Tag Archives: Townsend Harris High School

Townsend Harris wins first playoff match against Susan Wagner

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre


The Townsend Harris Hawks girls basketball team started the PSAL Division A girls basketball tournament on a high note.

The three seeded Hawks glided to a 65-53 win over Susan Wagner of Staten Island in its first playoff match on Feb. 14.

Senior captain Sierra Berkel stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 26 points, 16 rebounds, six steals and three assists, and junior guard Debra Chan added 24 points and five rebounds in the win.

Although the Hawks have finished first in the Queens A West Conference for the past two seasons, they haven’t made it passed the quarter finals round of the city tournament. This year, with another regular season title under their belt, Townsend Harris is hoping to make it count.

“We’re going all the way,” Chan said.

Thought the Hawks were highly favored to win the match, head coach Lauren Caiaccia prepared her team for the unexpected, since they don’t usually play teams from Staten Island.

Caiaccia told her team to be focused and play tough defense.

Towards the end of the third quarter, the Hawks’ defense led to a 44-35 gap, and from there, the team didn’t look back.

Caiaccia attributed this win to her team’s defense prowess, especially that of forwards Bianca Dilan andVasiliki Makris, and guard Natalie Gomez, who put the brakes on the Staten Island team.

“This was a tough match-up, they had more height and size than us,” Caiaccia said. “We strategized well and I think we executed the game plan.”


PSAL Division A Girls Basketball Tournament Queens Round 1 results:

(15) Hillcrest High School defeated (18) Frederick Douglass with a score of 46-40. Next match will be against Mckee Career and Technical High School on Feb. 25 in Round 2.

(27) William C. Bryant lost against (6) Port Richmond, 68-23
(25) Thomas Edison lost to (8) Lehman HS, 47-37.
(16) Benjamin Cardozo lost to (17) DeWitt Clinton, 58-49.
(28) John Bowne lost to (5) Evander Childs, 55-21.
(29) August Martin lost to (4) Canarsie High School, 56-38.

Upcoming Round 1 Matches:

Feb. 24 (22) Forest Hills vs (11) Stuyvesant
Feb. 24 (24) Bayside vs (9) Lab Museum



Sports Star: Sierra Berkel, captain, Townsend Harris HS girls basketball team

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Name: Sierra Berkel
School: Townsend Harris
Grade: Senior
Sport: Basketball
Position: Forward

Sierra Berkel is a senior on the Townsend Harris High School basketball team. Berkel is leading the team to its third straight undefeated regular season in the PSAL (12-0), currently averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds per game as of January 22. She has been captain of the basketball team since her sophomore year and is also captain of the school’s girls flag football team. She boasts a 93 percent average, and is a member of ARISTA, the National Honor Society. Berkel also volunteered in former Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.’s office during his 2013 Queens borough president campaign. Berkel will be attending Haverford College next semester, and will be a part of the school’s basketball team.

Why are you motivated to do well academically and in extracurricular activities?
“My father passed when I was very young. My mother raised me and my twin brother all by herself. Knowing what strength is, I got that from my family. Being able to do well academically and excel in sports is all part of what my family has given me.”

What is your favorite class?
“I think my most interesting class was urban studies class. I took it at Queens College. I think that was pretty interesting, because it was about poverty in the city, causes and how to stop it. That really opened up my eyes.”

Why do you like sports?
“I think it’s really important. Definitely doing basketball I found I was more involved in the school. Also, serving as captain it definitely teaches you leadership and I think that definitely help lift my confidence.”

How did working in Peter Vallone Jr.’s office help you?
“I didn’t know much about the Queens Borough president and politics, but it’s really interesting and important. I learned too that you can make a change in your community. That was definitely a great experience, because you learn your voice is being counted.”

How difficult is it to manage all your extracurricular activities?
“My mother was a teacher, so the importance of education was stressed to me. Working hard and doing well in school is important, because I know it’s valued at my house. There are definitely some tired days, but I knew I wanted to be involved in everything.”

Any words for your coach?
I just wanted to emphasize how much of an impact my coach, Ms. Lauren Caiaccia, has had on me during my whole high school experience. She is a great coach, mentor and friend. She has definitely pushed me and helped me improve my game, as well as try things that I’m not as comfortable with to get better. So individually and holistically as a team, she is a great factor in the success.



Townsend Harris HS girls basketball team celebrates winning with a win

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

Within the last three seasons, the Townsend Harris High School girls basketball team has developed a culture of winning.

The Hawks have won 38 consecutive regular season PSAL league games in the Queens A West division. Standing in front of a cheering home crowd Monday with broad smiles on their faces, the team unveiled a banner which will hang in the school’s gym to celebrate its back to back undefeated 2012 and 2013 regular seasons.

But the banner ceremony may have been slightly premature, since the Hawks (PSAL 7-0) are on route to an unprecedented third undefeated regular season. And before revealing the banner, they routed division rivals Benjamin Cardozo Lady Judges with a 49-33 win, for victory number 39.

“We are just trying to maintain that,” junior guard Debra Chan said. “Yeah it feels good [to be undefeated.]”

