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Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

Townsend Harris is a young school with an honored past. In 1848 the New York Free Academy, our first municipal institution of free higher education, was established by the Board of Education due largely to the effort of Townsend Harris who was, at the time, the president of the Board. The Free Academy later became the City College of New York. The "introductory year" of the Free Academy grew into Townsend Harris High School which flourished until 1942 when it was closed by Mayor LaGuardia because of budgetary constraints.

In 1984, Townsend Harris was reopened with a new location and student body but the same spirit and desires as before. Beginning with the first new class, a tradition of expressing this spirit is found in the pledge the Townsend Harris student makes during his or her first year, known as the Ephebic Oath. The present school has had, from its inception, this rich tradition supported by an active group of alumni. The alumni arrange internships for students, serve as advisors and mentors and raise funds for special projects.


School Vision

To enrich academic excellence within a humanities context, the instructional program is supported by a required service component. In addition, the academic program is supported by an extra-curricular program, designed ideally to tap the talents and interests of each student and to bring to traditional learning situations other valences - creativity, participation, pleasure. The nature of the student body calls for a challenging program, which affects instructional offerings. All students study courses well beyond the requirements of a Regents-endorsed diploma and all seniors study college-credit courses at Queens College as well as participate in the Humanities Seminar

Mission Statement

The mission of Townsend Harris High School is to foster a love of learning, to instill the habit of inquiry, and to promote an awareness of beauty in nature and in the arts. We expose our students to multiple perspectives so that they will be able to appreciate various points of view. We enable our students to achieve their potential and to become articulate and responsible adults who respect others and are productive members of our society.

In order to prepare our students for ethical and intellectual challenges, we provide a rigorous curriculum with an emphasis on the humanities and classics, bolstered by mathematics, science, and the integration of current technology. Our instructional program promotes respect for people and ideas, critical and creative thinking, and precision of language. We encourage our students to strive for excellence, to make sensible decisions, and to develop an enduring commitment to serving the community.

We seek to graduate talented and motivated students who reflect the diversity of our city, become lifelong learners, and make meaningful contributions to the world.

The Ephebic Oath

Our school was founded on the traditions of scholarship and service to community. The Ephebic Oath was administered to the first new class of Townsend Harris High School at the convocation held on October 25, 1984, at Queens College. Each class of Harris students renews this pledge on Founders' Day, when the entering class is administered the oath by members of the senior class.

The Ephebic Oath reads:

I shall never bring disgrace to my city, nor shall I ever desert my comrades in the ranks; but I, both alone and with my many comrades, shall fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city. I shall willingly pay heed to whoever renders judgment with wisdom and shall obey both the laws already established and whatever laws the people in their wisdom shall establish. I, alone and with my comrades, shall resist anyone who destroys the laws or disobeys them. I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it.