Category: Feature

Banerjee Recognized by County Executive for Poetry Achievements

Words & Photos: Natalie Knight-Griffin

On Friday, April 5, Howard County officials and County Executive Calvin Ball recognized three Howard County students for placing in the top three of the regional Poetry Out Loud competition.

Centennial senior Poushali Banerjee recited her winning poem during the event. Due to her achievements in poetry, County Executive Ball dedicated April 5 as “Poushali Banerjee Day” in Howard County.

Across all of Maryland, 5,400 students participated in Poetry Out Loud. Out of those thousands, only a few hundred advanced to the regional level. It was Howard County students Banerjee, Hannah Alkowsi, and Jaylen Barrett who placed in the top three winning spots.

County Executive Ball made it a point to stress his appreciation for the arts in our schools, urging the need for a public event in recognition of the competition’s winners.

“Tapping into the arts helps make our quality of life the best it can be,” said County Executive Ball. “I would love to see more participation in the arts.”

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Dangers of the School Parking Lot

Words: Julia Stitely

Photos: Adithi Soogoor

From the dawn of the school day to the afternoon, students and parents of Centennial are affected by the hardships of the school parking lot. In recent years, the parking lot has been known for being the site of several collisions. Between students running in between cars, ignorance to road signs and the layout of the parking lot, it’s no easy task for even the more experienced drivers.

The accidents, in part, could be caused by the overcrowding in Centennial.

Michael Guizzotti, Centennial’s security guard, expressed his concerns of the parking lot by saying, “We are overpopulated, so it’s not just the hallways that are crowded, it’s the parking lot too.”

“In the morning, it’s not that bad because I get there pretty early so I can get a good spot,” junior Casey Duhon said. “Sometimes I’ll be a little bit late and it could take me five minutes to get to a parking spot because the layout of the lot makes it so difficult.”

Michele Aylaian, mother of two Centennial students, expressed concern for students walking in from the parking lot in the morning.

“When they are late and running between cars, they are at risk of being hit by a driver who doesn’t see them,” she commented. “It’s stressful as a driver because you don’t know when a student is going to suddenly run in front of you.”

Afternoon Bottleneck

Things get hectic for Centennial students who drive to school when the clock hits 2:10. The sudden rush of students makes it easy to lose control in the crowded parking lot, giving the driver only a second to gain control before hitting something in their surroundings.

“Getting out of the parking lot after school is rather scary because everyone is rushing to get home and will cut people off when turning or switching lanes,” said Duhon.

Centennial principal, Cynthia Dillon, stated the design of the lot was not intended for the mass population.

“The lot wasn’t designed for the flow of traffic that comes through in the morning and in the afternoon,” said Dillon. “The way that the lot is marked, the road markings and the signage are not adequate.”

Dillon also believes that another problem that arises in the morning comes from parents letting their kids out in the closed second lane for drop off and in the parking rows themselves.

“People don’t honor the directions from the procedure of dropping kids off,” Dillon shared. “What they will do is pull into the second lane, but also the actual parking row.”

“They will drop their kids off one or two rows away,” Dillon added. “So the kids are walking through cars to get through the door.”

One solution that Dillon and the administrators are looking into is putting new signs up in the parking lot and painting on the roads.

“We have a stop sign on the Centennial side but they don’t have one on the Burleigh side, and they don’t have one on the main way,” Dillon said. “There should be a stop.”

Dillon and the administrators requested the Grounds Department in the Building Services Division of the Howard County system for another stop sign, and the lot is slated to be repainted in the summer.

Parking Permit Problems

In the past week, over 130 cars were found in the parking lot without a parking pass. The owners of these cars were warned that if they are found without a pass, parked on the lot, there would be disciplinary consequences.

Dillion stated the reason they did it in the end of the year rather than the beginning of the year was because of the increase of cars due to juniors starting to get their licenses.

She suggested that, “Families should take note of Safe Driver presentations and plan to attend one proactively. Students and a guardian must attend the presentation annually in order to be eligible for a parking permit.”

