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BY Poonam Dass, Sumaita Hasan, and Jason Lalljee
KNOWN FOR his kindness, his smile and his vivacity, Townsend Harris alumnUS Anthony Chiarenza passed away on October 5 after falling down a cliff behind Swarthmore College. He was nineteen years old. Both the student body and faculty responded with an outpouring of love and commemoration. Anthony was particularly known for his vibrancy in the sciences, as he planned on majoring in biochemistry. Science teacher John Tsai described him as one “full of energy and interest in science.” He worked as a chemistry research assistant at the Johnson Lab University through the NSF’s (National Science Foundation) Research Experience for Undergraduates program.
Science teacher Shi Bing Shen remarked upon his universal magnetism, that drew both students and staff.
“Anthony was the student any teacher would love. He was intelligent, articulate, and did everything right. I had Anthony since his freshmen year and that was the year I had Algebra. We had so much fun in that class. Anthony helped me to make sure the class was on task while we had fun. He was quick to learn and was able to apply what he learned in different problems. Anthony and I had mutual respect for each other and I was so happy to have him as a student again in my APES [AP Environmental Science] class. Anthony’s pas- sion for learning and his drive to help others made him a person his classmates respected and loved…. I am going to miss him so much,” she said.
Additionally, Anthony had a special aptitude for languages, as he excelled in both Spanish and Latin.
“I will always remember Anthony as an excellent and enthusiastic student. I recently found my old grade book for the class in which I taught him (Latin 3) and was impressed anew by the series of near-perfect scores. More importantly, he was always willing to help out a struggling fellow student. That was a close-knit class and a joy to teach, thanks in large part to Anthony. I still am grieving over the too-soon end to his life,” said Classical Language instructor Marianthe Colakis.
Anthony left behind memorable impressions among the entire school community.
Senior Advisor, Health and Physical Education teacher Maria Assante recollected, “Anthony was a wonderful young man, full of life. Sadly, he was gone before he had a chance to live a long life. He was kind to everyone he met and was friendly to students in every grade (through clubs, activities & events). To know him was to love him. I will miss his big, bright smile (which was the first thing you noticed about him). Everyone who met him seemed to take an instant liking to him. He had a great sense of humor and was fun to be with. Anthony was a large part of my senior staff and helped make his senior year (and his classmates’) a memorable one. The world will be different place without him in it. We miss him today and always.”
Principal Anthony Barbetta recounted the first time he met Anthony. “I remember asking him his name. He said ‘Anthony,’ and I said, ‘I like you already.’ My name’s Anthony as well. I remember how well spoken he was. I found him to be very bright. When I observed him in classes, his explanations were very deep and well thought out. I thought he was a very strong student and he was just a positive person. Like many of our staff, I felt blessed to have known him; he was a great student and great person, came from a really great family too. He will definitely be missed.”
Anthony was also a talented contributor to the school’s literary magazine The Phoenix. Advisor and Assistant Principal of Humanities Rafal Olechowski recalled, “Throughout the whole Phoenix, there were a lot of smiles from him and he was a very gentle being. He always smiled and was never mean, spiteful, or angry. He was a good friend to fellow classmates. Everyone should have an Anthony Chiarenza in their grade. I only wish he could spend more time with us.”
On October 9, the publication dedicated their introductory library reading to the alum. Students who attended THHS at the same time as Anthony, current juniors and seniors, read pieces of writing dedicated to him. The publication put together a small book of Anthony’s poetry and prose, which was distributed to those who attended the reading.
Senior Adrienne Cabral recalled, “the first time I met him [at a Phoenix book sale freshman year], he made me feel at home. He didn’t have a mean bone in his body, all he had was love for everyone he met. [He was] one of the first people to make me feel comfortable at THHS and to welcome me with open arms, and for that I’ll be eternally grateful.”
“Anthony was a really valuable member of the Phoenix community, and his writing was such a great contribution to the publication,” said Editor- in-Chief Kristine Guillaume. “We made the book not only in honor of his talent, but in honor of the incredible person that he was, and to highlight his vital role during his time here.”
Miniscule, clip art lemons can be found scattered throughout the book. “Anthony had this fascination with lemons,” Kristine continued. “Whenever we’d ask why, he’d simply say, ‘I like lemons.’ Every social media account he owned incorporated the fruit somehow.
The tiny lemons scattered throughout were our tongue- in-cheek tribute to our beloved friend.”
The tone of the reading wasn’t altogether somber, given the reflection on Anthony’s inexplicable predilection for the citrus fruit and the lighthearted nature of the stories told. “It was a celebration of a well-lived life,” Kristine concluded.
The final page of the book features a quote Anthony gave in answer to the question, “What would you tell your ninth grade self now?” two years ago on the student-made “Introducing Townsend Harris’s Class of 2014” Facebook page. “High school is literally going to change everything you ever knew about yourself,” he said. “I know that that’s scary, but all you have to do is live every day. Stop rushing home on the first bus; your homework will get done. Instead, try and find those amazing people who will become your best friends. Those are the people who will make everything so worth it. People will like you, I promise.”