July 23, 2015
Nicholas Coppola Earns Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services
Nicholas Coppola spoke at the 2015 commencemnt ceremony held on Long Island. Photo/Empire State College
Nicholas Coppola, a 50-year-old resident of Oceanside, N.Y., graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Community and Human Services. He was selected as a student speaker for the 2015 commencement ceremony held on Long Island.
More than 25 years ago, Coppola earned his associate degree in labor studies from the college as part of his requirements as an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3.
“As a kid in Richmond Hill, Queens, I always wanted to be in construction,” said Coppola. “College was not part of my plan.”
Coppola said that he is proud of completing his associate and characterizes his education as a gift from Local 3, for which he is grateful.
Coppola progressed in his career by becoming a journeyman electrician, general foreman, superintendent and contractor. In 2008, however, a construction accident ended a 25-year career in a field he said he loved.
After multiple surgeries and an extensive recovery, Coppola said physical limitations frustrated and, at times, even angered him.
He found solace and purpose in life by becoming active in his parish social ministry and as a member of The St. Vincent de Paul Society, which advocates on behalf of the poor.
Shortly after getting married to David Crespo in 2012, Coppola said he began to think about returning to college, which was both exciting and a bit frightening. Thanks to the urging and support of his spouse, he again enrolled with the college.
At that time he also said that he again was presented with a life-changing experience.
“When we returned from our honeymoon, my pastor informed me that Bishop Murphy directed him to remove me from any and every church ministry,” said Coppola. “I was not permitted on the altar. The reason? I married someone I love. It is that simple. That was a very significant moment in my life. Sure, I have dealt with some nasty comments that come from ignorance, but never had an injustice affected me in such a personal way.”
Coppola said that as a result of the actions of his church, and his three decades of volunteering with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center, he chose to create a degree within the college’s community and human services area of study, in order to become an activist and advocate for those who do have access to the level of support he had in recovering from his injury on the job.
Coppola serves on the board of directors of GMHC, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end the AIDS epidemic and uplift the lives of all affected. He is also the president of SUNY Empire State College’s LGBTQA Student Alumni Club, which he helped found.
He said he plans on completing a master’s in policy studies with the college’s School for Graduate Studies.