Some of the students that are affected are outraged by the situation. Junior Amelia Oliver lives in Old Ellicott City, and it takes her about 30 minutes to go to school.

“I think the passes should be based off where you live,” she said, “because some kids, it is much easier for them to drive. Others can walk.”

The Centennial Film Club found the humor in the parking lot situation by creating a mockumentary called Parking Purgatory and entered it into the Howard County Film Festival.

Senior, Carolin Harvey, with other members, filmed and edited the entry.

“Although our video is mostly comical, it does highlight how crazy our parking lot actually is,” Carolin answered. “The footage we captured of the morning and afternoon definitely captures some of that madness.”

The dangers of the Centennial parking lot continue to be a problem for the staff and students with the overcrowding population and the design of the parking lot. The solutions to these factors are soon to be solved; until then, students and parents are advised to stay alert and focus on the road.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Two Centennial Artists Surpass Two Hundred Others In Juried Art Show

Words: Xander Mauer

On January 21, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History & Culture gave high school students the opportunity to have their art presented and put on display in the 11th Annual Reginald F. Lewis Museum Juried High School Art Show as part of Martin Luther King Day celebrations.

The contest was centered around the styles and themes of Romare Bearden, a prominent African-American artist during the Harlem Renaissance. Approximately 200 students from all 24 counties in Maryland submitted drawings, photos, paintings, prints, and mixed-media to potentially be displayed.

Only 26 pieces of art were selected, and among them were two Centennial Art III students: Noni Grimes and Gabrielle Chery. Their pieces are titled “Together, Sunday Night” and “Thanks to the Nurturer,” respectively.

Centennial art teacher Nan Collins encouraged students to enter the contest, but it was not a graded assignment.

“[Collins] suggested that we could do it, but she just said that it wasn’t a mandatory thing to do, so I worked on it outside of school,” Chery explained. “I kinda had to rush the last part, and I think it turned out pretty well.”

Despite choosing similar themes, Grimes’ and Chery’s pieces are unique, shaped by their own experiences and backgrounds.

“The two themes that stood out to me the most were womanhood and history,” Grimes described. “When I read womanhood, I thought of female bonds, and when I read history, I thought of family history. Finally, my mind landed on my mother doing my hair. It seems like such a simple, perhaps superficial, thing to value, but there’s more to it.”

Most artists used personal experiences to inspire their art and bring shape to it, and Grimes was no exception, even using actual family photos in her piece.

Her painting depicts four women in ascending age. The youngest admires her older sister as she does her hair. The older sister acts the same way, admiring her older sister, and the pattern continues up until their mother, depicting the continuation of the tradition through the generations.

“I’ve always been really bad at hair and mostly depended on my mom to help me,” Grimes elaborated. “When I was little, we would play salon as she washed and styled my hair, and I pretended to be a rich client with two to seven children and she would play along. She would share stories of her own mom doing her hair, of her hilarious jerry-curl phase, of her personal rebellion with going natural.”

Grimes summarized her piece, saying, “In short, hair has always bonded me and my mother one way or another, and this bond isn’t just between us, but also her mother, her mother’s mother, and so on.”

Personal experiences, specifically familial ties, played a part in Chery’s piece as well.

“It was based off my mom’s whole journey in coming to America and kind of trying to thank her for that, I suppose,” Chery explained, outlining her process. “I tried to think of a figure that reminded me of my mom.”

Describing her choice of imagery, Chery said, “I thought of a mother hen because I have a bunch of siblings and we all kind of trail about her like little chickens, and that was my whole inspiration for the piece.”

Their artwork, along with the work of the other student artists from around the state, remained on display at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum throughout the month of February, extending the initial Martin Luther King Day celebration throughout Black History Month.

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For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

Student Exchange Day Highlights Differences in Schools Across County

Words: Sasha Allen and Emily Hollwedel

Photos: Zach Grable

On Wednesday, March 27, six students from Long Reach in the Howard County Student Exchange program visited Centennial to see what it was like to go to a different school.

