Name: Jenny Tompkins
Grade: Senior at Romulus Central High School, Romulus, NY
In a small town named Romulus in the wine country of Western New York, there is an even smaller high school. With only about 3,500 residents, the town is nestled between Cayuga Lake and Seneca Lake. Few people outside of Western New York had ever heard of it until last week when Romulus Central High’s varsity girls basketball team took the state championship title with a 25-0 undefeated season. The school has only 400 students, but it makes up for its lack of size with its dedication and determination. At the heart of the team is one of the senior players who is just as accomplished at winning off the court as she is on it. Her name is Jenny Tompkins, and she has been named our first ever Girl of the Month.
Jenny is engaging, modest, and well-spoken. She has a real sense of how special her town is and feels that her upbringing in such a place has contributed to her success. She readily gives credit to mentors, teachers, and family, and she is truly passionate about sports and the environment. I spoke with her via phone soon after her team won the New York State Championship.
Q: What do you find most empowering in your daily life?
A: I live in a small town and attend a small school, so there’s never been barriers here. Two-thirds of my class is female and there’s nothing stopping you here.
Q: What are your plans after high school?
A: To get a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies. After that I’m undecided. My mom was into environmental conservation and is now a teaching assistant. My dad is an avid sportsman and grew up around the Finger Lakes. Seeing damage to the watershed on our weekends at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge made me want to protect it.
Q: Does that passion figure into your goals?
A: I might consider law school and work for a non-profit or with legislative or policy type jobs related to environmental studies.
Q: When did you begin playing basketball?
A: Since first grade. Now at Romulus they have a program that begins in kindergarten! So now I’ve taken it full circle and am coaching young teams. It’s very organic.
Q: Who or what has shaped you?
A: I’d say my brother. He was my first coach for basketball because we had a goal in the driveway. I was 4, and he was 8, and we had our handprints on it. We watched the NBA together when Kobe and Shaq played.
Q: What do you think helped you to become a leader?
A: Sports. I was a point guard and played at all levels. I moved to varsity in my freshman year. It’s a small school with only 27 in my graduating class. Leadership in class comes from the court.
Q: What advice would you offer for entering freshmen?
A: Be yourself, no petty things, go after goals, and don’t let your dreams fade. Make time and have your priorities.
Q: What do you find most challenging? Time?
A: Totally. I have softball practice and band concert, a social life, academics, and athletics.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote?
A: My mom says, “Take the bull by the horns,” so I think of that a lot.
Q: What’s your favorite subject?
A: History. I’m good at it, and I like knowing what got us to this point. We live in such a special country.
Q: Now for some girly stuff: What’s your favorite color? Favorite food? Movie?
A: Blue, mint chocolate chip ice cream, and Field Of Dreams.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to do?
A: Watch a good sports game.
Q: What’s your favorite thing to wear?
A: I get picked on about this, but I love cardigans (laughs).
Q: Do you have a favorite character on TV?
A: When I have time for TV, it’s usually a game.
[Me, the interviewer, being into board games, thought she meant a game such as Jeopardy, but she meant sports, such as the UCONN Women’s Basketball team, arguably the best program in women’s college basketball.]
Q: What book do you like the best and why?
A: The Giver by Lois Lowry. I read it in middle school, and I had a really good teacher. It’s about dystopia, no creativity, and it really affected me. Romulus is a small town where you can do anything. In fact our theme is “The small school with the big idea.”
Q: Anything you want to add?
A: Yes. You should have seen the parade our town threw for our team. It was awesome!
The overall thing I came away with after speaking to Jenny Tompkins? Girl power! She may come from a small town and an even smaller school, but there is nothing small about Jenny Tompkins.
A special thanks to Bob McCann, Romulus Central School District’s President of the Board of Education, for contributing to this story.