6 minute read

Maria Kopicki

LABORING FOR LOVE AND EQUITY BEYOND THE CLASSROOM

Even though Maria Kopicki no longer spends her days shaping young minds in the classroom, her love for education, for educators and for underserved children remains at the heart of her career in real estate and continues to live on — and grow — through EVOLVEK12.

Throughout Maria’s 30-year career as a public school teacher, she was revered for her dedication, generous spirit and compassion, and known for her mantra: “It’s all about the love.” After making the difficult decision to retire from teaching in June 2019, Maria wanted to continue the legacy of love that had shaped her pedagogy and her life for so many years, and that’s what inspired her vision for EVOLVEK12 as well as its name — LOVE spelled backward, followed by “VE” for Vesting in Education.

Founded by Maria in fall 2019, EVOLVEK12 is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Metro Detroit with a mission to “close the achievement gap by closing the funding gap.” Through a commission donation program in the real estate industry, EVOLVEK12 provides financial support to K-12 schools nationwide through grants and initiatives.

“My goal in forming EVOLVEK12 is to provide every K-12 student and teacher with equal access to resources and opportunities that support and promote academic achievement,” Maria said. “I personally do not want any student to miss out on opportunities — like I did — because they don’t have money, nor do I want any teacher to have their passion crushed due to lack of funding.”

Maria grew up in a disadvantaged family, so she has always made giving back and helping others her #1 priority in life. As a real estate agent since 2019, Maria now understands foreclosure and the pressure it exerts on underprivileged families. “I now realize why I was forced to work in high school: so we did not lose our home. No 17-year-old should have that weight on their shoulders,” she said. “I also was not able to participate in many events or attend field trips because we could not afford it. I see how I am able to mitigate some of that pressure for some kids and families, and I love the feeling.”

By working hard to build and grow her business at Coldwell Banker Weir Manuel - Birmingham, Maria has personally donated over $20,000 to help fund education and equity initiatives and has raised over $10,000 more from donations and Facebook campaigns. EVOLVEK12 members include a group of real estate agents who donate a percentage of their gross commission at closing to the school district or nonprofit of their choosing, as well as industry specialists and partners who donate funds or services. Maria is grateful for the support and generosity of the real estate community and for everyone who has volunteered their time to the organization.

During her first year as a real estate agent, Maria achieved greater success than she ever imagined, producing over $7 million. After being in the industry for less than 18 months, she quickly rose to #1 in sales for her company among 700+ agents across the state and made Real Producers TOP 500. “As long as I can continue my success, I will continue my charitable contributions. I will also continue networking and bringing more people on board with my efforts,” Maria said.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, EVOLVEK12 expanded its efforts to support Metro Detroit healthcare workers and first responders. Maria, along with her Angels in Action volunteer team, delivered thousands of meals, a variety of personal protection equipment, snack-filled care packages and hygiene kits to dozens of hospitals and first care responders across the tri-county area. All of these items were purchased by Maria’s donation of two entire commission checks.

This operation was also successful because of Michael Supanich, a third-year medical student at Michigan State University who was given a mission to help with the COVID-19 crisis and reached out to Maria. “After spending a few minutes with him, I knew he would be a great asset to the organization, so I offered him a spot on the EVOLVEK12 Executive Board as the director of community engagement,” Maria said. “When he came on board, the nonprofit exploded — in no time, I had a team of millennials conduct a community needs assessment and make arrangements to drop off PPE, meals and care packages to healthcare and first responders.”

Michael is not the only board member who is making a difference alongside Maria at EVOLVEK12 — her husband, Steve Kopicki, is the CFO, and all four of their daughters hold positions in the nonprofit: Kristin Kopicki as the board of directors co-chair of the executive board; Kelsie Kopicki as director of Florida operations and marketing; Kayla Kopicki, REALTOR®, who lives in Florida, as vice president; and Alexis Kopicki as marketing assistant. EVOLVEK12 also includes Board co-Chair Sid Saravanan — one of Maria’s former students who was inspired to help her found the organization — as well as board members from Detroit, Chicago, New York City and Delray, Florida.

Maria’s history of service is remarkable: As an educator, sponsor, council member, mentor, coordinator, coach, facilitator, leader and club director, Maria’s making-a-difference career volume is immeasurable. Currently, in addition to being president and CEO of EVOLVEK12, Maria is a member of the Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County Women Build Team and a GMAR RPAC Committee Member. She was also recently named director of membership for the Women’s Council of REALTORS® Birmingham-Bloomfield. In addition, she serves as the youth coordinator for the Rochester/Auburn Hills Community Coalition, a collaborative community organization dedicated to supporting healthy lifestyle choices, preventing and reducing substance misuse and promoting safety.

Throughout her 30-year career in education, Maria has been honored with countless awards and recognitions for her service. Given what she’s been able to accomplish in the first year of her new career in real estate — and how much she’s given back as a result — it’s not surprising that she was a finalist for the 2020 Michigan REALTORS® Good Neighbor Award. Most significantly, Maria was selected among 150 applicants as the Coldwell Banker 2020 Hero of the Year Award Winner and honored on Facebook Live as 5,000 people across the nation tuned in.

“I am so proud — and still in shock — about the Hometown Hero Award,” Maria said. “I am most proud of the thousands of people who have been impacted by my EVOLVEK12 grants, and my hope is that others will continue to spread love and make education and life more equitable for those in need.”

“I do not plan to stop what I am doing — as long as my health remains intact, I will do this forever,” she said. “I am known for spreading love and want to be a bright spot in as many people’s days as possible. It brings me great joy.”

If you are interested in partnering with EVOLVEK12 or making a tax-deductible contribution, visit evolvek12.org.