Tara Schafer ’05

Master’s Degree in Executive Leadership and Change

Executive Director | Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara, Inc. | Buffalo, N.Y.

Tara Schafer explains that there are more than 90,000 adults in the Buffalo Niagara region who have trouble with reading and writing.

This includes recently relocated refugees and immigrants in the area who may not speak or read English. Schafer is working to close the book on that number.

As executive director of Literacy New York Buffalo-Niagara, Schafer oversees more than 200 trained volunteers who work one-on-one with adults to improve reading, writing, and English skills. Tutors meet with the same student, working with them at a time and place of their choosing, for as long as help is needed.

“Our mission is to break the cycle of illiteracy and poverty in Western New York to help change people’s lives,” says Schafer. “We could not do what we do without the dedication of our volunteers. We calculate their donation of time alone is equal to about $180,000 annually.”

The non-profit organization also has drop-in centers at three libraries and a church in Erie County, and two-drop in centers are slated to open this year in Niagara County. Adults can visit the center for more information on becoming a student, and enrolled students can visit for extra reading help or assistance with creating a resume, filling out an application, and other writing or reading tasks.

Schafer notes her path to the non-profit sector began while studying for a master’s degree at Daemen. Her coursework presented an opportunity for immersion into an organization or business, and a fellow student at Daemen suggested the YWCA Buffalo Niagara. She took the advice and was offered a job by the CEO at the YWCA.

After earning her degree, Schafer served in various roles with Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Buffalo, including chief operating officer and vice president. She became head of Literacy New York Buffalo- Niagara in 2014.

Last year, Schafer started as an adjunct faculty member at Daemen, teaching a course in transformational leadership and organizational change as part of the executive leadership and change program. She has served on several boards and advisory committees, including the YWCA of Western New York and the former Everywoman Opportunity Center. She is also treasurer of The Women’s TAP (Taking Action in Politics) Fund.

Schafer says. “I have certainly found my purpose and would not be where I am today without my Daemen education.”

Married and living with her husband in Alden, N.Y., Schafer, not surprisingly, loves to read. When asked to name her favorite book, she noted there are far too many to pick a favorite. But “e Art of Possibility” by Zander and Zander and anything about history are at the top of the list.