”
Graduate of Gulf Coast High School, Class of 2015, Mario is now a rising senior at the University of Florida.
“Karen Clawson understands more than anyone else that children are the light of our future. As the Director of K is for Kids Foundation, Mrs. Clawson demonstrates her unreserved passion for helping students across Collier County by actively working with students in learning essential entrepreneurial skills and qualities, while at the same time raising funds and books for kids.
Personally, I have had the pleasure of not only knowing Mrs. Clawson, but I have become the person that I am today in part because of her kindness, generosity, and her incredible compassion for all people. Needless to say that she has served as an inspiring role model for my siblings and myself. Like a ripple effect, Mrs. Clawson has shown me how to become a better and stronger leader, and I in turn have shown my siblings.
As a spokesperson and student leader, I have seen the amazing work Mrs. Clawson has and is able to accomplish for students and the community around her. Within the realms of the organization’s signature event, the Annual Teen Fashion Show, Mrs. Clawson has been able to organize and give the opportunity to 120 students, from 27 different schools and universities, to get hands on modeling and entrepreneurial experience; all while raising funds and books for kids.
It is also imperative to note that Mrs. Clawson not only dedicates her incredible efforts in working with students, but she goes above and beyond in pushing students to become leaders. As a personal example, after working with Mrs. Clawson in K is for Kids for a few months, she pushed me and mentored me into becoming one of the student leaders of the organization. Her guidance then helped me become one of the co-founders of Operation: Outreach, a high school club dedicated to teaching high school students important skills like networking and marketing, all while offering volunteer hours and raising funds and books for kids.
Since 2003, Mrs. Clawson has been working to boost the inventories of over 60 schools and universities, as well as enriching students’ own personal libraries, primarily in Collier and south Lee counties. And since the day I have met her, she has been making beautiful differences in the lives of everyone she meets.”
Graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, Class of 2013, Brigitte now is an international flight attendant. (June 2016)
“In 2013, my last semester of college, I was honored to serve as one of the main interns and spokesperson for K is for Kids. Karen Clawson, Founder & Executive Director of K is for Kids, gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to use my talents and skills to serve and mentor young adults of all ages that were dreamers just like me.
K is for Kids is a nonprofit organization that showcase God-given talents as well as shape them to encourage everyone to pursue all of their goals they did not think possible. Karen Clawson, was not only my mentor, but a great role model that I look up to. She is very passionate at what she does and determined towards the goal of spreading the opportunities many children wait for a lifetime to have. I can recall the countless hours I spent developing a business plan to pass on for future K is for Kids’ interns and to look back at it now… It is very rewarding and mind blowing.
Karen Clawson is a phenomenal woman that impacts many young adults lives in Southwest Florida. If it wasn’t for K is for Kids, I wouldn’t have fully explored my full potential and leadership skills. K is for Kids allowed me to find my purpose and become a ‘doer’ not just a ‘dreamer’
The foundation has grown tremendously since I have left college and flew the friendly skies to become an International Flight Attendant. My experiences with K is for Kids showed me just how much time management I have and how much more I am yet to accomplish. As a future pilot, and an aspiring astronaut for NASA, I am humbled to know how far I have come since K is for Kids. I know that this foundation will continue to shape future leaders and provide endless opportunities for a child aspiring to become anything they want to be. Reading shapes our lives. Books create these dreams. It starts with one book. One foundation. One mentor.
Thank you Karen Clawson for all that you do, and all that you have accomplished.
(I am about to head out to the airport to leave for Taipei, I hope my nomination comes a long way! 🙂 – Brigitte”
Graduate of Florida Gulf Coast University, Class of 2013, John has been exercising his entrepreneurial passions
“I was privileged to work with Ms. Clawson and her K is for Kids organization during my senior year at Florida Gulf Coast University, and find my experiences to be testaments to why she is an outstanding citizen. I starred in fitness videos that highlighted children’s health. I spoke on behalf of the foundation on the Fox 4 Morning Blend Show promoting the From the Heart Teen Fashion Festival. As a guest speaker at the annual teen fashion show, I delivered a motivational speech and aided in the development of the overall production as a business management and communications advisor. As a graduate I now offer my expertise of health healing and performing to the K is for Kids advisory board. I know that with K is for Kids children learn from the inside out…just as I did.”
