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Winner of New Haven Pride Center David Knapp Scholarship Announced!

Published Aug 21, 2011

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The New Haven Pride Center is proud to announce the winner of its First Annual David Knapp Scholarship: Jenna McPhail of Hamden, who recently graduated from Hamden High School. This dynamic ally will be attending Bentley University in the Boston area to pursue a Bachelor Degree in Management and Global Perspectives. She intends to devote her career to non-profit management.

2011 Scholarship Award Winner
2011 David Knapp Scholarship winner Jenna McPhail receives her award from David Knapp. 

“I am very excited to win this award,” said Jenna, who said that she first found out about the Center when she went to a youth meeting representing the gay-straight alliance at her school. “I was so impressed with the joy and excitement that this organization has brought to young people. It was impressive that people have a place to go.”

Jenna was among significant competition for the Center’s first $500 award. She was the Scholarship committee’s choice for several reasons. The submitted applications had to include a personal essay, transcripts, letters of reference, and other materials that could impact a decision. In the committee’s letter of congratulations, they described the rationale for her selection:

“You were selected primarily for the many accomplishments you detailed. The committee was especially impressed with your academic excellence, the quality of your work, your prolific dedication to responding to injustice in our community, and your impressive essay that was poignant, determined, and concise. We are delighted to be able to share not only this tangible award, but also the support this award represents from your community that we value the work you have been doing and your intensions for the future.”

The committee was especially impressed with your academic excellence, the quality of your work, your prolific dedication to responding to injustice in our community, and your impressive essay that was poignant, determined, and concise.

Sitting at the Branford Memorial Library on a sunny August morning with her mother, Eve McPhail and David Knapp, who presented her the check, Jenna said that she became an ally after one of her friends experienced anti-gay bullying: “I had a good friend from middle school and saw him bullied online and he was being gossiped about. I got involved with him in a bunch of Pride things,” said Jenna, who said that the gay-straight group at Hamden High School, known as STTOP for Students Teaching Tolerance, Openness and Pride, had over 100 active members that included students from other schools, teachers, administrators, security guards and parents. “We did so many activities – ally week, GSA potluck dinner, holiday parties and we printed T-shirts and painted murals,” she said, adding that she intends to continue her involvement in a GSA at college.

Jenna completed many applications for scholarships and was awarded many of them. During the course of our interview with Jenna, it was discovered that she also earned recognition and awards from two PFLAG groups - PFLAG National and PFLAG Hartford. The PFLAG National website includes the following description for her selection:

“Jenna decided she had to do something to help students that were victims of anti-LGBT cyber-bullying, after intervening in a vicious online attack against her gay friend. She became president of Students Teaching Tolerance, Open-Mindedness and Pride (STTOP), a school club aimed at addressing equality for all students. Jenna led numerous STTOP-sponsored school-wide events that focused on peer interventions aimed at stopping and preventing cyber-bullying. Jenna also led a STTOP-sponsored event during Ally Week, where students worked together creating a mural from individually designed tiles that shared their vision of equality. In the fall, Jenna will attend Bentley University where she plans to major in global studies and management.”

Eve McPhail said that Jenna was awarded over 10 scholarships for her freshman year, which will help with the expected $53,000 costs for tuition and board for the first year. “We’re extremely proud of her and saw how affected everyone at Hamden High School was with this issue and the effect she has had on the school community."

David Knapp, who presented the check to Jenna, had an opportunity to talk with her about why it is important for young people to be open about their sexual orientation and lend their support. “I came out at 50 years old. If I hadn’t discovered I was gay, I would never have known about discrimination,” said David, who is still an active member of the community at age 84. “I have had so many of these wonderful experiences and met so many great people.”

The David Knapp Scholarship is the Center’s first scholarship to a student pursuing a college degree.

The David Knapp Scholarship is named in honor of David Knapp, a longtime friend and supporter of the NHPC. His amazing list of accomplishments include: starting Connecticut chapters of GLSEN (the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and PFLAG (Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays), both of which remain active today; leading his church, the First Congregational Church of Guilford, in its efforts to become an open and affirming organization; past leadership of - and current membership in - Stonewall Speakers Bureau; and remaining at the forefront of the charge to overturn the Boy Scouts of America’s archaic policy on homosexuality. His contributions number so significantly that they are catalogued under the name "David Knapp Papers" at the Yale University Library. It is in the spirit of David Knapp’s selfless devotion to the regional LGBTQI community that the New Haven Pride Center is proud to offer our scholarship in his name.

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 John Allen is a founding member of the New Haven Pride Center, and an active board member.

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