Overall, the response to the exchange day was positive. “It’s not too different from Long Reach, but it’s very unique,” said Elijah Saunders, a junior at Long Reach. However, Sanders did notice a social difference.

“Everyone [at Centennial] seems to get along with each other pretty well, but at Long Reach people are pretty distant,” said Saunders.

Other Long Reach students saw a different side of the social interaction at Centennial. Jada Sanders, a visiting student, decided to ask James MacLellan, Centennial freshman and her guide for the day, about the rumors she had heard.

“I heard some stuff about how it’s ‘clique-y,’ and I asked [James] if that was true and he said in some ways, yes because people like to stick with their own groups and sometimes don’t talk to other people.”

“Despite what group people associate with, [Long Reach students] talk to other people,” says Sanders. She was excited to participate in the exchange day, and was glad she went. “I wanted to have an open mind and see what you guys did on a daily basis… I heard things [about Centennial] but I went to see for myself what it was.”

The visiting students did come to an agreement on the biggest difference at Centennial, and Long Reach student Sui Cin highlighted this variation between the schools. “The diversity of the school, that is very different. I think that here, it is very distinguished, but if you go to Long Reach it’s so mixed… here you can see [what types of] people go [to Centennial].”

Sanders also seemed to notice this difference. “Looking in most of the classes and in the halls, demographics [are very different than at Long Reach].”

Cin also seemed particularly impressed by the fine arts at Centennial. “This school has many fine arts. I was watching theatre and you guys were so passionate about it.”

Rachel Henry, a senior at Wilde Lake and the creator of the program had the chance to visit Glenelg on Wednesday as well. “The halls are very quiet at Glenelg. You won’t hear chatter…it’s just silent.”

However, she, like the Long Reach students, noticed the difference in diversity.

“[The swap day] was the first time in all of my years of schooling I had a class without any African American people. Though I tried not to notice race as much, it was inevitable.”

On April 3, Centennial students will travel to Long Reach and Glenelg students will go to Wilde Lake. Although all of the students noticed differences between their schools and the exchange school, they were able to come together and share their experiences at the two schools, and students look forward to the next exchange day.

 

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

The Impact of One Choice

Words: Sarah Paz

Photo: Eliza Andrew

*Editor’s Note: April 1, 2019– This article has been modified to reflect that the Centennial PTSA hosted the guest speaker. The previous version stated that Centennial was the host.*

On Tuesday, March 26, Centennial’s PTSA hosted an assembly presented by public speaker Tony Hoffman, who spoke about how one choice affected his entire life.

Hoffman started his story from when he was in high school and started doing drugs at parties.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but he made a decision that impacted the entire course of his life.

His bad choices resulted in his arrest and ultimately, prison time. Hoffman decided to change for the better by improving his life with little habits.

Hoffman’s determination to stay sober helped him to live out his dreams of professionally BMX biking and starting a nonprofit which is now called The Freewheel Project.

Since his time in prison, Hoffman has been successful in other areas such as being a coach for BMX athletes and helping to spread awareness about drugs as a public speaker.

After the speech, Hoffman answered questions about his message.

Many students enjoyed how unique his story was.

“[It had an] interesting perspective,” said sophomore Honor Reed. “I don’t think anyone expected the story brought forth.”

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

How Many APs Are Too Many?

Words: Celina Wong

Photos: Delanie Tucker

Although it feels early, students are preparing their schedules for the next school year. Many students opt to take Advanced Placement (AP) classes, which prepare them for the notorious AP tests in the first weeks of May. Centennial offers a wide variety of these courses ranging from AP Comparative Government and Politics to AP Chinese IV Language and Culture. Even though these courses allow for students to skip some general education classes in college, AP courses teach at a faster pace and hold its students to a much higher standard. AP classes are highly coveted, but the question is: how many is too many?

Senior Binderiya Undrakhbold has taken 11 AP classes throughout her four years at Centennial. Through her experience, she doesn’t think there is a set number of APs a student should take.

