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How Cody Kopp overcame his struggles to become who he was meant to be

March 21, 2017

Cody Kopp sits on the grass under a tree
"When you're a kid, you have a plan and a vision of the future. You think, 'Oh, I have problems now, but they don't matter. One day I'll have a degree and things will be perfect.' But life never really unfolds according to your plan." --Cody Kopp

Cody Kopp began working for the family business -- a turkey slaughterhouse -- when he was just 5 years old. Growing up around adults and performing adult labor at such a young age taught him the value of money and responsibility, but it also forced him to grow up fast. "I had an adult's mindset at an early age," he said. "I worried about a lot of things that I shouldn't have worried about."

Kopp was expelled from his high school for drinking alcohol at a football game. "I was just beginning to really like school," he said. "I was always an excellent student, but I struggled with substance abuse and had depression issues." After working full-time for a couple of years, he made it into college, but he had already gone a long way down the wrong path. It was difficult to transition back into student life.

After studying at Indiana University for two years, he dropped out. "That's when things got really bad," he said. "When you're a kid, you have a plan and a vision of the future. You think, 'Oh, I have problems now, but they don't matter. One day I'll have a degree, and things will be perfect.' But life never really unfolds according to your plan." For the next several years, Kopp spent much of his time doing manual labor, getting drunk and using drugs. He forgot all of his dreams, and he forgot who he was.

"I could have died several times," Kopp said. "After awhile, I just got tired of it. So I stopped. It wasn't easy, but many things in life aren't easy. You just have to decide what you want. I got sick of that life. I wanted to be free, and I wanted to be valuable to society."

Now, years later, he has become the person he always meant to be. A Dean's List sophomore in the School of Education at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Kopp also works as the senior photographer for the Offices of Development, Operations and External Affairs in the Division of Undergraduate Education.

Kopp said he doesn't regret anything. "The struggles I went through and the mistakes I made have made me who I am today," he said. "But I wouldn't like to see anyone else go through a lot of the things I went through. I did things the hard way, and I was lucky."  

Kopp made it a point to gain employment on campus when he began his first semester at IUPUI. He attributes much of his success to staying involved and building connections between work, study and leisure.

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