A mom who has raised five children, Carol served as an independent contractor for K is for Kids overseeing all things “books”
“Karen Clawson embodies what it truly means to put others before yourself. As the founder of K is for Kids, her emphasis has always been on the kids, and she has always insisted that the spotlight shines on them and not on her.
In the short time of just over a year that I have known her, I have witnessed her relentlessly advocate for the teens that she mentors. Nothing makes her happier than to see one of her mentees succeed. They have the distinct advantage of having Karen make them and their personal and professional growth a priority.
Karen started her mission when she saw a need in the community. Thousands of students over the years have benefitted from K is for Kids programs. She is the lone adult and driving force that motivates teens to develop their talents and dream big while helping younger students aspire for greatness through their love of reading.
At a time when many are relaxing and hitting the links, Karen continues to selflessly pour all of her time and energy into the students that she benefits. She is a warrior who unleashes their potential. Karen certainly is an outstanding citizen.”
Media Specialist and K is for Kids Education Partner, Pine Ridge High School
“As the media specialist at Pine Ridge Middle, my proposed initiative was to honor students that have a passion for reading as evidenced by their frequent visits to my media center and the feedback they provide to me about the books, just in casual student-led conversations as well as their interaction with their peers to share their excitement about the book – yet they weren’t necessarily the stellar students that always stand out because they excel in every subject across the board.
Karen Clawson turned this initiative into reality! The “caveat” so to speak, which was really more of a thought-provoking suggestion, was for these honored “voracious readers” to share this passion for reading with the younger age group by pairing them up with an elementary-aged child (friend of family, neighbor, relative) and reading with them – presenting them with a bookmark and fostering a mentorship-type relationship. No hidden catch; the follow-up goal was to take the step and recreate, on a much smaller scale, the investment of time, dedication and leadership that they experienced through Karen Clawson’s non-pretentious role-modeling.
The seed was planted! Building readers and leaders!
Quoting words from the mom of one of a student that was honored in Pine Ridge Middle School’s Readers Make Leaders ceremony: ‘My daughter will enter high school next year. She has always required extra help in reading as the result of ongoing chemotherapy (about ten years) that has impacted her ability to learn or retain information. Because of this, she’s always hated reading… Your generous gift has allowed kids like [my daughter] who would otherwise not be recognized for their efforts and achievements to have their dedication and tenacity recognized. She was allowed to choose books for her very own collection that she’s both proud of and excited to read over the summer.”
Graduate of Missouri Science & Technology; Erin is co-founder of K is for Kids (listed last but tops on her mom’s list!)
“My mom has dedicated her life to making differences, big and small. She has worked day in and day out for as long as I can remember to help foster learning in children; that work has grown into an incredible body: the K is for Kids Foundation.
My mom truly understands that a large impact can be made at a young age, when our minds are open to every new possibility, thirsting for knowledge. Books allow us to explore possibilities that we’ve never dreamt of. For children, they open up a thousand different doors that allow them to explore far past the limitations of their own reality. Books can help young minds to think in new, innovative ways and lead them to a greater path in life. That’s what my mom does, with as small act of handing one child one new book she can expand their potential and spark a fire that may drive them far longer than they will remember that one simple book.
But my mom doesn’t just give one child a book here and there, she has expanded K is for Kids to help children and youth in over 60 schools and universities (primarily in Collier and Lee counties).
She has inspired hundreds of children and young adults to not simply reach for the moon but to fly past it and explore the universe of possibilities that await them if they can only harness their drive and their passions.
From the “Big Book Giveaway” to the “Teen Advisory Team” of student volunteers to the annual “K is for Kids Teen Fashion Show,” my mom has inspired a generation of youth through books, through mentorship, through leadership development. Her dedication to the community has shaped a generation of high achievers, of budding philanthropists, of future leaders.
What started off as a simple desire to bring new books to students and libraries has blossomed into an organization that cultivates the youth of our community into strong, diligent, passionate individuals who each graduate to the next stages of their lives with new outlooks, newfound talents, and a drive to make a difference.
This is all because of my mom, because of her ingenuity, her optimism, and her drive to never give up.
If anyone deserves this award, it is Karen Clawson; her huge heart and humble soul push her to better our community no matter the obstacle. My mom has touched countless lives; she has made more of a difference than she would ever begin to believe.”