Pi Alpha Profile – Scott Kopple, Zeta Epsilon (George Mason)

Hometown: Wanaque, N.J.
College: George Mason University
Graduation: 1998
Major: Government and Politics, B.A.

What prompted you to get involved with The Ability Experience?

I pledged Pi Kappa Phi at George Mason University (Zeta Epsilon) in the fall semester of 1994. At the time, The Ability Experience (called Push America then) seemed like something interesting and different – but not in my top reasons why I wanted to join Pi Kappa Phi. Like most college students I was looking to make friends and enhance my social life. After joining, I found a unique opportunity to give something back and do something more than the average college student through the Ability Experience.

What has been the most meaningful experience you’ve had with The Ability Experience?

While I was fortunate to participate in three Journey of Hope events (JOH), it was my third (I was a crew member and cyclist also) and final which I was most of proud of and felt like I had achieved something extraordinary in my life. Serving as Project Manager for the 1997 JOH South Team taught me more about myself than just about any other experience I know – leading 20 young men (a few older than me) safely across the U.S. made me feel like a proud parent and now I actually know what that feeling is like having two kids of my own.

Tell us about some of the people you met during your time working with The Ability Experience that have made a lasting
impression on you.

Witnessing the team ride through a blizzard into Kirkwood, CA in 1995. Cycling into Bullhead City, AZ in 1996 Ð it felt like we were peddling inside of a hair dryer. Leaving Shreveport, LA in 1997 and realizing that almost none of our maps/route sheets were accurate as we had to go around Atlanta due to the Olympics that summer.

But it was the JOH friendship visits that were most remarkable. Those moments turned into memories which still remain very clear today. I remember a young man named Tom in Hagerstown, MD who only communicated by facial expressions. We went to a minor league baseball game and I learned that he liked baseball, pizza, ice cream and girls. Tom and the countless other individuals I met along the way taught me that while they may appear different than you and me, these individuals are simply differently abled.

I remember the Exceptional Parents Support Group in Grand Isle, NE. This was the first time I really felt like we were doing something truly special. While they treated us like super heroes, I recall feeling a little guilty. The daily challenges I face were nothing compared to what these parents live every day. THEY ARE THE REAL HEROES!

Has your involvement with The Ability Experience changed the way you view people with disabilities?

I see the developmentally challenged as differently abled. They are people too. They didn’t ask to be ‘different.’ I will always go out of way to hold a door or simple say hello to someone who has a disability. I want my kids to understand that just because someone is different on the outside, we should still treat them how we wish to be treated.

What are three things you like most about our servant leadership events and why you like them?

Leadership, teamwork, friendship. I learned so much about myself, was challenged to step-up, and still share great admiration for the friends I met along the way. Whether it was a Push Camp or my Journey of Hope experiences, these events helped shape who I am today.

Without The Ability Experience, I might have never…

If it wasn’t for The Ability Experience, I don’t believe I would necessarily be where I am today. Yes, it looks good on a resume and certainly an item of interest during an interview, but it’s those leadership experiences afforded by The Ability Experience which give me those intangible qualities to succeed in in the workplace. The Ability Experience is also a reminder that I need to be thankful for what I have in life, and that it is important to give back through philanthropy when possible.

Share your story! If you are a Pi Alpha that has completed a summer event, a parent/guardian that has witnessed a change in your son since getting involved with Pi Kappa Phi and The Ability Experience, or an alumnus that was involved as an undergraduate at your chapter, we encourage you to share your story.