VOL. 2 NO. 1
When the excitement and drama goes beyond a simulation page 4
Photo by Faheema Syahbal
The Classic Magazine
TEACHER COMMUTES Exploring the different daily journeys to THHS
By Mason Rivero Dominik Sochon Muqit Tasfic Samantha Quinn
Photo by Adam Sosnicki
t’s strange to see a teacher outside of a school setting, never mind seeing one on the Q64. However, it shouldn’t be surprising given that teachers reside in all five boroughs and beyond. Like many students, teachers take public transportation or drive to school, and while many teachers live in close proximity to Townsend Harris, many others must go to great lengths in order to get to school on time. Students often complain about the long commute from their home to THHS, and that grumbling multiplies when zero band comes around. However, students never hear Chemistry teacher Adel Kadamani complain about his two to three hour commute to school. Mr. Kadamani’s is regular route is long and involved: “I take the 64 to the F train, the F train to the D train, the D train to the N train, and the N train to the 46 bus,” he said. During snowstorms, however, Mr. Kadamani’s route becomes harder than some of his chemistry tests. The worst trip home took him three hours. He said: “On that day, the F train went out of service for some reason. Everyone leaves the train and then they said the F train is not running.” After a trip to the E train and then the G, from Queens to Brooklyn, Mr. Kadamani eventually got home. “So I left the school like 2:30 and got home like 6:30. That was an adventure. I love the MTA.” Many students often find French Teacher Caroline Lopera sitting beside them on the Q64. “I live in the city and I take public transportation,” Ms. Lopera said. Such a situation is likely unheard of in most suburban school districts, but Ms. Lopera is not the only member of the faculty and staff who travels to THHS every day via the same means of public trans-
portation that students normally make use of. School aide Mr. Paul Sforza also takes the Q64, and his experience lies entirely on the other end of the spectrum in terms of time spent commuting: his trip to work everyday is extremely short. “I take the Q64 and it takes me 8 minutes to get here. It’s straight ride up the boulevard,” explained Mr. Sforza. Some teachers drive to school such as History Teachers Jamie Baranoff, who drives 40 minutes on the HOV lane, and Franco Scardino who said the 10 minute drive for him is better than the 56 minute bus ride he would have to take. Latin Teacher Andrew Hagerty
“One day it took about 6 and a half hours. It was snowing pretty bad outside and that’s just what it was.” sometimes gets a ride to school with Mr. Scardino. He said, “Mr. Scardino is nice enough to give me a ride most of the time. If I don’t get a ride from Mr. Scardino then I am forced to take the Q64.” In order to get there he would have to walk to the E or F train that takes him to the plaza in Forest Hills. The Q74 that provided service straight to school from his home no longer runs. Physics teacher Joel Heitman drives quite a distance to get to THHS each morning. Mr. Heitman said he takes the “LIE and lives out in Suffolk County.
Depending on traffic, on average it takes about fifty minutes.” However during bad weather the commute is much worse. Mr. Heitman said, “One day it took about 6 and a half hours. It was snowing pretty bad outside and that’s just what it was.” Custodian Hector Benitez must have the longest trip when he travels to his home in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Mr. Benitez said “It takes me two and a half hours” to get from his house to school. Rather than make this trip twice a day every day, during the week he stays with his family. Mr. Benitez said, “During the week I stay in Brooklyn with my mother-in-law or my oldest daughter in Ridgewood and drive from there which takes 10 or 15 minutes.” Students discussed the different perspectives teachers shared about commuting to THHS. One of the few students who drives to school, senior Kellie Zestanakis, shares a similar mindset with Mr. Scardino. She expressed how much easier it is to have a car by saying, “It’s better than the MTA because [driving is] reliable and I don’t follow someone else’s schedule for a crowded bus, where I have to walk a lot to get on and off two buses.” Unlike Kellie, junior Neil Sanghvi has the unique experience of riding his bike to school. By doing so, Neil avoids the wrath of the MTA and stays in shape. He said that the ride normally takes him no more than five minutes each day. While some THHS teachers are fortunate enough to drive, others must use the harrowing MTA system daily. Some teachers get here in a matter of minutes, others struggle and fight through traffic to get here. Of the whole experience, Mr. Kadamani said, “It’s an adventure, I love America, great country. You get to see the good, the bad, and the no comment.”