Chan scored 13 points and added four steals against the Lady Judges, and teammate senior Sierra Berkel had a game-high 18 points and 12 rebounds to win the game.

It hasn’t been all winning with the Hawks. They did lose in the quarter finals of the PSAL Division A city playoffs last year, but their regular season record is an accomplishment.

Head coach Lauren Caiaccia attributes the team’s success to their hard work and training off the court.

“We train a lot. We run a lot in practice,” Caiaccia said. “We are ready to go the entire 32 minutes. We kept the intensity up and we also have the experience of winning.”

That intensity proved to be the difference maker in the game against the Lady Judges.

Townsend Harris led by a substantial amount for most of the game. They controlled possession, dominated on defense and almost doubled Cardozo’s score by halftime, 24-13.

But with about five minutes left to play in the fourth quarter, the Lady Judges knocked down two consecutive three-pointers and a layup for an 8-0 run, closing the gap to 37-30.

Then the Hawks returned to their earlier dominating form and finished the game strong with a 12-3 run, led by Berkel.

The senior scored six consecutive points by herself. She started with a layup at the 3:44 mark. Then stole the ball on the ensuing play and scored another layup. Then, on the next possession, Sierra was fouled and nailed both free throws, to advance the lead to 45-30.

“Towards the end of the game we knew what we had to do to get it done,” Berkel said. “We sort of made mistakes in the beginning, but we really wanted to win so we rallied.”


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Queens educators win for excellence in teaching science, math

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics

Seven of the city’s top science and math teachers, including three from Queens, know the formula for success in the classroom.

They accepted Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics this week for using creative methods to inspire students to make the grade and pursue careers in their field.

For Thomas Sangiorgi, a Regents chemistry teacher at Townsend Harris High School, this means being a human target.

The 46-year-old educator lets his students throw plastic foam balls at him in order to demonstrate the collision theory. The only way to score a point is to hit him in the head with one.

“You need the right amount of energy and the right amount of aim,” said Sangiorgi, a teacher of 19 years. “The students love the idea of throwing a ball at a teacher.”

The imaginative demonstration is one of many that have made Sangiorgi a living legend at the Flushing school, Sloan officials said.

Other lessons include shooting balled up socks in the air through a makeshift acetylene cannon to show an organic chemistry reaction.

“The louder it is, the more applause I get. It’s pretty nifty,” he said. “And at that point, I’ve got their attention. They want to know what they just saw.”

Yunseon Esther Kim of Francis Lewis High School and Dorina Cheregi of Newcomers High School were also awarded this year.

Kim, an integrated algebra teacher, was lauded for her eight years of “patience, perseverance and gift for lucid mathematical explanation,” according to Sloan officials.

“Ms. Kim is someone who puts in every ounce of her being toward helping kids,” said Francis Lewis

High School Principal David Marmor. “She stays late. She tutors on her free time. She’s a fantastic math teacher. She’s had phenomenal success.”

Kim has also helped two-thirds of her second-year algebra students pass their Regents exams after they failed their first year, Marmor and Sloan officials said.

Cheregi, a Romanian immigrant, has dedicated more than 17 years to teaching basic and advanced math to new immigrant teens. She is credited for her honors students’ 92 percent pass rate on the AP Calculus test, according to award officials.

“To have that role model in the school is really wonderful,” said Newcomers Principal Orlando Sarmiento. “It gives the kids a very concrete example of excellence and how to use education to be successful in the United States.”

The seven winners in the city, chosen by a panel of distinguished science and math educators, are being honored in a ceremony Wednesday by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit organization, and Fund for the City of New York.

Each teacher received $5,000 and another $2,500 for their school’s science and math programs. This is the program’s fifth year.

Other winners were Charlene Chan of the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, Eloise Thompson of DeWitt Clinton High School, Elisabeth Jaffe of Baruch College Campus High School and Eleanor Terry of the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology.



Audit finds city high school placement flawed

| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Rosa Kim

The city’s high school placement system denied a handful of youngsters a chance at being admitted to a competitive Queens school, a comptroller’s audit found.

Four middle school students were not ranked last year for possible enrollment at Townsend Harris High School’s Intensive Academic Humanities even though they were eligible, according to City Comptroller John Liu.

“Our audit confirmed what many frustrated parents and students have long suspected — the city’s high school placement process is often unfair and deeply flawed,” Liu said.

Students who apply to Townsend Harris — a screened school which accepts students based on past performance over where they live — must have stellar attendance, at least an overall 90 average and a standardized seventh grade reading and math score in the 90th percentile before they are considered, its website said.

The four students in the audit had met those requirements, Liu’s office said, although their names and scores could not be disclosed.

Students can apply to up to 12 high schools and order their choices by preference before the city’s Department of Education (DOE) enters their picks into an enrollment program.

If applicants meet the high school’s criteria, they are ranked on a list for possible enrollment. The screened institutions then offer seats to top scoring students in the system.

But the DOE’s “arbitrary and unfair” placement process, Liu said, did not rank nearly 2,000 eligible students who applied to five screened city schools last year. It ranked about 300 ineligible applicants instead.

