The Wingspan

Centennial High School's Daily Online News Source

The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Fly High Wingspan: How the Wingspan Will Rebound From the Journalism Program’s Cut


Since Centennial High School’s opening in 1977, the Wingspan staff have been writing and reporting fervently to keep their students updated on the happenings of the Centennial community. Whether it was a huge basketball win, the retirement of a beloved teacher or an injustice that needed to be exposed, Centennial’s Wingspan has been and continues to be a hub of culture, education, awareness and student voice. But after 47 years of having a carved out period during the school day to create a successful student-run paper, the class is undergoing a major change: For the 2024-2025 school year, Journalism will not be offered as a course. While the change came as a surprise and a disappointment, it has also allowed for an opportunity to learn more about the past of the Wingspan, and use that newfound knowledge in order to craft a successful newspaper as it shifts to a club format. 

While every high school in Howard County has a student-run newspaper, Centennial’s Wingspan was notorious across the county for its dedication to news and truth. Centennial English teacher Rus VanWestervelt, who was the Wingspan advisor from 2008 to 2020, said that Centennial’s journalism class was “run like a press room.” There was an emphasis on hard news and breaking stories and a constant thrum of the staff’s responsibility to inform that buzzed through the classroom each day. 

Senior news and strategy editor at and Centennial alumni Alyssa Bailey reminisced about her time at the Wingspan.“It wasn’t just a class, you were doing a service to the school,” she remembered. Bailey began writing for the Wingspan in 2007. The Wingspan’s 2005 Editor in Chief Andrew Adams concurs with Bailey’s description of the dedication of the Wingspan staff and stated that “we [the staff] poured our souls into the newspaper.”

Not only were newspaper staff aware of their responsibility to the school, but the Wingspan itself had quite an audience among the student body. Adams recalls Centennials’ “newspaper days” where “you would walk off the bus and [newspaper staff] would be passing [newspapers] around, so every single student would be walking around school carrying a newspaper.” Breaks were taken in classes during these newspaper days where teachers gave their students an opportunity to read the newspaper. Overall, there was an appreciation and an excitement for media and the craft of journalism that is simply not as present today. This brings us to journalism’s so-called “shift.” 

VanWestervelt remembers that it started around the recession in 2008, as “a lot of our students had to start picking up jobs to help their families out,” he explained. Students did not have the mental or physical capacity to focus on activities outside of school – journalism included.  In addition to students substituting extracurriculars for part time jobs, there was also a decreasing interest in journalism due to the lackluster reputation it was receiving in the professional world. Although this shift was partly because of the recession and layoffs across newspapers country-wide, it also had a lot to do with the rise of digital media. Just as the rest of the journalism world was maneuvering their way through this digital shift, the Wingspan had to do the same. That being said, the repercussions of this digital switch and the popular opinion that journalism is a “dying career” is something the Wingspan, as well as many other publications, are struggling to recover from. 

Tavroop Kaur, co-editor in chief 2024-2025: Finding the Wingspan

I first saw the Wingspan my freshman year lying on a table in the media center, and I was immediately obsessed. I thought that it was so cool, and although I had never even considered journalism as a passion, I knew I liked writing and thought the Wingspan would be a great place to hone my skills. I turned out to be very right as the pace and depth of journalistic writing immediately appealed to me. Not only that, but the responsibility to truth and ethics lined up with my personal values of social justice and advocacy and being able to communicate these values through writing seemed like a dream come true. Working on the Wingspan has not only made me feel more connected with the Centennial community, but it has also strengthened my writer’s voice and made me more confident in my ability to create change. 

Abby Rothrock, co-editor in chief 2024-2025: The Impact of the Wingspan

When I was deciding what courses to take for my freshman year, I was shocked by all of the niche electives that high school had to offer. I knew that I wanted to take a class that was different from what I had ever done before, and I thought Journalism was the perfect place to branch out from the essay-style writing I was used to. I never could have predicted the impact the class would have on me, and the tight knit community that it would make me a part of. I realize now that there is a place for everyone in the world of journalism. Whether you are writing hard hitting news, voicing your opinion on an album that just dropped, taking photos at a football game or designing the next print edition, it takes a team to create a successful newspaper, and the skills you learn in a journalism class is not comparable to any other course available to high schoolers. I am now approaching the end of my third year as a part of the Wingspan, and while my experiences in the class have only grown my appreciation for journalism, I have also noticed the class getting progressively smaller. Despite the challenges that the Wingspan is facing, I am firm in my belief that this class has had a tremendous impact on my high school experience, and I think it is so important to have a space where you can pursue the topics you feel are important.  

It’s clear that journalism has had a profound impact on us, and we are determined to make sure that journalism in Centennial continues to impact others. Although the Wingspan will not run as a class, it will be converted into a club. If you are interested in writing, graphic design, photography or content creation, we highly encourage you to join the Wingspan community and help refuel the passion for journalism amongst the student body. 


More to Discover
About the Contributors
Tavroop Kaur, Managing Editor
Abby Rothrock, Photo Editor