You Bet Your Pierogi I’m Polish

Bartlomiej Skorupa

by Bart Skorupa, Co-Founder & Development Director

We were all ‘Others’ seeking to belong, to live the American Dream, and grow a better life.

I was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1979 and grew up during a stranglehold of repression. My parents fled Poland with my sister and me during the tumultuous solidarity movement. They left everything behind so our family could have better opportunities in life. We eventually found refuge in the United States in the Orchard Downs neighborhood in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

Bart with his mom and sister

My family and I resided in a housing complex that offered cheap tenement housing to the large immigrant community. Snaps of the Mandarin language chimed with the terse, guttural vocalizations of Arabic. My first babysitter was Nigerian, and her similarly aged son became my first friend. Emulsified in this melting pot of immigrants, my new American life was spent amongst this group of strangers from strange lands. We were all “Others” seeking to belong, to live the American Dream, and grow a better life.

While I grew up in a welcoming country—a place that I would eventually embrace as my  home—I had also learned to think differently from a young age. With both of my parents hailing from scientific backgrounds, I was steeped in the use of technology and innovation to improve the world around me. As I matured into college, my travels abroad set me apart in a positive light. I got my first real girlfriend, joined various social clubs, and worked hard to save for backpacking trips.

Travel became my favorite addiction. It helped me better understand the rules of social engagement and allowed me to make space within myself to create an inner and external acceptance of my European background.

I embraced my multiculturalism and trail blazed my own path around the world as a young adult, traveling to over 150 countries.

Being different mattered. My newly discovered super-power of THINKING DIFFERENT led me to become a serial social entrepreneur, a frequent panelist, speaker, and workshop facilitator at a variety of forums that focus on organizational and personal development. My work has been featured on NPR, Men’s Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, Bravo Network, and Bloomberg Businessweek. Dell honored me in 2014 as one of the 25 World Change-makers alongside Lauren Bush, Edward Norton, and Adam Braun.

I dedicated my life to inspiring LEADERSHIP and PHILANTHROPY on a global scale. The dual North Stars led me to becoming a best-selling author in 2019 after publishing my first book, Start Something Good: Stories of Ordinary People Becoming Leaders Through Failure and Perseverance. I am passionate about launching and growing mission-driven organizations at the intersection of technology, philanthropy, and disruptive leadership.

Start Something Good Book Jacket

Through Mobile Pathways, I’ve focused on ensuring that refugees, asylum seekers, and immigrants have equal access to justice via mobile phone technology. Now more than ever, our immigrant communities need instant access to reliable information on how to stay safe and prepared.

As I witnessed Trump’s ascension to power, I knew that my vision of an equal and just America would profoundly change for the worse.

Having lived through a xenophobic autocracy, I worried our government might potentially render the American Dream inaccessible to marginalized immigrant communities. Defending the rights and wellbeing of this vulnerable population, and giving a voice to the voiceless, became my life’s passion.

When not working with tomorrow’s change-makers today, I find inspiration and gratitude by reflecting on the joy of just being, right here, right now. Part of the “right now” includes life with my wife and two beautiful daughters. We currently live in Leland, a quaint little village on Leelanau Peninsula, nestled between Lake Michigan and Lake Leelanau and was referred to by Reader’s Digest 2020 as, “The Most Gorgeous Peninsulas in the U.S.”

Now it's my turn to make the sacrifices my parents made for me to provide a better life for my young little ladies.

I find myself struggling to figure out how to raise diverse children in a non-diverse community. But given the experiences of my past, I think I’ll figure it out.