Same traditions, different setting: Annual Founder’s Day ceremony goes virtual

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By Isabel Jagsaran, Reem Nasrallah, Alisha Ansari, Olivia Leon, Christine Pak

In light of COVID-19, this year’s Founder’s Day took place virtually via a pre-recorded live video on YouTube. All students, faculty, and others from the school community logged on at 10:00 a.m. to partake in the hour-long virtual ceremony. 

Our plan [was] to pre-record all of the various segments of the program, piece them together, and stream them over the school’s YouTube channel (similar to the way we held our virtual graduation in June),” said senior advisor and history teacher Jaime Baranoff. “This way our whole community [could] watch at the same time.”

To begin the ceremony, Student Union President Sharon Li recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Soon after, the THHS Symphonic Band, directed by music teacher Kevin Heathwood, played The Star Spangled Banner. Other performances included the Symphonic Band and Chamber Choir’s Lift Every Voice and Sing, and the Chamber Strings’ rendition of Over the Rainbow. The History Drama Showcase was also performed by Isabella Jimenez, Lynda Irizarry, Lisa Felson, and Yanaiya Jain, in which they went over the importance of the Ephebic Oath and Townsend Harris himself. The Senior Skit, “Not A Skit” Skit, was performed by members of the Class of 2021 where students were in a text message group chat, writing as if they were teachers. 

 Senior Council member Roshan Patel said, “We’re working with a really talented team of writers, they worked for S!NG and we think it’ll really encompass what virtual class is like.” Senior Aruba Budhram added, “The senior skit is honestly the best kind of comedy seeing as we live these events and we get to know our teachers so well over the years so it’s really wonderful to see that the students have built up such a friendly relationship with that teacher to play them in the skit.” 

It has been a time-honored tradition for the freshmen class to stand up and recite the Ephebic Oath as their official induction into the Townsend Harris community towards the end of the ceremony. This year, SU President Sharon Li read the Ephebic Oath for the freshmen to recite afterwards. “Our expectations are that [the freshmen] will truly stand up and take [the Ephebic Oath] at home while we’re really doing it,” said Assistant Principal of Guidance Veronica York. “The oath has to not be something that we just do once at Founders Day… it needs to be in our seams of who we are.”  

Given the shift to a virtual ceremony, some students felt that they lost out on Founder’s Day traditions.  Senior Michelle Stern said, “It’s really unfortunate, and I think everyone will miss the exhilaration of a live Founder’s Day, and I know myself I’ll also miss the post-Founder’s Day activities like taking silly pictures and going and hanging out. Still, I’m really happy that it still [went] on, even given the craziness, thanks to the hard work and dedication of the staff and students.” 

Senior Class President Katie Hsu added, “Traditions such as group cries during Roll Call and post-Founder’s Day pictures may be eliminated, but I’m thankful we [were] able to have the opportunity to celebrate Founder’s Day virtually this year.”

Photo courtesy of Photography department