The Classic Magazine
Simulated Stresses By Ryan McNaughton, Rafa Sattar, and Tiffany With the Election Simulation over, the freshmen, sophomores, and juniors inch closer to the day when they’ll get the chance to take over this Harrisite tradition. But do they know what’s in store for them? To underclassmen, the Election Simulation may appear a fun, engaging way to get high school students involved in the political process, but each year the drama that appears on the debate stage often only scratches the surface of what goes on behind the scenes.
rom academic journals to MTV, the election simulation has received great praise for its innovative approach to getting students immersed in politics. Many seniors have taken to imitating all aspects of an actual election, both the good and the bad. Nonetheless, juggling the expenses, academics, and friendships involved in the election simulation period often stresses some seniors out. In many ways, these behind-the-scenes stresses are often the most accurate aspect of the simulation. Running a campaign is difficult work. Many judge presidential candidates more on how they handle the stresses of a campaign than they judge their actual policies.
For the THHS candidates, the major stresses behind the scenes come from a number of sources. One of the most controversial is the issue of how much students spend of their own money in order to get the coveted simbucks necessary to run their campaigns. Other stresses come from trying to manage the work students have outside of the Simulation, and the strains that the Simulation often puts on friendships. SIMBUCKS VS. REAL BUCKS Once campaigns realize that earning simbucks often requires a real financial commitment, issues arise that can often prove stressfuld depending on how much real money campaigns choose to contribute in bake sales and merchandise.
The amount spent by each individual varies. According to a survey, some individuals spent little to no money during this year’s Simulation, while others spent $100 alone for their respective campaigns. Regarding the amount of money she spent for her campaign, Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager Ivanka Juran said, “It varied from each person. I myself spent $100.” In a previous year, one campaign spent a great deal of money on only pizzas, which are the most popular for bake sales. Others felt it was unfair that they were able to rack up more simbucks because of some students’ personal financial advantages. The complaints from former seniors led history teachers to place a limit on only one pizza bake sale
“Students crowd around Bernie Sanders’s bakesale during fourth lunch band. ” Photo by Hannah Yoo
per campaign to avoid massive spending. History teacher Adam Stonehill believes students should not view spending personal money as a necessity. He said, “I think the biggest mistake that seniors make is that they always think that if they collect the most simbucks, they’re going to win the election, and they lose sight of the fact that their job is to get the most votes from the students, not to collect the most commercials. So if a student wishes to put their own money into it, I think it’s a mistake. We’ve set up a system where that wouldn’t be necessary. So I actually think that there is a very small correlation between spending your own money and winning an election.” Still, some take the effort campaigns put into preparing baking goods for underclassmen as a telling indicator of effort. Freshman Shirley Zhang said, “The goods from the bake sales probably take a lot of time and energy to make. It really shows their effort.”
Alumnus Russell Katz who portrayed Republican nominee Rob Astorino in the previous election simulation indicated that even though bake sales alone would not be enough to win over underclassmen, simbucks can yield much needed publicity through television commercials and radio show ads. As freshman Matilda Cardoso put it, “I think ads are a great form of publicity. As for if I would actually vote for them, it would depend on the type of advertisement.” BALANCING ACT During this period, many students balance their simulation responsibilities with the college application process. Those seniors applying early decision must have their applications ready by November 1, only days before the election. Senior Cerlina Lin noted that the simulation can be especially burdensome to those who are applying early. Sophomore Fardhen Hossain disagreed that the Simulation would get
in the way of preparing for colleges. He commented, “You could easily do the college essays before school even starts to better prepare yourself for any stress. But I don’t think there is much interference because senior year classes aren’t too tough; so, you’ll have time to do what you need to do.” When asked whether or not she saw the Election Simulation as a burden during the early months of the school year, senior Sanjidah Chowdhury, chairwoman of special interest group Emily’s List, confessed, “For the past three years, I have seen seniors playing their roles in the election simulation. It seemed like a great experience, but I never realized the amount of work that had to get done behind the scenes. Still, it holds for many new experiences like creating TV and radio ads that I don’t think I would have been exposed to if I didn’t participate in the simulation. In the meantime, I’m just a little too stressed to enjoy it.” Already anticipating a stressful senior year, sophomore Emma Fu-
