A Conversation with Griffin Kapelus – Student and Community Service Volunteer


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Griffin Kapelus has been involved with volunteering and community service from a young age. After high school, he found himself volunteering often, which he attributes to the social work he saw his Mom doing throughout his childhood. His interest was further piqued after taking two college classes that created lasting impressions.  

One class allowed him the opportunity to write an argumentative paper on gentrification and displacement in Harlem, which coincided with his developing interest in urban issues and inequality. The other class, Approaches to Religion, provoked some of the deepest reflections in his life, thus far.   

This was around the time when Griffin Kapelus began to think about what lay ahead for his career in the long term. He started to be a bit more aware of his intellectual and academic interests and learned more through reading about the many topics in the realm of social issues that he knew he cared about but had never explored before. During this period, he began to grow the interest in an intersection between academics and the world around him that he sees in himself today. 

After transferring to The University of Vermont during the COVID-19 pandemic, he further explored his academic interests through new classes. A geography course on race and ethnicity in the United States further solidified his interest in the academic exploration of social issues, but he also felt a desire to contribute to solving those issues that he was exploring in the classroom.  

The pandemic was so destructive to so many lives, and with his previous experience volunteering, he felt like it was a good time to do so again. Griffin Kapelus started volunteering at West Side Campaign Against Hunger, a food pantry in New York City.  

After moving to Burlington, Vermont to continue his studies at the university, Griffin Kapelus began volunteering at an organization called Feeding Chittenden. It was focused on tackling food insecurity in Chittenden, the county in which Burlington resides. He found it to be a really interesting contrast to the larger-scale operation in New York.   

He also took a job at a homeless shelter in town. It was his first time as a paid employee doing social work, and he had far more responsibility than he ever could in a volunteer capacity. It has corresponded with an even greater appreciation of this socially important work: the ability to interact in a more significant way with the homeless population in Burlington has brought a deeper and more nuanced perspective of related social issues than he could get in a classroom or as a volunteer.   

Griffin Kapelus is focused on continuing both his volunteer work and his job at the homeless shelter. He looks forward to considering his academic interests in real-world scenarios.  

We caught up with Griffin Kapelus who told us about everything from his favorite sport to the best $100 he recently spent.  

What are you most excited about?  

I am extremely excited that I will have the opportunity to continue with my job while I attend school this semester.  

The opportunity to work with the homeless community while also considering these issues in my classes on a more academic level should be really interesting. 

How do you handle difficult coworkers? 

The homeless shelter I work at is a small and tight-knit group, and I very much like my co-workers. It is often an emotionally draining environment in which to work, but we all support one another as a team.   

When I’ve had difficult coworkers in the past, the stakes felt much lower, but I found that voicing frustrations is far more constructive than keeping them in, as long as you approach people in a kind way. 

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?  

I get a lot of value out of working out, and lifting weights tends to be my go-to method. Around the time the pandemic began, I bought a used weight bench and a set of dumbbells with plates that can be taken on or off to adjust the weight.   

This turned out to be an incredibly useful investment and one that I continue to use when I do not have enough time to get to the gym. 

What is your favorite sport?  Why? 

I grew up playing soccer and was pretty good at it. When I reached the age where I had to choose one sport for a travel team, soccer was it.  

I played throughout all four years of high school, spanning the time I spent at two Manhattan schools – Beacon School and York Prep School. I also played on a travel team from the ages of 9 to 17. While I still play when I can, I now consider myself to be more of a fan and hopefully a coach in the future. 

I am a diehard fan of the British team Manchester City, a club I started to follow around the age of 12 when I first saw one of their matches on TV. I liked their light blue home jerseys and their style of play. “Man City” became my team from that point forward. My fan devotion grew around age 16 when I started following the team more closely, watching every game on the weekends and catching as many as I could from New York that were aired on TV during the week.  

I started to read soccer websites daily, and study highlight videos. My father and I actually went to England when I was 17-years-old and watched a match in person. We watched Bournemouth v Manchester City at the Vitality Stadium (Bournemouth’s ground in Bournemouth on the South Coast), a small stadium that seated only about 11,000 people. We were in the away section with the other City fans. Manchester City won the game 4-0 I believe.  

As I became more invested as a fan, my interest in soccer tactics grew. I would read articles and watch videos discussing different formations, deep match analysis, and top coaches’ philosophies.  

I plan to take coaching courses through United States Soccer, which is where all coaching licenses of various levels are awarded. I already completed the online introductory course, which is the first step in this process.  

Sports management is a potential route for me in upcoming college studies as well. My goal is to involve myself in soccer at the University of Vermont. 


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