Queens College grant up for renewal

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This year, Townsend Harris is seeking to renew the Queens College five year grant, which is the foundation for the collaborative partnership between THHS and QC. The grant provides for all the services that Queens College provides to THHS students, including the ability to take Queens College classes, the humanities seminar, and access to campus amenities.

Principal Anthony Barbetta has worked on renewing the grant with Queens College’s Director of College Preparatory Programs Robin Hizme, and the Queens College’s Dean Craig Michaels.

Once they finished the grant, which amounts to “roughly $40,000 a year” according to Mr. Barbetta, they sent it to the Department of Education and are awaiting final approval.

The partnership between QC and THHS has existed since the school’s re-opening in 1984. It is a feature that sets THHS apart from other schools, as it provides an opportunity to take college courses in an actual college setting.

It also subsidized numerous aspects of the THHS experience, including, in part, The Classic.

“I wish I had it when I was in high school,” said Mr. Barbetta. “You get to experience college courses. You get to be taught by a college professor and their style is probably very different than the high school experience. Also, the classes for the most part are transferrable to most schools if not all schools as long as you receive that B.”

The grant also provides seniors with the opportunity to take a Freshman Humanities Colloquium, a humanities seminar that immerses them into a college reading course setting.

Assistant Principal of Humanities Rafal Olechowski said, “You are really getting a solid taste of what you are going to experience in almost every college that you guys go to which is a seminar-like class where you encounter typical texts you don’t necessarily know and you’re asked to read them quickly and be able to formulate opinions about them.

“If you can practice doing that now instead of when you’re paying $50,000 a year to do so, it is to your benefit to make the mistake of writing the first college paper with the teacher that you’ve known for four years as opposed to some college professor you don’t know in a new place.”

Over the course of time, the partnership between Queens College and THHS has expanded greatly to become what it is today. Even so, Mr. Barbetta and Mr. Olechowski think there is more room to expand.

“We’ve been able to expand the program because of the generosity of the DOE and QC. They help us out with publications, as I said it’s instrumental. The school play is instrumental, the visiting professors, and professional development that we seek and receive at times. That’s important,” said Mr. Barbetta.

“I would like to expand it [the program] to the lower grades as well. Not necessarily [that they] take college classes, although some schools in the city do have that now where the kids take college classes before twelfth grade, but even to get them in the library more, get them in the facilities more, get more visiting professors here.”

He also expressed an interest in adding another Queens College elective course to the THHS curriculum, but said, “I don’t know if that’s ever going to happen because QC really waives a million dollars a year in tuition, so that’s a lot right there. So to ask them to waive another $500,000 is a lot to ask for, but for students to spend more time in the college… I think it would be beneficial.”

Mr. Olechowski focused his ideas for expansion on the humanities program, saying, “I would like to see more of the iPad sections exist.

“I would like the spring semester to become more of an independent semester where students develop their own research and ideas and they pursue their own research process based on something they’ve read in class.”

The partnership between Queens College and THHS is, in many ways, a symbiotic one.

“We have articulation agreements now with QC with our robotics program, with our law program, with our biomedical technology program, and even our new media,” said Mr. Barbetta.

“They review our curriculum to make sure that we’re at a high level.”

This works in both ways, as Dean Robin Figelman works as part of the teaching program at Queens College in the physical education department. There, she educates college students on instruction in physical education.

They observe and teach lessons in her THHS Physical Conditioning class, in which seniors exercise at Fitzgerald Gym.

She explained, “I know that as the physical education department having the use of the QC facilities and being able to use their gym, they [students] get to see what they do. I’m part of their program as well as a teacher so I get to see what they do and we collaborate, we combine everything, and we work toward making the physical education program over there stronger with the use of our students.”

The partnership allows for both schools to, according to Ms. Figelman, “better each other.” The two work in conjunction as one academic community.

Mr. Barbetta concluded, “We’re part of their community in many respects.”