“If you enjoy pushing yourself and have an interest in a lot of different things, I think students should be able to take as many as they want,” Undrakhbold said.

However, Undrakhbold does believe there is a direct correlation between the AP workload and home life.

“At Centennial, AP Chemistry and AP Calculus BC are two of the hardest classes offered,” Undrakhbold explained. “Students definitely need to put in their own time and hard work to succeed in those classes because at the end of the day, they are college-level courses.”

Undrakhbold proposes that students should not base their course registration on their peers; rather, they should choose the ones that spark interest.

“Take AP classes that you feel the most interested in. Take classes that you know you will enjoy, not just because everyone around you is,” Undrakhbold advised. “I currently take AP Human Geography and I love the documentaries we watch in class and I’m really glad I’m taking it.”

Undrakhbold suggests that students should branch out and find different study methods when preparing for these classes.

“I think students should experiment in different ways of studying,” Undrakhbold stated. “A lot of us think and feel that there is only one way of studying, which is reading the textbooks, taking notes, and memorizing it. But, there are so many other efficient ways to retain information and prepare for tests.”

Jennifer McKechnie, the Intermediate Team Leader (ITL) of student services at Centennial High School, has a similar point of view to Undrakhbold about the number of AP classes a student should take.

“I would say it really depends on the student,” McKechnie said. “Every student is unique and every student is going to have their individual needs based on what they are interested in, what they are good at, and what their career goals are. I don’t think there is one set model or one set number.”

McKechnie detailed a few benefits of taking these higher level courses.

Sophomore Kiran Vepa plans on taking six AP courses next year.

“I think [AP classes] prepare students for collegiate level work and the rigor that is expected at the college level. Students are also getting exposure and the chance to explore that topic in an in-depth level,” McKechnie explained.

While the academic benefits are great, there is a great deal of stress attached to these courses.

“The stress comes in when a student is taking multiple, or way too many AP classes,” McKechnie stated. “[To limit stress], one of the things we can do is connect students with tutors. We can also look at how overwhelming the classes may be. If it is towards the beginning of the school year, we look at reducing the workload by, maybe, going down to an honors level class.”

According to McKechnie, students should not feel obligated to take AP level courses because it is the norm, or to fit in with their friends and classmates.

“I think there is a lot of pressure in this building to take everything at an AP or [gifted and talented] level, so we want to explain to students ‘It’s okay, you don’t have to do everything at an AP level,’” McKechnie added. “Do the classes you are good at, and the ones that you love, at a higher level. You don’t have to do everything.”

McKechnie also mentioned that AP classes are not mandatory and that students can still be successful without them.

“Kids get into Harvard and really good colleges without having several AP classes on their transcripts,” McKechnie said.

McKechnie provided some advice to help these students avoid stress and to become more well-rounded.

“I think students should have something outside of academics, so they are not overtaxed with a lot of APs,” McKechnie shared. “Students should give themselves time to participate in other things like clubs and sports because colleges will look at that as well.”

Ellen Mauser, another guidance counselor at Centennial High School, detailed what she thinks is essential in order to maintain a healthy school life.

“I’ve been stressing balance [to students]. I think that is key for student well-being,” Mauser added. “If they can find balance within their schedule, they have less of a chance to be anxious and stressed.”

Advanced Placement classes have their pros and cons. Although APs can prepare students for the college world and allow incoming freshmen to jump into their desired majors, they can potentially cause more stress and impact the work and school balance. Because there is not one set number of APs someone should take, students can experiment in different courses to see where their interests lie and even consider taking certain classes at a higher level. The question may not be, “how many APs is too many?” rather: “what is the right amount for me?”

To read this article in the March print issue click here.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.