The Classic Magazine
Republicans Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Chris Christie, and John Kasich (from left to right) visit Mr. O’Malley’s AP World History class. Photo by Joanne Zulinski
jita said she anticipates “staying up past 2:00 AM, drinking insane amounts of coffee trying to manage both things at the same time.” Sometimes, the balancing act isn’t about making sure to get both your Simulation work done and your application essays done; sometimes it’s about getting your group to work together as well as possible. For one senior, a lack of communication between the chairperson and members of her group proved particularly frustrating: “I’m stressed because not everyone is contributing and communicating about anything that is going on within my group. And that upsets me because I don’t want to be rude or get mad at anyone but the lack of communication is annoying and stressful because you don’t know what is going on, and ultimately we’ll all be suffering.” FRIEND VS. FRIEND Besides generating academic stresses, the nature of the competition can also put a strain on friendships, particularly when friends must go against one another. One friend’s clever critique might end up making
another friend look foolish. Cerlina said, “It will only strain friendships if people aren’t good sports about it. If your opponent stumps you, that’s your fault for not being adequately prepared. There is the understanding that a lot of work goes into this Election Simulation and it’s meant to give a taste of what candidates go through for votes.” Tension between candidates has been particularly apparent during this year’s election with candidates not shying away from bringing their feuds onto social media. Working on the Election Simulation since it began in 1996, history teacher Mr. Hackney recalled a relationship that was weighed down by the sly tactics used in a past simulation. A female student became annoyed with her boyfriend because he devoted too much time to his campaign. The fact that the candidate he portrayed had another senior posing as his wife did not temper the situation. At some point, while trying to console his irate girlfriend, he ended up kissing her, which a television crew conveniently caught footage of. Spinning it into a headline story, the candidate was ac-
It will only strain friendships if people aren’t good sports about it. If your opponent stumps you, that’s your fault for not being adequately prepared.
“The rankings offer a very limited view of a school,” she said, noting numerous other approaches to analyzing high schools. instagram
Democratic candidate (and winner of the primary) Hillary clinton speaks at an event. Photo by Faheema Syahbal.
cused of having an affair with his real life girlfriend. According to Mr. Hackney, “His girlfriend couldn’t wait for the Election Simulation to be over. I remember her saying, “This stupid simulation destroyed my relationship with my boyfriend. I can’t wait for it to be over. I just want my boyfriend back.” Mr. Hackney remembered another instance when the gravity of the Election Simulation resulted in bullying and harassment for a particular senior: “One year, a kid wasn’t taking [the Election Simulation] very seriously and he gave the camera the finger.” The obscene gesture aired on the Simulation’s television show, which immediately caused the underclassmen to negatively judge the senior. The seniors working on the
campaign did not find the gesture amusing. “I remember him telling me, ‘Mr. Hackney, everyone hates me. My life is miserable,’” Mr. Hackney said. The simulation can mold an entirely new identity for seniors based off of the persona they take on. History teacher Adam Stonehill said, “I always thought it was funny how the underclassmen know a student and only know them because of their election simulation persona. Last year they might have seen Igor Portnoi passing the hallways and would call out, ‘Oh, who is that? Oh, it’s Andrew Cuomo.’ And I guess it’s great that seniors do it, since they’re gone the next year, so they never really see the repercussions of their campaigns, but to the underclassmen [the seniors] are like gods. It’s
a mythology.” Senior Anna Nowogorski, portraying Republican candidate Carly Fiorina, viewed this warp in identity in a starkly different light: “Personally, I enjoyed, as strange as it might sound to some, the privacy that I had before I took on the role as Carly Fiorina.” The Election Simulation was not created to cause damage to any of the students but to teach seniors about the nature of politics. Most underclassmen believe that it reflects the THHS spirit of hardworking and dedicated individuals. Despite the stresses involved, teachers want to send a reminder that the annual event is a friendly competition between seniors and should not in any way be damaging.
