Although the prestigious Intel science award was announced several months ago, Townsend Harris High School honored its science program with a school celebration on Friday.
“This is the proudest moment in our professional life,” said Susan Brustein, assistant principal for science and technology, referring to the Intel Excellence in Science Curriculum award the school received in June.
Townsend Harris was cited for strengthening the teaching of basic sciences, complemented by a strong elective program, capitalizing on the strength of its teachers and addressing the interests of its students. The school received a grant of $10,000 from Intel in September during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Over the past six years, Townsend Harris has turned out 17 Intel semifinalists, 7 Siemens-Westinghouse semi-finalists, 16 Intel ISEF finalists and numerous other science award winners.
Ironically, the prestigious high school, located on the Queens College campus in Flushing, is known for its humanities program. The school accepts students from throughout the city based on test scores. This year, it was named the 45th best high school in the country by U.S. News and World Report.
Principal Kenneth Bonamo said on Friday the award, “validates their work at Townsend Harris. We prepare the best students in the city for the best colleges in the country.”
On hand to offer the city’s congratulations was Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott. “This is one of the premier schools in the country, and the award exemplifies the work here,” he said.
Walcott read a letter from the mayor that read: “We look forward to even greater achievement.”
Doug Comer, representing the Intel Corp., indicated the significance of the honor. “This award is a big deal,” he said. “More than 1,500 schools competed and only five won.”
Several Townsend Harris students spoke about what the science program has meant to them. Reynaldo Lopez said there is no science department anywhere that can compare to the one at his school. Shama Rahman, who originally was not that strong in science, said the program “changed my life.”
Following the ceremony, students from Townsend Harris’ robotics team, demonstrated several entries in various competitions the school entered last year.
One of their teachers, Katherine Cooper, said the team starts preparing for the February competitions in September. “There are different guidelines for the competitions, but the robots have to be strong and sturdy, no matter their size,” Cooper said.
Another staff member, Tom Sangiorgi, who teaches chemistry and is a Science Olympiad coach, said teaching at Harris “keeps me on my toes. The students are so motivated. It’s a pleasure to come to work.”
The Intel judges noted that the faculty “has developed outstanding courses and volunteers time to mentor students in a variety of science-based extra-curricular activities.”
Brustein, clearly proud of her staff and their work added: “This award validates all the hours we spent in writing the curriculum and encouraging extra-curricular involvement.”