An Interview with Kingston’s Social Worker and Activist Extraordinaire Amy Kapes

We sat down with Amy Kapes to chat about the incredible work she’s doing in our community as well as what motivates her, her biggest passions, and what she’s most excited about this fall. TMI Project will honor Amy with an Agents of Change award at our 2018 Voices in Action Benefit & Storytelling Showcase on September 28th. Read on for the Q & A!

TMI Project: What does being honored as a TMI Project Agent of Change mean to you?

AK: It means I am doing my job as a social worker, community member, white person and as a human being! I am grateful for the recognition and appreciate the acknowledgment but, honestly, struggle with being “honored” for doing what I believe I should be doing in all of those roles.

TMI Project: What would you say most motivates you to do what you do?  What are you most excited or passionate about? What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your work, the goals you hold personally?

AK: What motivates me most to do what I do is the kids! They deserve to grow up in such a better world than the one we’re living in right now and to see them struggle, socially, emotionally, financially in ways that feel unnecessary and unfair is both heartbreaking and enraging….and provides infinite fuel.

I am most excited and passionate about the potential and power of positive personal and political change. And creating opportunities for that change. It’s about hope, community, education, empowerment, and honest conversations, along with groups like TMI Project and Radio Kingston that are facilitating these conversations. The Kingston High School book study on “So You Want to Talk About Race” (which I’m hoping can become a community-wide read), about the senior class (I am the senior class team social worker), is an example of this.

The goals I most want to accomplish personally and professionally are the same: to continue to advocate, educate, learn, grow, challenge, confront and “be the change” I want to see in the world consistently, compassionately, optimistically and effectively. And to become fluent in Spanish!

TMI Project: Did you have any life-changing experiences that put you on the path that led you to be doing what you’re doing today?  Tell us about them.

AK: I worked in a long-term residential substance abuse treatment program at the beginning of my career and was profoundly impacted by the experience. It was not what inspired me to become a social worker or activist because I was already both, but it was the greatest example I had experienced of the effects and intersection of trauma and oppression, the gravity of hate, hope and healing, and of the capacity of the human heart to hold them all.  

After that experience, I shifted to working in prevention with teenagers because I felt like my efforts would be best spent trying to help them avoid or at least navigate the stresses and struggles that prompt so many people to try to escape through drugs/alcohol at that age.

 

TMI Project: Did you have any key mentors or people who deeply influenced who you are, what you believe in and what you’re committed to in your work and life?  Tell us about them.

AK: I have been lucky enough to work with phenomenal clinicians, professors, activists, colleagues and supervisors, some whom have deeply influenced my work, but overall it has been my clients and students who have taught me the most and reinforce my commitment every day.

 

TMI Project: What’s next for you in your work in our Hudson Valley community?  What are you looking forward to?

AK: The first week in October, the Kingston High School GSA will host national superstars James Lecense and Ryan Amador for the Future Perfect Project which helps develop student voice and positive self-expression through songwriting and storytelling.  My co-advisor, Bill Tubby and I couldn’t be more excited to offer KHS kids this opportunity!

 

ABOUT AMY KAPES

Amy Kapes has worked as a social worker at Kingston High School for the past 12 years. She previously worked in substance abuse treatment, community organizing, positive youth development, and prevention education. She is the advisor for the Students Against Violence Initiative (SAVI), a co-advisor for the Gay Straight Alliance, a Dignity Act Coordinator, the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) coach and participates on many school and district wide committees/initiatives. She has facilitated partnerships and projects between KHS and several local community agencies/organizations, including TMI Project. Amy believes passionately in supporting, educating and empowering today’s youth and is grateful to work in a district and community that shares those values.

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