Success with Honor: Katie Schoepfer
Nov. 3, 2009
By Michelle Turli, Penn State Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Katie Schoepfer may show her love for the game on the soccer field, but on the sidelines, she spends her time showing her pride in and love for the community by volunteering to help others.
For Schoepfer, helping children in the community has been a number one priority.
"You want kids in the community to have a positive role model," said Schoepfer. "It's important for kids to have someone to look up to and to realize that they can achieve coming to a school such as this one."
Schoepfer's career goals involve working for a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk children, children with emotional or behavioral problems. Her major in human development and family studies, with a focus in adolescence, is helping her to further this ambition.
"I want to work with these kids and help them figure out alternative outlets for their negative energy," said Schoepfer. "I want to teach them how to channel this energy into education, sports, art or other things they may be passionate about."
Schoepfer began working with children in her hometown of Waterford, Conn. She credits her high school coach, Rob Brule, for encouraging her to coach children at local camps and to give speeches about the importance of excelling both on the field and in the classroom.
"I talk to children about my experiences growing up, about having a dream, chasing it, and ultimately achieving it," said Schoepfer.
This encouragement followed Schoepfer to Penn State where her coaches insisted the players each take a few hours out of their day to work with a youth program or spend time with children. This positive direction was no trouble for Schoepfer, as such encouragement reinforced her already existing beliefs about the importance of acting as a role model for children.
"I love working with kids, hanging out with them and doing fun stuff," said Schoepfer. "It's a rewarding experience, but at the same time, I don't do it for that feeling; I do it because I enjoy doing it. I enjoy being with kids."
Through SAAB, the Student-Athlete Advisory Board, Schoepfer has worked with The Second Mile, a nonprofit organization committed to helping young children achieve their potential as both individuals and members of the community, since her freshman year at Penn State. Schoepfer's favorite part about Second Mile is the holiday party held each December, where student-athletes donate money and clothing to host a party for children of the Second Mile Program.
"It is really just about getting to know the kids and sharing life experiences with them while hearing about some of their own," said Schoepfer. "You sit with the kids and make Christmas cards for local residents, talk to them and learn about their lives. It's something our team looks forward to every year."
Each team buys and wraps a gift for a Second Mile child and the excitement for Schoepfer and many other student-athletes comes from watching each child receive one.
Aside from The Second Mile Program, Schoepfer and her team also work with The Centre Soccer Association and local youth soccer programs. Schoepfer helps run soccer clinics in the spring or helps out at weekend events. The team teaches children about the game of soccer and in return, gets to hear these children shouting their names on the sidelines of their Penn State collegiate games.
"I think it started out as one of those things where we wanted to expand our fan base, but turned into something we do just because it means a lot to these kids," said Schoepfer.
The Penn Pal Program, which enables student-athletes to correspond with students of local school districts, is also another way for Schoepfer to work with children in the community.
"I know they get excited to talk to me about their weekend or about what is going on in their lives," said Schoepfer. "They feel connected to something and I know that is important to any child."
Schoepfer, along with other athletes involved in the program, shares her insight on topics such as the importance of an education, goal-setting and the benefits of staying involved. The children collaboratively write letters to the athletes and highly anticipate their responses.
Additionally, Schoepfer and her teammates volunteer with THON, Penn State's IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon dedicated to conquering pediatric cancer. For her past three years at Penn State, at least one of her teammates has participated in the event as a dancer. Schoepfer and the team participate in the "athlete hour" portion of THON, where they set up a sports event and encourage children to come have some fun.
This event, along with the other community activities Schoepfer partakes in, gives her the chance to do what she loves most--working with children and takimg the time to help others.
"I think that especially at a school such as this one, where State College really follows athletes and athletic programs, athletes are a little more looked up to," said Schoepfer. "I think it is important for anybody to take time out of their day to help others, or to help children, but it is especially important for athletes. It truly means so much."