From Vandal athletics to academics, Dopke’s determination and success remain unwavering
For many student-athletes, the challenges that accumulate with a hectic sports schedule and rigorous academic criteria can be overwhelming. But there are also those who seem to thrive off of the hardships and excel, despite having so much on their plate.
One of these individuals is soccer player Kelly Dopke, who will graduate this spring from the University of Idaho with a 4.0 GPA and a degree in medical science, a minor in pre-health professions, and a certificate in diversity and stratification.
With the aspiration of one day becoming a doctor, Dopke learned early on she would have to commit to a demanding class load, make time for volunteering, hold leadership positions, participate in medical internships, receive high Medical College Admission Test scores and have an outstanding cumulative GPA, all while traveling across the country to play games and set aside time to train for the soccer season.
Dopke has far surpassed those goals. She has received accolades throughout her collegiate career including the Athlete Crush Impact Lead Award, Alumni Award for Excellence, Avista Scholar Athlete, Big Sky Athlete of the Week and the Google Cloud Academic All-America First Team honors.
Pete Isakson, U of I’s interim athletic director, has grown close to Dopke over her years in his position and admires the athlete’s tenacity and drive for success.
“Some people see challenges, Kelly sees opportunities,” Isakson said.
Beginning early May of 2018, Isakson worked with a hiring committee to hire new soccer coach Jeremy Clevenger and asked Dopke’s opinion for what she would like to see in the right candidate.
“We have a high academic standard on this team,” was Dopke’s response. “I want to have someone who comes in who will hold us to a high academic standard and make sure that we are keeping our grades up and doing the things in the classroom that we need to be doing.”
Dopke’s unwavering desire for success has made her an invaluable player and leader on the U of I soccer team. In turn, Dopke credits those relationships with her teammates and coaches as some of the fundamental reasons for her accomplishments at U of I. That comradery between Dopke and her team first began when an unforeseen tragedy occurred during the spring of Dopke’s senior year in high school, after she committed to play for the Vandals.
“On May 31, 2015, my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident and it changed everything,” Dopke said. “It was really hard at first because someone so close to you is taken so suddenly, and it’s so unexpected. I always wondered if there was something someone could have done.”
Immediately following her brother’s death, Dopke received condolences from every member of the soccer team, saying how sorry they were for her loss but how ecstatic they were to have Dopke join the team. Together, the players and coaches helped Dopke cope with the loss of her brother and provided a support system that became Dopke’s irreplaceable Vandal Family.
“The support from the team and the coaches, the second I got here, they said if you need anything, you let us know,” Dopke said. “That was crazy, I had never felt that on any other team.”
After her brother’s passing, Dopke solidified her decision to become a doctor. In her mind, it would be a dream career if she could make someone’s life better and prevent them from going through the grieving process she and her family endured.
Liz Bryant, the pre-health professions program coordinator for U of I, said pre-med students are practically “super human” with everything they’ve been able to accomplish by the time they reach their senior year. For Dopke, who has continued to dedicate her time to being her best self each day, super human seems like a fitting title.
Behind her constant drive to be successful, Dopke points to her brother’s favorite quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “The quality not the longevity of one’s life is what is important.” Dopke uses this adage to remind herself to live life to the fullest every day, and never take anything for granted. While her brother is no longer alive, she wants to live in his image and make him proud.
One of Dopke’s core values is that success is never granted, but achieved through unwavering dedication.
“You have to earn every little bit of it,” she said.
After finishing her four years at the U of I, having received multiple accolades, holding a variety of leadership positions, training and playing soccer during the entirety of her college career, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and never losing sight of her goal and passion to one day becoming a doctor, Dopke has without a doubt earned every bit of her success.