“Applying to high school is an important and stressful enough experience for students and parents,” Liu said, “and it must not be left to a sloppy and random system like the one our audit found.”

DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia said high school admissions transparency has never been greater. More than 75 percent of the 70,000 annual high school applicants land in one of their top three school choices, he added.

“This report goes out of its way to ignore the enormous strides we have made to provide information to families and implement a clear, fair high school choice process,” Puglia said. “As always, we have more work to do and appreciate the recommendations for how to improve high school admissions.”

Townsend Harris officials did not return calls for comment.

Nearly 5,300 students applied for 270 seats at the school’s competitive humanities program last year.

The DOE did not say whether the four students in the audit were notified of the glitch.



A born leader

| MKirk@queenscourier.com


As a civic leader who also fences, 17-year-old Townsend Harris High School senior Jason Mills is a modern-day Julius Caesar of sorts – only with more mock trials and less arrogance and conspiracy.

The Cambria Heights resident currently leads his school in the hallways as student body president and on the fencing strip as captain of the fencing team. He also prosecutes and defends for Townsend Harris’ mock trial team and volunteers at a nearby hospital. When he’s not busy with schoolwork, applying to colleges and participating in his extracurricular activities, he likes to take it easy by catching his favorite TV shows.

Mills chose to pursue the post of student body president out of a desire to continue what he started as vice president of his class during his junior year.

“I wanted to ensure that the students’ voices were heard the next year,” he said. “I really love Townsend Harris, working with the administration and getting things done.”

During his campaign, Mills did a lot of talking with students directly in order to attain their votes.

“I basically had to do face-to-face work, meeting with students during their lunch periods and shaking hands.”

As student body president, one of Mills’ responsibilities is to lead the Student Union, the organizational body that runs most of the school-wide events and clubs. Part of this requires him to make sure that things run smoothly at the Union’s regular meetings.

Mills is also looking for new ways for students to communicate with him in order to get their concerns across on how to make Townsend Harris a better place.

One concern his peers recently came to him with had to do with the school’s dress policy, which he says many students find outdated, particularly in regard to the restrictions it places on the length of female students’ shorts and skirts.

In light of this, Mills took it upon himself to begin researching the school’s dress policy with an emphasis on when the regulations were established and for what reasons. After he is satisfied with the information he’s gathered, he plans on bringing it before the administration to ensure that students’ views are represented.

He says the biggest challenge about his job as president is not being able to do what everyone wants.

“Of course, being student body president, you’re not a principal,” he said. “You have a lot of influence, but there’s still a process. The hardest thing is being smart about how to get things done and being practical.”

Mills started fencing when he was a freshman, putting so much effort into improving that he became a starter the next year and now currently serves the team as captain. Townsend Harris has been Queens high school fencing champions ever since Mills’ freshman year and were third in the city his sophomore year. Individually, Mills earned fifth place honors in both last year’s season opener as well as the Novice Tournament.

While studying political science and economics with plans of going on to law school are the main elements factoring into where he’ll apply to college, he said he would definitely consider trying out for the fencing team should the institution have one.

He also crosses swords of wits through his participation on his school’s mock trial team as a prosecutor and defense attorney. Last year he helped Townsend Harris to its first New York City championship in over a decade. The team eventually went on to take third in the state tournament.

On weekends, Mills volunteers at the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital in Manhasset. His responsibilities include ensuring patients are comfortable by providing water and other amenities in their rooms, helping transport patients in the rehabilitation wing and manning reception areas.

“I really do love people,” he said. “The best part about working at the hospital is coming in contact with the patients. They’re so grateful.”

Top honors for Queens high schools

| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

QHSSYC School Picture

One Long Island City high school was recently named New York’s “valedictorian.”

The Baccalaureate School for Global Education (BSGE), located at 34-12 36th Avenue in L.I.C., is the top high school in the state based on rankings released by the U.S. News and World Report. BSGE was also ranked as the 21st best high school in the country out of a pool of roughly 22,000 schools nationwide.

BSGE was awarded a gold medal in the rankings and had a perfect score of 100 in the college readiness index. The high school also boasts a 3.6 score out of 4 in average proficiency in both math and English and a 13 to one student to teacher ratio.
Repeated attempts to contact BSGE’s principal went unreturned.

Other borough schools receiving high grades were the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College in Jamaica, which was seventh in the state and 52nd nationally with an 87 in the college readiness index, and Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, ranking eighth and 53rd respectively and earning an 86.8 mark. Queens High School for the Sciences at York College had 4.0 math and 3.8 English proficiency scores, while Townsend Harris received a perfect 4.0 in both categories. Both schools also received gold medals.

David Marmor, principal of Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, says his school’s rigorous curricula, numerous Advanced Placement and college courses and small, nurturing environment are among the factors that contributed to its high ranking.

“We are very, very proud and happy,” Marmor said. “Our kids and our staff have worked very hard. This is our 10th anniversary coming up this year, so for a small school with only a 10-year history, we are very excited to be among the top schools in the country.”