By Marissia Potamianos and Kate Salvo
Whenever senior Jackie Knapp is mentioned throughout the halls and classrooms at Jamesville-DeWitt High School an array of complements can be heard. “She’s amazing,” said guidance counselor Clete Gualtieri. “I love her so much. So thoughtful, so caring, and so patient,” said special education teacher Jody Smith. Ms. Smith praises Knapp on her “natural ability to see joy,” and her positive aura. Not only does she have an upbeat personality, but she uses her likable traits to help others.
During most of her free periods, Knapp spends her time in G17 helping five students with special needs. In the beginning of senior year, Knapp asked Ms. Smith if she needed any help in her room. Ms. Smith was very welcoming and said Knapp immediately clicked with the students. Knapp thinks that volunteering to help kids with disabilities is a “really good thing to do.” It got her more involved with the school, which is something that is important to her.
“There’s so much to do in the room,” said Ms. Smith, and said that Knapp helps her to keep things organized. Knapp helps them with academics. One of the subjects that Knapp focuses on with them is math. Knapp focuses on math because she enjoys it and it will prepare her for her planned college major which is biology.
She assists them in not only academics, but skills they will use in the outside world. Making food, doing laundry, and folding clothes are some examples of the life skills students work on. Knapp also provides a positive role model for the students. She motivates them and helps with communication skills. “She’s totally committed. She puts the children first and never lets them down,” said Ms. Smith
Not only has Knapp impacted the students she has helped, but they’ve influenced her as well. “Going in, I didn’t think it would’ve had the impact that it does.” Working with students who have special needs has also taught her that “they are normal people, just like the rest of us.” The students that Knapp helps are “so strong willed.” All of the kids have a distinct personality and they are “overall happy and really nice kids.”
Along with helping within the school, Knapp volunteered at Camp Good Days, and with Hole in the Wall Club. These experiences have made Knapp realize interacting with special needs people shouldn’t make anyone nervous. She also said that working in Ms. Smith’s room allowed her to see that the kids are determined and have goals that they want to achieve. “I like seeing them improving and working hard, because people overlook them in society.” Knapp did not think that doing this was going to affect her the way that it has. “I went in there to help them, but they’ve helped me,” said Knapp.
Not only is Knapp a big help in G17, but she is a star in her own classrooms for she has an impressive academic history. “She’s taken more AP classes than any student I know,” said Mr. Gualtieri. Knapp is extremely proud of all she has done while at the high school. “The amount of AP courses I’ve taken is my real accomplishment,” said Knapp. Knapp said she had a lot going on her freshman and sophomore year, and could have decided to drop her courses. “It taught me I have the capacity to handle many things at once,” said Knapp. She took three AP courses her sophomore year, four her junior year, and five her senior year. Compared to the average student, Knapp’s classes may seem like too much to handle, but she stays organized and balanced. Knapp also said that her excitement for learning helps her succeed. Knapp also attended a summer scholar program at the University of Rochester and researched with a neurologist at Upstate Medical University. Knapp started researching with the doctor over the summer of 2013, and said it’s an “ongoing process.”
Knapp’s successfulness is not going to end at J-DHS, as she has big plans for college and beyond. She is currently making the decision between Le Moyne College and Cornell University. At which ever school Knapp decides on, she would work on a major in biology. She also would like to go into a MD-PhD program after. “It’s a long time to be in school,” says Knapp, but she is fine with that because “school is really important.”
J-DHS is fortunate to have a student like Knapp around that not only is motivated to do good for herself, but everyone around her as well.