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This year, the Townsend Harris community gathered for Founder’s Day at Colden Auditorium to celebrate the school’s 30th anniversary since its 1984 re-opening. Aside from the traditional presentations, there were a few aspects that made this year’s celebration unique.
“This Founder’s Day was more special than the other two I experienced, even my first, mainly because it was the 30th anniversary,” said junior David Zarowin.
Both the concert band and orchestra played classic Founder’s Day songs, some of which were composed by THHS alumni.
Several speakers took to the podium and shared their thoughts on THHS’s history of excellence. The guest speakers included Townsend Harris Alumni Association (THAA) co-presidents Craig Slutzkin and Tanya Odom, the Director of Queens College Preparatory Programs Robin Hizme, and alumna Heather Nash.
The winner of the THAA’s 30th anniversary student logo contest was also announced.
District 25 Assemblywoman and alumna Nily Rozic presented THHS with a New York State Proclamation from the Senate that officially recognized November 6 as “THHS Day.” District 24 Councilman Rory Lancman also awarded THHS a New York City Proclamation.
“The Proclamations, one from New York City and one from New York State … basically outline what a great school we are and how much we’ve accomplished in 30 years,” said Principal Anthony Barbetta.
He added, “The greatest part is that we were all able to celebrate this achievement together.”
“The proclamations were really cool to get and I’m proud to attend a school with such a good reputation and prestige,” said freshman Noah Sadik. “I don’t think any sooner Founder’s Days will be as big as this one.”
A common theme that ran throughout the event was how THHS has evolved over its 30 years. Students were encouraged to reflect upon how far they have come, the roots they stem from, and those they are connected to.
The presentation by Japanese and music teacher Mariko Sato and the 2014 Founder’s Day Project Group featured students showcasing aspects of the history of Townsend Harris (the man) and describing to him what the school is like now.
Senior Ashton Santo, a student from a Japanese class who played Townsend Harris and helped with the project, added that in past celebrations, the skit focused on Townsend Harris the person, while this year it was more about the school itself, which “was appropriate for the 30th anniversary.”
“We offered many different mediums of performances,” he added.
On the results, Ashton said, “For the time we were given, we made the best of it.”
Social Studies teacher Linda Steinmann, who has experienced some of the earliest Founder’s Days, feels that the addition of the Japanese skit is a large reason Founder’s Day celebrations have, in her opinion, been improving over the years.
“The Japanese skit is entertaining but you learn something,” she said.
Assistant Principal of Humanities Rafal Olechowski noted that a symbolic part of the ceremony was the Keynote speech by an alumna from the first graduating class, Heather Nash.
“She spoke during the first Founder’s Day as a student,” said Mr. Olechowski. “That made a nice circle.”
Dr. Steinmann agreed that this was a unique moment,
saying that alumni from THHS’s reopening returning always “gives [her] a warm feeling” since it allows for celebration as a complete family.
Sophomore Christine Lee added, “I thought it was kind of cool this year because I felt there weren’t as many guest speakers last year.” She also felt there was more of an emphasis on tradition this year.
Students of all grades enjoyed science teacher Philip Porzio’s rendition of “Home” by Phillip Phillips and roared with laughter at this year’s senior skit. The skit was about an alumnus from the class of 1988 who returned to THHS, which to his surprise, had transformed tremendously.
Freshman Karolina Marek said, “The senior skit was very entertaining. It was a great performance!”
English teacher Georgia Brandeis, who started teaching at THHS this year, said her first Founder’s Day was exciting, adding that it was “awesome to experience school pride.”
She said the event “made her feel more connected to THHS” and was a reminder of her own high school experience and the importance of feeling connected.
She said, “That day I was finally like, ‘I’m happy to be a part of this’.”
For freshmen as well, Founder’s Day proved to be a warm, informative welcoming.
Freshman Prajna Sahadeo said that after Founder’s Day, she realized that THHS is “not only great academically but that it also has a great history.”
“Founder’s Day definitely made me appreciate THHS more and gave me new perspective on all the work that went into making the high school what it is today,” said freshman Alexis Martin.