For nearly twenty-five years, Johnny Scafidi ’01 has been a regular and beloved fixture at Dwight Hall. Both as an undergraduate at Yale and a staff member at Dwight Hall, Johnny has played pivotal and essential roles in shaping Dwight Hall programming and outreach. His commitment to equity initiatives and serving the community has been felt by the thousands of people who have crossed his path in the past quarter century. Johnny has completed a milestone with Dwight Hall: July 2, 2021 marked Johnny’s twentieth year on staff, an achievement only eclipsed by the far-reaching and deep impact felt in all that Johnny has done to promote social justice and advance social change.
Johnny has spent a lifetime with public service in mind, a dedication that began at a young age. Service was a large part of Johnny’s high school ethos. As Johnny put it in a 2012 interview with the Yale Herald, his school encouraged him to “to find ways to make service meaningful and to own the project rather than simply accumulate the required hours.” Johnny brought this foundation in prioritizing meaningful community service with him to Yale.
During his four years as a Yale undergraduate, Johnny was one of the most active volunteers at Dwight Hall. He served on the Student Executive Committee as Social Justice Coordinator and Membership Coordinator. As a Dwight Hall summer intern, Johnny worked on a mapping project with community activist Pat Spear. He helped organize an “alternative” Spring Break project with Cherokee Nation Head Start in Oklahoma, encouraging Yale students to volunteer on a reservation instead of heading off to the beach. Johnny also was a student leader at St. Thomas More, the Roman Catholic Chapel and Center, where he was a social action coordinator.
Johnny as an undergraduate at Yale
Perhaps Johnny’s largest lasting impact from his time as an undergraduate is the Community Health Educators (CHE) program that he cofounded with five other Yalies. Responding to New Haven’s elimination of funding for public school health education, the CHE program formed to present health education workshops in the city’s public middle and high schools. Of their shared work together, fellow CHE cofounder Louise Langheier ’03 said, “Johnny was so kind and thoughtful and showed up for all the work that needed to be done.” Today, Louise remembers Johnny as “someone to count on, someone to learn from, and someone to look up to.” Dwight Hall couldn’t agree more.
Reflecting on his copious undergraduate public service experience, Johnny said, “Dwight Hall was the practical piece of my educational experience at Yale.” Following his graduation from Yale in 2001, Johnny took this practical experience and joined the Dwight Hall staff as the director of programming, a position he held for over a decade. Johnny’s dedication to meaningful service shined through all the programs he helped develop at the Hall during his time as program director. Johnny helped found or expand several distinct Dwight Hall programs including Co-Op After School, an arts enrichment program for New Haven youth; J-Z AMP, an academic mentorship program for at-risk middle schoolers; Urban Fellows, Management Fellows, and Summer Fellows, paid positions that enable Yalies to work in conjunction with New Haven nonprofits. Johnny’s involvement at the Hall has not been limited to developing programming. Thousands of Dwight Hall students have passed through his office, benefitting from his guidance and support.
Johnny with the founders of J-Z AMP, the Jones-Zimmermann Academic Mentoring Program
When Johnny reflected on Dwight Hall’s differences between now and his time as a student, he spoke highly of the organization’s increased diversity and accessibility: Dwight Hall has “become more internationally diverse, and there are students from more backgrounds. The commitment to provide meaningful financial aid has definitely allowed more first-in-family students to come to Yale.” The Fellowship and work study programs Johnny helped create played a role increasing accessibility for full-need students, a challenge Johnny himself felt as the second person in his family (after his brother) to go to college.
Peter Crumlish ’09MAR, Executive Director & General Secretary, believes one of Johnny’s most singular attributes is his ability to straddle worlds and understand other people’s perspectives, which is essential in his current role maintaining institutional engagement with the wider community. “Johnny embodies the Hall’s commitment to building and maintaining relationships that allow for genuine collaboration and personal growth. I greatly appreciate him as a thought-partner and colleague; anyone who knows Johnny recognizes that he is an exceptionally modest and deeply caring person.”
In his four years as a Dwight Hall undergraduate and now twenty years as a Dwight Hall staff member, Johnny’s influence has been deep and far-reaching. Generations of Yalies have benefitted from his relentless dedication to making Dwight Hall accessible to all students and to creating opportunities that serve the greater New Haven community. Dwight Hall thanks and celebrates Johnny for his service. Staff members like Johnny are what propels the Hall’s social justice initiatives forward.