When first he enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia in 2017, Andreas Copes believed he wanted to pursue a degree in Liberal Arts and eventually end up in the field of public relations. Now, as he finishes up his associate degree at Community College of Philadelphia, Copes will move on to the next stage of his academic career having discovered a new career trajectory in journalism and media, and having earned multiple awards and scholarships, work experience and professional connections. An enthusiastic member of the College’s campus community, Copes embraced every opportunity to get involved on campus, proving that higher education can illuminate parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed, and lead us down new pathways.
Immigrating from Germany to Philadelphia in 2017, Andreas considered returning home to pursue his education. He only decided to stay in the United States when he met the man who would later become his husband. Copes chose to attend the College due to both its affordability as well as its diverse student body. “I know I don't look like it, but I'm 29...One thing that I was worried about was that I would only be around people that are 18 or 19,” said Copes. “If you come from another country into the school system or higher education system in America, it's easier to start at a community college...Not that [the classes] are easier, but it's a benefit that a community college in general has a more diverse student body.”
The College’s student body was one of the first things to influence Copes to begin inching away from PR. “I got to know so many people... I heard about their stories, that is actually also a reason why I want to go into journalism,” he said. “I want to tell the story of all people, to empower others to know that the struggle that they're going through isn't unique for that person.”
His approach to empowering his community has to do with both telling their stories and advocating for causes that inspire positive change. After joining the College’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter and becoming the Public Relations officer in 2019, he participated in the Honors in Action program with his fellow officers, researching and implementing methods to help inform and register voters, as well as encourage them to make it to the polls on voting day. Identifying as a feminist, Copes chose to focus on reproductive rights for his individual Honors in Action project. Working with Planned Parenthood, he organized an event at the College to spread awareness on the barriers that stand between women and their right to choose.
By embracing one on-campus opportunity after another, Andreas happened upon his first experience with journalism when he took a voice and articulation course with Professor Mary Conway in Spring 2019. “At that time they were looking for a new host for Focal Point. They were targeting students who had taken this class because we were trained in voice and articulation. And so I auditioned for the show, and got into it right away,” said Copes. Focal Point is a magazine show on the College’s TV channel, CCP-TV, that explores timely topics and campus happenings. Copes also runs the station’s media accounts.
The following summer, Copes used his experience to land a highly competitive internship at WHYY. He recalled, “I thought I had to have low expectations because I knew that there were students from Temple and Drexel applying for the internship…but I thought, ‘I'm a host of a TV show already. It's only the College's TV station, but I'm doing something in this direction.’ At that time, I was also producing my own podcast so I could show that as well. I just gave it a try and then I eventually made it to the internship.”
Taking on another season as a host of Focal Point, Copes brought to the table new knowledge and experience gained from his internship in order to take on a more significant role in the show’s production. “I got in touch with Alan Kobernick, who is the head of CCPTV, and told him that for the next season, I would like to be much more involved in production. So, we developed a plan on what kind of topics we wanted to touch on in this season, and I knew that I wanted to write the script—and that's how we started.”
Even after the campus has moved to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Copes and his peers have found creative ways to keep both the show and their connection with the CCP community alive. “Ever since coronavirus and the lockdown, students in the digital video production curriculum produce their own segments with the material that they have, whether that's a semiprofessional camera or their cell phone camera. Then when we meet on Saturdays, they show me what they've prepared in regard to segments, so I have an idea of what it is about, and I write my script on that Saturday.”
In light of all his hard work Andreas received multiple scholarships this year. He was given an outstanding community college transfer scholarship from the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges (PACCC) as well as a scholarship from the Point Foundation, which is a national scholarship for LGBTQ students. This the Point scholarship also came with a trip to Los Angeles, where Copes and other recipients attended a symposium and workshop for college applications, as well as other educational events.
Copes will continue his education at Temple University in the fall in the Communication Studies major of distinction, which is “an academically rigorous program for students who wish to construct an interdisciplinary curriculum that meets their individual interests across the Klein [College of Media and Communication] departments.”
Andreas has learned a lot in his time at the College. One lesson he wants to share with the CCP community reflects the magnitude of all he was able to achieve in just a few short years. “Don't ever think that you're worth less just because you're going to a community college. It is as important as any other college and we should never forget that some of our professors are working at other colleges, whether that's Jefferson or Temple as well. And for the graduates. I just hope that pathway to success, the motto of CCP, will be a great one as well.”