Founders’ Day 2018

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By Amrin Rahman, Jessica Wang, and Rachel Sage Zhang, Staff Writers

“I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it.”

The words above, a key embodiment of Townsend Harris’ Ephebic Oath, were spoken by the new freshman class, incoming sophomores, and even new teachers as they were officially sworn in as Townsend Harrisites.

Last Friday, Townsend Harris students and faculty ventured out of classrooms and into Colden Auditorium at Queens College for Founders’ Day, an annual event celebrating the history and founding of Townsend Harris. The ceremony featured musical performances from Japanese and chorus teacher Mariko Sato, band teacher Kevin Heathwood, and strings teacher Chris Lee, words from keynote speaker alumna Julie Ae Kim about the definition of success, and the senior skit.  

This year’s event was especially unique, for there was a new segment added to the usual events of Founders’ Day: the Townsend Harris Quiz Bowl. The engaging trivia game featured teams of students from all grades as they competed against one another for prizes and ultimate recognition from their peers. Organized by Dr. Sato, the quiz show idea developed “before last year’s Founder’s Day from the 3rd-year Japanese class.

Junior Shankar Raghunandan, one of the Quiz Bowl student competitors, said that he thought the presentation “was one of the better Founder’s Day performances because usually, it’s just a lesson of what Townsend Harris did, but the quiz show was a lot more interesting and exciting.”  

Dr. Sato commented, “I personally like all the productions because [attached to] each production [are] precious memories of agony and joy of creating something collaboratively with my students.  Believe me, there [are] always some tears shed behind the scenes. I cherish the process as much as I cherish the product.”

The Quiz Bowl wasn’t the only new aspect of Founders’ Day. This year, the class of 2019 took a different approach to the senior skit. Instead of the traditional plot for the skit — seniors guiding a freshman around school to meet the teachers and experience the daily life of a Townsend Harris student— senior co-writers Matthew Cabrera, Megan Chen, Deborah Kong, and Edlyn Magnayon created a plot where students traveled back in time to see how their current teachers acted in high school.

Matthew said, “I saw potential in the idea of showing off how [students] think the teachers’ quirks would have carried on from their youth.”

“We didn’t want to limit their catchphrases to a classroom setting, but rather develop ‘origin stories’ for why these teachers act the way they do now,” Edlyn added.

Worried that new Harrisites wouldn’t understand some of the more upperclassmen-geared jokes, Megan said that this year’s skit “included more freshmen teachers,” a change that was met with positive reactions. Freshman Rochelle Avezki found this new skit idea a success and noted that “it was really entertaining and [the seniors] depicted the teachers very well.”

As always, the Ephebic Oath is one of the main components of Founders’ Day that strengthens the sense of community amongst all students and staff members.

Mr. Heathwood commented on his first Founder’s Day, describing how reciting the Ephebic Oath was “a clear moment” when he felt, “I was ‘part of the family’ along with all the incoming freshmen and sophomores… which was really cool.”

Junior Afrida Khalid also emphasized this, stating how “The [oath] allows us to come together and develop ourselves into better people that learn to stand up for ourselves and others.”

Assistant Principal Rafal Olechowski said that at its roots, the Ephebic Oath is “about having friends, having a community, and recognizing that…you have to do something to change that community for the better, and it is your responsibility to leave it better than you found it.”