The Unsung Engineers of FTC Robotics

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

Hidden down one of Centennial’s less crowded hallways (a rarity in itself) and down a rather dim, narrow corridor, is a computer science room- home to the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics club. As I stepped into the room for the first time, the atmosphere felt almost animated. I was instantly hit with a feeling of intense, pure joy. The sight of photographer Eliza Andrew with her camera, and I with my notepad, immediately garnered a beaming smile on the faces of each individual as the words, “the Wingspan!” jumped around the room. Two enormous robots sat in the center of the room surrounded by a protective barrier, and just beyond that, a mass of students with determined faces. My eyes jumped from one excitable huddle of bodies to another. Sophomore Diego Montemayor quickly grabbed an oddly shaped bag, pulling out enormous foam hats. The hats were tossed across the room, bursts of color and decoration meant to distinguish the individual teams, Exponential 15561 and VIRUS 9866, that were controlling each robot. As I realized I was getting lost in the sheer madness and spirit of the room, I gathered my bearings and remembered that I had a story to tell.

As sophomore club president Phillip Wang and junior Carlos Montemayor excitedly made their way over to Eliza and me, I couldn’t help but feel giddy. Why hadn’t we come sooner? They introduced themselves and set down various trophies and binders accumulated over only a few short months, proving the club had already distinguished itself in excelling in the art of competition. I asked Phillip how this all worked, how this group of high school kids had managed to transform an idea into a robotics-based enterprise. He grabbed a thick, Leslie Knope-looking binder, and began flipping through the pages as if he’d done it a thousand times, and could recite every word. I noticed that the binder was separated by labeled tabs, detailing things such as mechanical instructions, marketing, and the business plan. Under the marketing tab, there was a spread of the numerous sponsors that had allowed the club to have the necessary funding.

Phillip and his team have transformed the impressive hobby into a business-like, full-time job. After only a little over a year of operation, the club gained over twenty members and numerous sponsors. A $10,000 grant from the Department of Education along with $3,000 from various other supporting companies allowed the group to purchase two brand new computers, a 3D printer, and essential equipment. The group works tirelessly three days a week after school, as well as weekends. Their mission, above all, is to become more knowledgeable about engineering, programming, and marketing concepts while simultaneously spread awareness of STEM within the school community.

Two years ago, this business-like robotics utopia was just a budding vision. Phillip and his two friends, Andrew Zhao and Matthew Zhang, imagined turning their personal FTC team into a real club at Centennial. From there, they reached out to Nancy Smith, the PLTW teacher, and fellow students with an interest in robotics.

The club’s robots, Exponential 15561 (left) and Virus 9866 (right).

Soon enough, this STEM dream became a reality.

“In the beginning, our main motivation for creating this club was to share our passion for robotics with more students,” noted Wang. Moving into the school would give them better accessibility to be apart of our passion.”

Their success has been immense, winning over three awards in just their first year of existence.

“During our first year as a club, we won the first place Inspire Award at the Naval Academy Qualifier, placed second in the Motivate, Think, and Control Awards, and third place in the Connect Award,” Wang remarked.

“The Inspire Award is the biggest award that a team can win at each competition, as it is given to the team that embodies the ‘challenge’ of the FIRST Tech Challenge program,” he added. “The team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST Team. We also qualified for the 2017-2018 FIRST Worlds Championship.”

In their second year, both teams Exponential 15561 and VIRUS 9866 qualified for States after winning the first and second place Inspire Awards at the Parkdale High Qualifier. The teams will be competing at the Maryland State Championship at UMBC in March.

As I excitedly scribbled my final thoughts into my notes, I took a final look around the room. Each cluster of laughing faces, the robots zooming towards one another, the pure bliss of the environment- a second home. There were so many words I could think of to describe this robotics enterprise, the STEM heaven single-handedly built from passionate freshman friends. If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that I will never underestimate this unstoppable group of young engineers.

For FTC robotics, it’s not the thrill of the awards, nor the rush of the competition, that motivates their endless time commitment and work ethic for the club. It’s pure passion.

“This is such an invaluable opportunity for any high school student to have. This club gives us an opportunity to essentially operate a start-up company,” said Phillip. “It gives us a chance to share what we are passionate about with others for the betterment of the community.”

To read this article in the March print issue click here.

For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan.