Interview by Derek Grosso
From running a food truck business to developing affordable housing throughout the city at the Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, Aaron Schopp is passionate about helping to serve others. It’s a trait he likely inherited from his late grandfather, Albert Barzanti, who Schopp has tried to emulate as an adult. “I could go on and on about [my grandfather],” Schopp said. “The main theme of his life is that he was selfless, he worked hard to provide for his family, and he was confident that every experience you would have with him would be a positive one.” It is this sense of selflessness that propels Schopp to devote his free time to volunteering with Future Possibilities, offering an open dialogue for kids to voice their opinions, issues and ideas.
Give us a snapshot of your career path:
I have been with CMHA for 2 years. I’m passionate about our mission of developing more affordable housing throughout Columbus, neighborhood revitalization and helping our residents to ultimately become self-sufficient. There is a huge (and growing) need for affordable housing in Columbus and CMHA is developing innovative strategies to try and meet this need. Prior to living in Columbus, I co-founded and co-owned the Altered Eats food truck business in Mansfield, Ohio. I did everything from creating a business plan, balancing finances, marketing and advertising, to truck maintenance and anything between.
What led you to become involved with Future Possibilities?
This was my second year with Future Possibilities. My first year I was at Eastgate Elementary near the Franklin Park Conservatory and I volunteered at Cranbrook Elementary this school year, near the Ohio State University. Future Possibilities is a tremendous organization. I would have loved to have a “grown-up” come into my school during lunch/recess just to hang out with me and work on cool projects. I think that just giving the kids an ear to voice their opinions, issues, and ideas is incredibly important for a child. Really, it is important for us all. We all want to feel like someone is listening and cares what we bring to the table.
What do you want everyone to know about Future Possibilities?
Kid coaches work with their students to choose a goal and commit to that goal. I think that identifying a goal, planning the process, and ultimately completing the goal is an incredibly valuable lesson. Last year my student committed to becoming a better reader. He picked two books and we read them outside of school and then discussed them during our meetings. Yaacoub was in fifth grade but was reading books for kids in 7th and 8th grade. Not only did his reading fluency improve, but his grasp on the underlying concepts in the stories was well beyond his age.
What is the one thing you are most passionate about?
Volunteering is something that everyone should try at least once. I am interested in serving my community and the human race in general. It’s important to walk in other people’s shoes and see how other people live. My personal mission statement is to always help others. Since I have lived this way, my life has been incredibly positive and fulfilling.
What gets you up in the morning? And what gets you through the workweek?
My faith in God, my family & friends, and the beauty that exists in this world get me up in the morning. Knowing that there are people out there trying to create a better world every day of their lives keeps me motivated to do the same. Working in an environment that is committed to its residents and employees is what gets me through the work week. CMHA wants to see each and every one of its employees learn more and grow is inspiring to a young professional like myself.
Who inspires you?
My late grandfather Albert Barzanti is the person I have always looked up to and have tried to emulate as an adult. He came from a family of immigrants that worked in the coal mines in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He treated everyone with respect. He was an incredibly hard worker. He served in World War II. He graduated from Western Reserve. He loved poetry and history. I could go on and on about him, but the main theme of his life is that he was selfless, he worked hard to provide for his family, and he was confident that every experience you would have with him would be a positive one. That is what I try to recreate in my own life.
How is Future Possibilities making an impact in Columbus? How can people get involved with the organization?
FP is making an impact through its programming and being a listening ear to the kids involved. Committing to meet each week and have an open dialogue with the kid you’re paired with is an amazing opportunity. Learn more on LinkedIn or Facebook!
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now?
It is amazing to see all the incredible startup companies like Root Insurance or Aware (formerly Wiretap) coming out of Columbus. These companies are disrupting the markets they’re in and it is happening right here. Columbus is a destination for those in the technology space. It’s really exciting.
What are three things that you think Columbus needs (or wish Columbus had)?
• Columbus is in need of more affordable housing. The City of Columbus, CMHA, and many other organizations are trying to develop affordable housing as quickly as possible, but with our rapid growth it is difficult to meet all the demands.
• Columbus could use an amusement park. We have museums everywhere, but I’m pretty sure you can’t ride a roller coaster anywhere in the city.
• I wish Columbus had some mountains or an ocean, but that is not going to happen in my lifetime.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
The pulse of Columbus is its unique neighborhoods, its diverse communities, and its rapid growth.