When George Avgares returned to Craig after 17 years in Las Vegas, he also returned to the profession he knows best.
Avgares, 38, recently opened Colorado Student Care, 458 Yampa Ave., a nonprofit corporation for high school students preparing for higher education.
Avgares, who graduated from Moffat County High School in 1989, previously had worked at Nevada Student Care, where the caseload was enormous, he said.
"I've done it for seven years - it's what I know," Avgares said. "During my time in Las Vegas, we saw the program become extremely successful. We went from zero to 1,000 students."
Having so many students took its toll on Avgares.
"After a while, I was burned out - there were 30 high schools and 1,000 students coming through Nevada Student Care," Avgares said. "I needed a change, so I moved home to be closer to my family."
Avgares said he started working for a petroleum company in Craig in 2006. In January, he was laid off.
Instead of waiting around for another job, Avgares said he decided to fill a need in the community.
"There's nothing else like this in the area," he said. "Before, parents had to spend thousands and drive back and forth to Denver.
"It was a little frustrating to be laid off, but I'm viewing this as an opportunity to help a lot of kids in northwestern Colorado. After some time off, I'm ready to get back."
Avgares said he wanted to start in Craig, and work with students from Meeker, Steamboat Springs and Hayden, and possibly open another location.
"There's been a pressing need for this type of organization in the (Yampa) Valley for some time," he said.
Colorado Student Care will prepare students for the SAT and ACT, and help find which major a student chooses in college.
"Through these tests, we can find a student's strengths, and make them as attractive and marketable as possible to colleges," Avgares said. "Their scores allow us to enhance their talents."
Avgares said the test generates eight to nine pages of possible jobs, based on a student's skills and strengths.
"Figuring out what a student is good at, and what they want to do could save some of the financial burden that comes with going to college," Avgares said. "I want to get students where they are happier quicker."
Students enrolled in a four-year college typically take six years to graduate, Avgares said.
"Most students spend the extra time in college because they keep changing majors, and they have to start all over again," he said. "Each time a student changes their major, that's a $10,000 or $20,000 mistake. We want our students to work smarter, not harder."
Part of learning what a student wants to do, Avgares said, is trying the job.
"We had a job shadow program in Las Vegas, where the students would shadow someone for a day," he said. "By going around with a professional, they can have any questions answered and decide if they want to continue pursuing that career."
Avgares said he would work closely with local businesses to offer a shadow day program.
Avgares said a large part of his work is getting students prepared for the transition from the eighth grade to high school, and from high school to college.
"There's so much to do, and a relatively short time to do it all," he said. "Students should be preparing for higher education by the time they are enrolled in high school."
The sessions also are for parents to prepare for college, Avgares said.
"There's a lot of financial things - reading the fine print for scholarships - that parents should know about, and I will help them with," he said. "There's a lot of preparation the parents need to do."
The only requirement Avgares has is a desire to improve.
"We only want motivated students - if the students aren't motivated, there isn't a lot we can do," he said. "There's a lot of work to do, but the students who come motivated are usually rewarded."
Ben Bulkeley can be reached at 875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org