Lessons Learned: How Griffin Kapelus Was Inspired by His Mother to Make a Difference
By Space Coast Daily // May 4, 2023
Griffin Kapelus is dedicated to making a difference in the lives of those around him. Raised in Manhattan, he was inspired by his mother’s work at a nonprofit community center and began volunteering himself after high school.
His interest in social issues was sparked by a college class, which led him to explore urban issues and inequality. The COVID-19 pandemic spurred him to volunteer again, and he started at West Side Campaign Against Hunger in New York City.
He then moved to Burlington, Vermont, where he volunteers at Feeding Chittenden and works at a homeless shelter.
Griffin Kapelus’ dedication to social work aligns with his mother’s life’s work. She has been a strong role model, instilling in him a sense of responsibility to support those in the community who need an advocate on their side. She has worked as a lawyer, providing free legal services to immigrant families and representing children in court, and now runs a program that provides academic tutoring and family support to underserved youth in New York City.
She has also cultivated many strong friendships through her active listening and earnest sincerity. Kapelus feels incredibly fortunate to have such a role model in his life.
For Griffin Kapelus his work at the homeless shelter has given him a deeper and more nuanced perspective of related social issues than he could get in a classroom or as a volunteer. He is committed to making a difference wherever he can and is focused on contributing to solving the issues he explores in the classroom.
Griffin Kapelus has drawn great inspiration from his mother’s conduct in all facets of her life. In a recent essay, he shares his admiration for her and the profound influence she has had on his own approach to social work and community service.
“As I have grown and matured in recent years, my appreciation and respect for my mother’s conduct in all facets of her life has deepened. She serves as my greatest supporter and provides an exemplary role model through her actions.
Growing up in Long Island, NY, with her parents and older brother, my Mom developed a sense of independence from a young age. She demonstrated grit and determination in her academics, athletics, and a broad range of activities she pursued as a teenager. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school newspaper and volunteered as a student-teacher in a local elementary school.
While attending Dartmouth College, she played on the tennis team her first year before pivoting to pursue her love of writing. As an English and Creative Writing major, she wrote plays that were performed and was the Editor of the Literary Magazine. She also studied Spanish and eagerly seized the opportunity to live and attend the University of Salamanca in Spain, where she acquired language skills that have proven invaluable in her work with families over the years.
My admiration for my Mom begins with her unwavering commitment to our family. From my earliest memories, she has been a rock and support for me and my siblings, no matter how difficult the challenge.
Whether it was supporting us through a school project or finding a great summer activity, she always did exhaustive research to ensure it was as perfect for us as possible. She is an emotional support and a great listener, yet simultaneously rolls up her sleeves to tackle a problem or task.
She never stops working until she feels that she has achieved what she sets out to do, demonstrating the value of perseverance. When we celebrate birthdays and holidays, she makes the extra effort to ensure everyone feels welcome, going above and beyond to make those around her feel special.
All of this she has accomplished while balancing a highly stressful but personally rewarding career helping others. While she initially started as a lawyer in a firm, she quickly focused her work on providing free legal services to immigrant families and representing children in court. After my oldest sister was born, she left her law practice to work for a foundation designing and funding forward-thinking programs aimed at preventing child abuse and neglect.
For the past 13 years, she has been directly involved in a community-based social services organization, running a program that provides critical academic tutoring and family support to underserved youth across New York City.
From an early age, she instilled in me a sense of responsibility to support those in the community who need an advocate on their side. She also engages in hands-on political work and even pet-focused organizations to bring about change.
Many years ago, she initiated a family ritual where we meet each year to discuss which organizations we would like to donate to that align with each of our values. Her dedication to others and her humble approach to her work inspired me to devote much of my time to ANEW Place in Burlington, VT, which provides a continuum of services to the homeless.
Furthermore, my Mom has demonstrated the value of earning others’ trust through her reliability and dependability. She has cultivated many strong friendships through her active listening and earnest sincerity. Those who know her recognize her as someone who can always be counted on.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have a role model in my Mom. She is determined to make a difference where she can and strives to do her absolute best for everyone in her life.”