Abragail Kappel worked in evening news production in laid back Grand Junction, and in bustling Albany, New York, before settling in Colorado Springs in 2016. Journalism was one of her first passions, Kappel says, but she’s starting a new chapter. This week, she’s taking on the role of marketing director for Pikes Peak United Way.
For Kappel, living in Colorado has been a time of self-exploration and learning the importance of community. The hardest part: figuring out her purpose and mission — especially after stepping away from journalism.
“I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was in high school and I made that my ultimate goal and journey,” she said. “When that journey came to an end, I had no idea who I was or where I fit. For me, the most difficult part has been figuring out who I am at my core and how I can make a difference.
“That really was the driving factor for my transition — how can I be embedded and involved in this community and actually make a difference here.”
Kappel talked with the Business Journal about pursuing her passion for community service.
What brought you to the Springs?
I was actually a producer for a very long time out of college. I did a couple of years in Grand Junction, Colorado, and then took a producing position with a television station in Albany, New York. I came to the Springs [after that] to be an executive producer.
Why did you get out of news?
I got out of news for a multitude of reasons that are similar for a lot of reporters and producers who have gone through the same process. I did not want to leave the Springs. I love this city so much. I own my house here and I’ve invested a lot into the young professional community, so I really didn’t want to look elsewhere. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was next for me and through the course of the past five years or so, I’ve really figured out where my next journey is. It’s taken me some time to get there.
I was with the Sky Sox [as graphics assistant, then promotions and production manager] for about four years before I transitioned to Payroll City [as a marketing and sales manager] to really take the time to figure out what I needed to do next. I recently put in my notice at Payroll City. ... Luckily, through that transition period, I came across my new position.
What motivated you to accept the position with United Way?
The motivation behind it was really how ingrained Pikes Peak United Way is in this community. This role gives me the opportunity to really make a difference in a big way. Pikes Peak United Way does so much to support those in need within our community. They make sure everyone has access to basic needs such as education, food and shelter. We support that mission through a variety of programs, and we partner with several local nonprofits to lend a helping hand to their causes as well.
For me, it’s a way to make a big difference by helping so many different organizations and people within our community.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about this community and the stories this community has to tell. I think there’s an incredible amount of people who are working very hard every single day to make Colorado Springs the best it can be. Being a part of that movement is really where my passion lies. Whether that’s in a nonprofit role, forward-facing community role, or another young professional role, for me, the passion lies in how I can bring change here. I still love journalism. I still have incredible respect for people who work in the industry, but it is not the next step for me anymore.
What role does community play in this new position?
Being heavily involved in the young professional scene here, I really get the opportunity to get more young professionals involved in philanthropic efforts, whether they want to be volunteers or donors. … All of the projects that Pikes Peak United Way is involved in really help people have access to food, education, and shelter if they need it. We’re currently gearing up for the big Backpack Bash occurring in August. While it’s only April, the pre-planning starts now. Eventually, around 3,000 children will get school supplies and backpacks that they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. That’s just one area of what Pikes Peak United Way focuses on. I get to help the community in a multitude of ways.
How did you become interested in producing?
When I was in high school, I started out with my school newspaper for a while and eventually became the co-editor-in-chief. I knew I loved talking to people and I knew I loved people’s stories. I was a very aggressive opinion writer in high school; I had a lot to say.
When I went to college, I knew newspapers weren’t necessarily where my strengths were, so I started branching out and looking at television. I am an incredibly awkward person. I was not the type of person that was going to be on camera and I learned that pretty early. I asked myself how else I could be involved and a professor of mine said, ‘You would probably be a really great producer.’ I knew I liked to tell stories and was extremely organized. I started a couple of internships. I went to school at the University of Arizona in Tucson and did a few internships with television stations over there. I got my first crack at really being involved as a producer. They would let me write a couple stories here and there and figure out how to build a newscast and I fell in love with it. I loved being in control.
When I graduated, I got a job in Grand Junction and I produced their 5- and 6-o’clock news and I loved every minute of it. It was a little bit slow, but I learned a lot from my supervisors. When I eventually moved to Albany, I took a position that allowed me to be heavily involved in the evening newscasts. I loved it. Albany was a market that had a lot of breaking news and a lot of political news because it was the capital of New York. It was really exciting. I tried to find a position in the management track and knew I wanted to come back to Colorado. Fortunately, I was able to get a job to come back here.
Tell us more about your background.
I was born in Sedona, Arizona and I spent my entire childhood and high school years there. I feel blessed to be from such an amazing town. Sedona has a population of 10,000 people, but it’s packed. My high school class had about 116 people. I stayed in state when I went to college at Arizona State University before switching to University of Arizona where class sizes were smaller and the journalism program was more focused.
When I graduated, I started applying for positions and Grand Junction was the first station to get back to me. I graduated in May and began working in July. I moved from Grand Junction to Albany and quickly realized I was not built for the Northeast. I could not handle the weather. After my experience in Grand Junction, I had fallen in love with the state and began applying to jobs only in the Springs. I tried for a while to get involved with the [U.S. Olympic & Paralympic] Committee, but I didn’t have a ton of luck, and then I ultimately began working for the Sky Sox. After that, I worked for Payroll City.
Who has been your biggest role model?
I would not be where I am today without the love and support of Karole Campbell [of Madwoman Marketing & Strategies]. She has been a driving force in my life. When I decided to leave the news business and didn’t have anywhere else to turn, I connected with her and she took me under her wing. I’ve learned so much about the community, marketing and public relations — anything and everything you can imagine.
What else do you do?
I’m an adjunct professor for Pikes Peak Community College. I love it. I teach a traditional advertising course. I’m involved with the Pikes Peak Marathon & Ascent on their committee, even though I’m not a runner.