Griffin Kapelus launches website to highlight the power of volunteering and giving back

Griffin Kapelus is a student at the University of Vermont who spends some of his time outside of school helping the homeless and addressing food insecurity in Burlington, Vermont.

Griffin recently launched a personal website and published a series of interviews with local and regional news publications to highlight the importance of volunteering and community service.

Griffin was born into privileged circumstances in New York City, but his parents set an important example of recognizing those who did not have such favorable educational, housing, and extracurricular opportunities and are caught in a web of poverty and a cycle of intergenerational despair.

Griffin Kapelus’s mother worked for the Goddard Riverside Community Center for most of his childhood and she works with a program that focuses on providing free tutoring to families and children who would not be able to afford it.

Through his mother, Griffin Kapelus saw he workings of a non-profit community center first hand which inspired some of his own life choices.

After high school, Kapelus took time off after high school and when he was ready to resume higher education, he started taking classes part time at Hunter College. An introductory writing class that Hunter requires its students to take, where he chose to write an argumentative paper on gentrification and displacement in Harlem, which coincided with his developing interest in urban issues and inequality. Another class, Approaches to Religion, where the students read books by anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, and theologians also provoked deeper thought into social issues and injustice.

In the fall of 2020, Kapelus began taking classes at the University of Vermont, including a geography course on race and ethnicity in the United States that further solidified his interest in academic exploration of social issues. However, he also felt a desire to contribute to solving the issues he was exploring in the classroom.

In New York City, during the height of COVID, Griffin began helping out at West Side Campaign Against Hunger, a food pantry in New York City. Kapelus said it felt powerful to be contributing to solutions rather than just complaining about problems, even in a limited role as a volunteer.

Prior to starting in-person classes in the fall at the University of Vermont, Griffin took a few classes online and began volunteering at an organization called Feeding Chittenden, which focuses on tackling food insecurity in Chittenden County, where Burlington is located.

“Feeding Chittenden was an interesting contrast to the larger-scale operation in New York,” said Kapelus, “but the most notable aspect of my summer was a job I took at a homeless shelter in Burlington. The ability to interact in a more significant way with the homeless population in the city has brought a deeper and more nuanced perspective of related social issues than I could get in a classroom and as a volunteer.”

Griffin Kapelus is looking forward to applying his academic interests to real-world scenarios while pursuing his other interests, including playing intramural soccer and attending as many concerts as he can at the small music venues in Burlington.

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