| By Adam Wolfthal
Photo credit: Adam Wolfthal

From the moment you meet Jennifer Bright, it is obvious that she is not like most others her age. She knows her skills, sets her goals high, and does what it takes to achieve them. Whether it's spending an extra 10 minutes at the end of a tennis practice working on her down the line backhand, or putting in the maximum of necessary five to eight recommendations for one of the most prestigious awards in academia.

Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, it is generally difficult to stand out with so much greatness on every corner. Be it the Julliard School of Music, Central Park or the American Museum of Natural History, it is known that to make a name for yourself in this area, you have to be special, sophisticated and maybe a little bit lucky.

As a young girl, Jenny was involved in many sports, including basketball, softball and soccer, but eventually tennis won out as her primary sport due to its combination team and individual aspect. Jenny began playing tennis at Roosevelt Island Racquet Club (RIRC) at the age of seven, and spent her first few years learning the basics from Aston Lawson. She was chosen to be on the varsity team at Trinity High School, while still in eighth grade, and anchored the team at first singles for five years.

“Sports is a funny thing, tennis is very different from other situations, you are on a friendly field of competition, and two people are put together with a set of rules and told to just play,” said Jenny. “The rigidity of sports, the repetition and the mental toughness that you gain from sports helps you out in all aspects of life, especially handling stress.”

While on the high school team, she switched coaches at RIRC to the club’s director of tennis, Jason Spiers, who remains her coach to this day.

“It was obvious from the beginning that she had a great deal of potential,” said Spiers. “All she needed was better management on court to be able to use her smarts in the game, and once she got a handle of how to think on the court, everyone knew she would make it at Yale.”

And make it she did. Jenny became engrossed in academics and put her all into realizing her goal of learning all she could about urban development and planning. Focusing her studies on ethics, politics and economics with a concentration on urban health, Jenny also interned for the past three summers working in urban health policy in New York City.

In her junior fall semester at Yale, the tennis team held open tryouts and Jenny could have been on the team, but she was not able to take on the commitment to the full extent that she wanted to. She declined the spot, but became a supporter of the team. Instead, she focused her attention on other, albeit, less demanding, intramural competitions. Whether it was touch football, ping-pong, or soccer, Jenny helped lead her slump-ridden Davenport College to its first successful intramural season in decades.

Jenny is the former president of the Yale Urban Collective and the editor-in-chief of the Yale Undergraduate Law Review. If she decided to cruise to her graduation and come home with a degree, it would have been considered an overwhelming success and an outstanding college career, but that's just not Jenny. She began the long and arduous process of applying for a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford to study public policy and urban health. The characteristics sought out for the Rhodes are physical vigor, selflessness, literary and scholastic achievements, and leadership abilities. These attributes were the beginning of a procedure that included obtaining eight letters of recommendation, getting an endorsement from Yale, writing a personal statement, and interviewing with a group from her district, New York State.

“On a different day, it might have been another person going to Oxford, but it happened to be my day,” said Jenny … the first of many days that will be hers.