Richmond Hill High School: A public school worth looking into

Richmond Hill High School held “Kicking it with Van-Ess.”

The Richmond Hill High School (RHHS) community gathered last week to celebrate its success and to spread school spirit.

At Thursday’s event, “Kicking It With Van-Ess,” students, faculty and other guests engaged in a community walk with Dr. Josephine Van-Ess, superintendent of Queens South high schools, and Neil Ganesh, principal of RHHS.

The first-of-its-kind event highlighted the school’s best of the best, in terms of courses, programs and some star students and alumni.

The most notable recent achievements of RHHS include the fact that there is now a waiting list for admission into the school, and that last year’s senior class broke historic records for graduation rate and college persistency rate — accumulating over $6 million in scholarships and financial aid.

“This means not only getting into college, but succeeding in college…We’re going to continue to strive for excellence for our students and for our community and our families here,” Ganesh said.

“It’s great to see the growth that has raised the progress of not only our community, but Richmond Hill High School. And that’s all a testament to students, faculty, staff, district office, power partners and empowering our families,” he continued. “The Chancellor has stated his four pillars, reimagining student learning…and that’s what we see here today, we’re going to see how we reimagine student learning, and we continue to build on the momentum.”

The early portion of the day involved a visit to P.S. 56 – The Harry Eichler School, where RHHS partners to make reading and mentorship programs available to students.

The school community gathered in front of P.S. 56 in Richmond Hill, where RHHS students serve as mentors to fourth and fifth graders.

The program, My Brother’s Keeper, has been an exciting opportunity for both students and faculty alike, as students of RHHS mentor fourth and fifth graders in reading and literacy.

Local elected officials and community leaders joined in on the event, including State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Community Board 9 Chair Sherry Algredo.

“The goal is K-12 continuum…that our high schools start to work with our middle schools and our elementary schools so that we create those strong pipelines across our schools so that in an authentic way, our children know their options within our very community,” Van-Ess said.

Van-Ess went on to emphasize the quality education, leadership and skill-building opportunities that schools such as RHHS, located right in the backyard of so many young people in the community, have to offer.

“It’s really a time for us to just be together to lift our communities. One of the things that I’ve noticed since I’ve been in this seat is that there’s a connotation that follows Queens South high schools that is not necessarily true,” she said.

“We have amazing things happening within our schools, programs and opportunities for our students that our community might not know about,” Van-Ess continued. “We have rigorous instruction happening right here in our schools.”

The event continued into the newly redone RHHS auditorium, where students and alumni opened up about their involvement in school activities and goals for the future.

Daniel Latchana, a sophomore at RHHS, shared his experience with the school’s technology and robotics club, and how he quickly went from having no experience in technology, to having experience using various technologies and advanced power tools.

“My problem-solving and strategizing skills have improved since working with the Robotics Team and collaborating with others. I was able to use the skills learned in the classroom in the real world,” Latchana said.

“Students in this program learn about leadership and how to work together and build as a team. This program has taught me a lot, and has improved my experiences to learn and grow,” he continued. “I couldn’t have done it without the support and encouragement from our principal, Mr. Ganesh and my teacher, Mr. Kistoo, who has always pushed us to be the best version of ourselves.”

Adriana Betancur, who graduated from RHHS in 2022 as class salutatorian, studies at John Jay College and is working toward a career of becoming an NYPD cadet.

Because of the AP credit courses she’s taken in high school to get ahead, she is now considered a sophomore in college.

RHHS offers AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Computer Science Principles, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Spanish Literature and Culture, AP United States Government and Politics, AP United States History and AP World History: Modern to its students.

Betancur attributes much of her success to the programs and support offered during her four years at RHHS, including serving as a youth leader, NYPD Explorer and part of the Criminalistics and Forensics Institute.

“I was able to gain real world experience and a number of college credits. Additionally, through the initiatives here at RHHS, I am now the youngest pharmacy technician and was able to apply the customer service skills and public speaking skills I learned here,” she said.

“There are many opportunities provided here to intern, volunteer and make a difference in the community. Also, as a minority and a young female, it’s a great way to step into real-world life,” she added. “Having this experience will definitely benefit me in the long run, as I work toward a career in the NYPD.”

RHHS proudly offers activities such as South Asian Youth Action (SAYA) Leadership, Cheer and Dance Team, College Now courses and SAT/Regents preparation.

Sports include basketball, baseball/softball, cricket, golf, swimming, bowling, track, soccer, tennis and volleyball.

RHHS’s motto tells students: “Diversity is our strength,” and the school community is proud to say they’ve stayed true to that mission.

“The work will continue as a community and as a family, and we’re very thankful for the relationships that we have and the trust that we have built over the last 10 years,” Ganesh said.

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