Support Kweller Prep, sponsor of The Classic:
Amid the chilly October weather and the excitement of a day without classes, Townsend Harris High School celebrated its annual Founder’s Day ceremony, an event commemorating the history of the school. Students and faculty gathered at Colden Auditorium in Queens College to recognize and honor the achievements of students, staff, featured alumni, and the important figures throughout history who have contributed to the notable foundations of the school. The ceremony, hosted by Humanities Assistant Principal Rafal Olechowski, was held this year on Friday, October 28.
This year’s event was especially unique, as it marked the first Founder’s Day with the school’s new Interim Principal Rosemarie Jahoda.
One of the main aspects alumni, staff, and students sit down to watch is the founding of Townsend Harris portrayed in Dr. Sato’s annual skit. The play, which usually includes dancing and costumes, was updated to a collection of songs written by alumni along with the portrayal of Mr. Harris by senior Leo Rodriguez.
Singer Carolina Lara recalled her past Founder’s Day experiences and said “This year Dr. Sato’s skit was much simpler, but it drew everyone in because music tends to interest most of the student body, especially since Townsend Harris has such a deep musical history that most people do not know about.”
To which actor Leo added, “…we focused on both current events like Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Literature prize and more traditional ones like the achievements of Yip Harburg. I believe that in any performance, the people in it have the power to completely change the mood or tone of the piece.”
This wonderful act was followed by the traditional senior skit directed by Jillissa Drayton and Raya Kazdan. The comedic show, typically consisting of two seniors who guide a freshman around the building to meet teachers, imitated by students, as well as occurrences that happen within the school, was replaced by the introduction of Principal Jahoda to the school instead. Students got a kick out of the characters portrayed, including former physical education teacher Mr. Keith Hanson, math teacher Dr. Stephen Mazza and a crowd favorite, the security guards.
Senior Marina Aweeda starred in the performance and reflected on it afterwards stating, “I loved being a part of the senior skit. It’s a tradition I’ve admired since I was a freshman…I thought [this year’s] structure was way better because it took away the repetitive nature…Introducing the new principal played well with the current circumstances and helped bring something new to the table.”
Principal Jahoda also expressed her opinion on the skit. “I thought it was very clever, the way it was done through the principal’s eyes,” she stated. “I really thought that it was a fair portrayal. I was trying to learn as much as I could from the very start – I still am. I think I’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on the culture [at THHS], what students care about, what parents are concerned about, and I’m beginning to understand how we can best support students, teachers, and parents in the process.”
Freshman Emily Tan was in awe of the skit saying, “The senior skit was definitely humorous, especially the scenes that imitated Townsend Harris’ staff. It truly emulates the fun, easygoing ambiance we have here at THHS.”
At first, due to technological difficulties, teachers and students were unable to play the film with audio. According to Ms. Jahoda, three teachers, Brian Sweeney, Ryan Dunbar, and Alex Wood, ran to THHS from Colden Auditorium, acquired the equipment needed to make the film work, and arrived back at the auditorium before the event was over.
“Even with the technological difficulties that we had,” Ms. Jahoda commented, “I have to say, to me, that brought out the best in everyone: the audience was patient and the students were kind and supportive. I was just so impressed by how everybody handled that situation.”
Senior Class President, Alex Chen had summed up the appreciation for our student body dealing with these situations by beautifully stating, “Every year the video messes up and every year you guys respond in a most beautiful way. It reminds me, especially on my last Founder’s Day, no matter the people we part with, or the places we’ll go, and oh the places we’ll go” to which he paused and yelled, “Talking especially to my senior class back there” and concluded “tradition will always be here, especially in Townsend Harris.”
Every year, Founder’s Day remains a significant event to the freshmen and incoming sophomores, as the entering class is administered the Ephebic Oath. When asked about their first Founder’s Day experience, many students responded with immensely positive feedback.
Freshman Hisham Isaak showed that he grasps our school’s tone by saying, “Taking the oath was a bit scary. I thought that it would mean I had to be committed to many things…I felt a sense of responsibility for my future actions…I fully believe I’ll be able to follow through with the oath. Since Townsend Harris is a humanities based school, community service is a big thing. In my opinion, helping out your community…helps contribute to it.”
Principal Jahoda responded to the administering of the Ephebic Oath, stating that it captures “the idea that students [at THHS] work together like ‘comrades in arms,’ and fight for what they believe in is right and just.” She continued, “It creates such a sense of community… that I think is what makes Townsend Harris so special.