Earlier this year, Matthew Kopicko won The Richard and Bonnie Bryan Family Public Service Award. This award was established in 2017 and is presented annually by the ASUN Center for Student Engagement to recognize an undergraduate student who has demonstrated an outstanding record of civic engagement at The University of Nevada, Reno. Kopicko has chosen to devote his life to being an agent of change for many. He has spent countless hours in volunteer experiences to serve, celebrate and support many individuals and groups within underserved populations.
Before getting involved in social work, Kopicko worked in account sales, account management and sales at a National Fortune 500 Company. While nothing was wrong with his career, Kopicko felt that something was missing. Since he was young he has loved helping people, so it was no shock when he changed courses and went to work at Northern Nevada HOPES to work in their medication-assisted treatment program.
Kopicko has been very open about how he is in recovery from substance use disorder. After starting his recovery journey, he started LoveBetterReno, an organization designed to help those in need. Kopicko came up with the idea for the organization when he would walk by the Truckee River in downtown Reno and see unhoused people in need and he wanted to make a difference. LoveBetterReno started with Kopicko making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to hand out on his walk and has turned into an organization with volunteers and people donating goods of all kinds to help. While support dwindled during the pandemic, volunteers have started to show up again.
“Of course, it's wonderful helping people, but if we can inspire other people to do little acts of kindness, like taking granola bars in their cars and if they see someone on the side of the road who needs help, to offer them a granola bar, or a bottle of water or whatever it might be. That’s the biggest thing for me, inspiring change,” Kopicko said.
While he was incredibly grateful to be recognized for the work he does, being recognized is not why Kopicko does it. He does the work because he wants to and enjoys helping people. While he was torn on how to feel about this award when he first heard he was getting it, a friend told him that he needed to give himself permission to be recognized for the things he does and after that, the guilt within Kopicko lessened and had a great experience receiving the award and being recognized for the great work that he does for the community.
“I want people to know that we are all human and because we are human we have a right to the same amount of love and compassion and kindness as anyone else in the world, regardless of our circumstance or who we are or what we identify as. None of that matters. We’re all human and we deserve to feel safe and feel loved.”