The Classic Magazine
In the more than thirty years since Townsend Harris’s renewal, many clubs have come and gone, and over time, the student body has lost awareness of what once were some of the biggest clubs around.
t’s 9th band and the five minute bell rings. Throughout the course of the day you’ve had a test, a pop quiz, and a grueling two-mile run in 45 degree weather. You’re hungry. You’re tired. You’re sweaty. Then the music begins to play, signaling the end of the day and you now feel relief and excitement because you’re going to attend your favorite club after school. Clubs are often the source of relief for many Harrisites who want to unwind and explore topics that they find interesting but are not offered on a typical school program. They allow students to express themselves and hang out with fellow students with common interests. However, sometimes, interests change and some clubs are never heard from again. We looked into the archives of the Yearbook and The Classic to learn about the clubs that are no longer among us. Here are our top five:
1. CLUB OF WOMEN The Club of Women, advised by English teacher Judy Biener, who has years of experience in karate, promoted the Art of Self Defense
in workshops. This club, which used to meet during zero band before school began, taught students self defense mechanisms that they could use in real life situations. Offering hands on training exercises, Ms. Biener recounted, “I would have a big target with me that you could punch and kick. I would teach [students] how to get out of a grab around your wrist (a kick to the knee, which could really hurt). You know simple techniques that anybody could do.” However, taking physical measures to assist in protection was not all that was covered during the workshops. Ms. Biener also taught vocal exercises that aimed at improving self confidence and developing more assertive tones. She would train students to look at others in the eye and declare, “Stay away from me,” “Go away,” and “I don’t want to talk to you” in a confident manner. She commented that being able to say these words with confidence is not an easy task and that many of the girls would “giggle a little bit” while practicing them. At one time in the club’s history, some members received negative feedback from the student body after posting flyers around the school to promote the club. These flyers began with the statement, “I’m not a feminist but...”
then listed a number of rights women have attained due to the women’s rights movement. Ms. Biener explained the poster campaign and its reponse, saying, “the idea is to say, I don’t want to be labeled a feminist because that’s a bad word, that’s negative, but look at all the things feminists have accomplished. ‘I appreciate the right to help choose my government representation, the right to vote, I enjoy the option of wearing pants or shorts.’ You know these were things women were not allowed to do. So we put these up...and people didn’t like it and it backfired. ” Ms. Biener also had a proud moment when two of her students decided to further their studies of the Art of Self Defense over the summer. She said, “I got them involved with my karate school in Brooklyn and I remember sitting them down... they looked up the website and signed up for classes.” She was pleased to ”to know that it was going to go beyond this [club]”. This showed the influence that this club had on students who took part in it. The legacy of the Club of Women ended when all of the students in the club graduated and the students’ interest declined. This brought an end to a club that had existed for a number of years at THHS.
Five Clubs SIX FEET UNDER By Teresa Kan, Nicole Sung, Sahil Sharma, and Alexander Velaoras
Ms. Biener completes a demonstration for the Club of Women. Photo courtesy of the Crimson and Gold.
2. HELLENIC CLUB Advised and co-founded by Classical Languages teacher Andrew Hagerty, the Hellenic Club sought to promote Classical Greek. Back in 2005 The Classic wrote an article when Apostolos Pittas, a junior at the time, started the Hellenic Club. In the article, he noted that just as many Greek roots as Latin roots exist. According to Mr. Hagerty “many
students are not able to see this immediately because of the difference in the alphabet. We cut out Greek letters like ‘mu alpha theta,’ ‘archon’, ‘arista,’ and put them on the walls of the auditorium. We wanted to point out that Greek is a part of the Townsend Harris culture and you might not even be aware of it.” The major focus of the club was to prepare a traditional Greek dance to perform during the Festival of Nations. According to Mr. Hagerty, after the class of 2007, the club’s goals shifted towards the actual
study of Greek language and literature and when the popularity of the club wasn’t sustainable, it ultimately closed. Mr. Hagerty commented, “I think we didn’t exactly know what to do other than have a traditional Greek dance during the Festival of Nations. If we had maybe participated more on the lines of the Latin League Club we would have had more success.” Although this club had its last meeting many years ago, Mr. Hagerty said, “If students have goals with regards to the Hellenic club, I would be
The Classic Magazine
At the height of its popularity, SADD meetings reached club turnout rates of 30-40 students per meeting. Photo of the SADD club at the height of its popularity. Photo courtesy of the Crimson and Gold.
happy to listen to them and try to start up the club. What I have learned is you need to have clearly defined goals for the short term. I think if we follow the model and cooperation of the junior Classical Society it would be a more useful club, at least in providing support and opportunities for academic achievement and resumes.”
