The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

As Veronica York departs after thirteen years as guidance assistant principal, guidance counselor and alum Jessica Graf steps in as interim AP

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Katherine Lian
Jessica Graf, interim AP
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After 13 years as Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services (PPS) Veronica York bid farewell to Townsend Harris High School on December 22. Ms. York is set to become principal of Ballet Tech School, a public classical dance middle school in Flatiron, Manhattan

Following Ms. York’s departure, THHS welcomed a not-so-new face to her office in room 312C.  Guidance counselor Jessica Graf is now Interim Acting Assistant Principal of PPS (Guidance). Ms. Graf will supervise the Music and Arts department, as Ms. York did, while also helping to oversee the Instructional Support Services Department 

Ms. York first announced her departure from THHS in an email sent to the student body on November 30. “Though I am moving on, the lessons learned and the connections made [at THHS] will always be a part of me. Thank you for the unwavering support, camaraderie, and shared commitment to excellence.” Ms. York wrote.

[Leaving] was a hard decision,” Ms. York told The Classic. “It took me a while to really get here and to feel ready to move on. It’s nice to stay in a place where you’re comfortable… but it got to a point where I think I was ready for something more and ready for a different challenge.” Ms York said. 

Music Teacher Kevin Heathwood, who was hired by Ms. York, said that he immediately felt a connection with Ms. York upon meeting her and seeing her passion for the arts. 

“I was at a really great school and it would have taken a lot to convince me to leave, but in discussing her vision for the music program, I knew it was going to be worth leaving that great position for this one and it ended up being a great decision,” Mr. Heathwood said. “I truly believe that we [in the music program] are fulfilling our fullest potential because of Ms. York.”

Since Principal Brian Condon became principal in 2017, he said he has admired Ms. York’s leadership skills and her passion for supporting students. Mr. Condon said, “[Students] have a lot more say in the way things run, and that’s hard to manage without someone who can help gather those voices, filter those voices, [and] channel those voices so that it turns into something tangible.” He said, “Ms. York is a small human being [with] a large presence in our school… and I don’t just mean her laugh.” 

Principal Condon said he also values the partnership he has formed with Ms. York. “I’m very introverted and quiet and not very celebratory outwardly. I tend to be a little more reserved and Ms. York is not, and that’s good. It’s good to have that balance, someone who can sort of see opportunities to celebrate and and promote,” Mr. Condon said. “I feel like I have a colleague, a friend, and someone that I’ll probably maintain contact with for as long as I’m around.”

THHS alumnus Ngozi Anya, class of 2022, said she relied on Ms. York for guidance and support to juggle the stress that sometimes comes with being a Harrisite. Ngozi said, “Ms. York was like a ‘school mom’ to me. Whenever I needed someone to talk to, or just needed a good laugh, Ms. York’s office was my go-to place. She was always encouraging, insightful, and respectful to everyone and helped me find my second family at 149-11 Melbourne Ave, one she quickly became a part of.” 

Ms. York said that when she was first considering leaving, she knew that Ms. Graf would be a good choice to take over as assistant principal. Along with being a guidance counselor for almost a decade, Ms. Graf graduated from THHS in 2007. 

“Being an alumni of [THHS], Jessica Graf has a unique view on what it’s like to be a student here and what students need to feel supported and feel like their voice is continuing to not only be heard but amplified,” Ms. York said.

Ms. Graf first returned to join the Guidance team in 2018 after being a counselor for over four years in middle and high schools. 

Although she said she is nervous, Ms. Graf said she is ready to embark on another new chapter. “I’m really excited to find different opportunities to create voice and leadership for students and enhance student wellness,” she said. “I’m also excited to work closely with our music and art departments to continue to build on all their successes. We are doing some amazing things in music and art and I’m really eager to work with them to support all of our students, our students with IEPs, our students who don’t have IEPs and to [continue working] with an awesome guidance team. I’m very grateful to the administrative team for welcoming me in and giving me the opportunity [to become interim AP] and for being so supportive in this transition.” 

Over the past year, Mr. Condon has gotten the chance to work closely with Ms. Graf and he said he believes she will be a “worthy successor” to Ms. York. 

On the introversion and extroversion scale, I think she leans a little more my way than Ms. York’s. She’s a little quieter than Ms. York, probably a little louder than me, but quieter than Ms. York – but just as competent, just as serious and, and I think as forward-looking as Ms. York. I think that she offers institutional knowledge and experiences because she was a student here so she knows what it’s like to feel the pressure of which college you’re applying to or which class you’re taking,” Mr. Condon said. 

Ms. Graf said, “I think other administrators would agree that the most important and the most fulfilling part of leadership is building relationships…I don’t think you can get anywhere as a leader by working in isolation, you have to build relationships with your people. …Being a good listener is one of the most important qualities a counselor can have and also that a leader can have.” 

Assistant Principal of Organization and Physical Education/Health Ellen Fee said she is also excited to work with Ms. Graf and shared her thoughts on Ms. York’s time at THHS. 

“My friend, Ms. York, brought a professionalism to our college process that brought us up to the next tier in making sure that [THHS] was known to colleges and making sure that our students were known to the admissions counselors, and I know that hundreds of students benefited from the way she ran the college process from 9th grade to 12th grade making it a seamless process with the same guidance counselor. That was innovative at the time, no one else was doing it.” She said, “I really like Ms. Graf’s heart and her efficiency for making the college process go smoothly and I love her expertise in Google and technology… I’m really looking forward to how she does innovative things with technology to help the guidance process get better without losing that human touch we have now.”

Senior and Student Union President Hellen Olivera said she is excited about the partnership and support she and other members of the SU will get from Ms. Graf. 

“I am very excited to work with Ms Graf and see her bring her energy to this position. Having had her as my guidance counselor, I know how much she prioritizes diligence and reliability. I have no doubt that these values will transfer over and that we’ll watch as she becomes a crucial player within our administration,” Hellen said. “I think she’s a great fit.” 

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About the Contributors
Aiden Clarke, Features Editor
Aiden is a senior at Townsend Harris High School. When he’s not on Face Time, hanging out with his friends, or stressing to finish that one assignment he forgot about before 11:59, he likes to read, write, and learn fun facts about random things.
Katherine Lian, Multimedia Chief
Katherine Lian is a senior at Townsend High School who enjoys taking pictures, dancing, and trying new things. Her favorite memory with The Classic was her trip to Albany with her peers.
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