Dr. Linda Steinmann headed Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD), a national club that educates students on the harms of drug and alcohol consumption as well as the preventative steps needed to take in order to ensure a healthy life. Inspired by another national group called Mothers Against Drunk runk Driving (MADD), this subgroup
originally called themselves Students Against Drunk Driving. However students who participated in the club saw that the club demographic was too small so they renamed the club Students Against Destructive Decisions to accommodate a wider audience. Thus, the club shifted its focus to the discussion and prevention of all unhealthy behaviors. Nonetheless, when Dr. Steinmann took over this club around the 2003-2004 school year, upperclassmen still dominated the club. “We probably had fewer than 15 people in the club but they were really dedicated,” noted Dr. Steinmann. At the height of its popularity, SADD meetings reached club turnout rates of 30-40 students per meeting. These numbers appeared in the 90s due to the rising “ecstasy craze.” According to The National Insti-
tute on Drug Abuse, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) banned the MDMA, or ecstasy drug, in America, in 1985. As a result, this popular, yet illegal drug became the center of attention for many SADD meetings during the early 90s. Dr. Steinmann attested, “it was not as well known when I took it over. The 90s was when this MADD thing came out because there was a number of accidents all across the country which involved students drinking and driving...it was in the news all the time.”
4. CRUNCHY CLUB Some clubs took a more physical approach to relieving stress. One
Bear Mountain, site of some of the Crunchy Club’s hike. Public domain photo by Caroline Steinhauer.
such club was the Crunchy Club, which took hiking trips around the area. For club members, the sites of the hikes could vary from session to session. They went to places like “the Kissena Park Corridor, which lead from Kissena Park to Cunningham Park [as well as] to the top of Bear Mountain” according to English teacher Robert Babstock, co-advisor of the club. During the hike up Bear Mountain, one of the members shouted, “We live in a Crunchy Country” and that was how the club attained its name. Though the members seemed to enjoy the club and its opportunity for exercise, the club ended too soon according to Mr.Babstock. He said, “It was never popular per se. It ended because everyone else found something else to do. It could be that myself and Mr. Hackney wanted to do other things and the kids wanted to do other things. You have one or two strong leaders here and then that leader leaves.” Mr. Babstock believes that, “if there were a real grassroots demand from students…[the club] would be a great thing to bring back.”
5. DANCE DANCE
REVOLUTION CLUB Dance Dance Revolution was a Japanese arcade game introduced to the U.S. in 1999 that has since accumulated a large following. This game consists of several levels and different song options that players can compete in. When demand for a DDR club grew within the student body, history teacher Chris Hackney took the role of club advisor and occasionally competed against students himself. At its inception, the club intrigued many students and had a popular debut at its first winter carnival. Dancing on placemats to an upbeat music projected onto the wall, all of the students worked up a lot of sweat. Mr.Hackney recounts, “It was unbelievable how sweaty some people would get. You think of it as just dancing but it was real exercise. People would play it for extended periods of time and it was the equivalent of running hard for an hour.” After former club president and
Dance Dance Revolution enthusiast Kevin Most graduated, the club’s members slowly dispersed and attendance rate dwindled to close to nothing. Mr. Hackney explained, “as soon as your students who are the driving force leave [and] somebody else takes it over, they’re maybe not quite into it as much as the previous student so slowly the interest kind of wanes.” At last, along with the club, the dreams of ever competing with Bronx Science High School’s own DDR team came to a close. * Through the example of these clubs it is clear that the general tactics of maintaining a club must involve generating interest in each new THHS class. What may be popular as a club amongst friends in one year might not continue unless the next year’s student body has any interest. It all comes down to getting new people who will continually show up to be interested. So, if students are interested in starting new clubs, they could always consider reviving some of the clubs that have entered the Townsend Harris “club grave” over the years.
The Classic Magazine
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Published on Nov 30, 2015