Category: News

Rising Freshmen: Fears for an Uncertain School Year

Words: Sasha Allen

Last June, prior to the 2019-20 school year, I wrote an article about the worries and expectations of rising freshmen and matched their fears with words of encouragement and advice from current freshmen. In my interviews with these students, I found they were eagerly awaiting the new school year, each indicating mixed emotions of excitement tinged by a slight edge of anxiety, not knowing what to expect from such a new experience. 

A lot has changed since then, and these otherwise major stressors from only a year ago are almost obsolete now. This school year has been unpredictable, and I can safely assume that nobody expected that we would be trying to live through a pandemic instead of dealing with some typical friend group drama or that stubborn teacher who refuses to round that 89.4% to an 89.5%. Distance learning brings an unfamiliar array of problems, ranging from connectivity issues to failed submissions. However, the unpredictability doesn’t stop at this school year, especially not for the class of 2024.  

The upcoming class has already been deprived of their last year of middle school, and the prospect of missing parts of their first year in high school is disappointing for students. Lexa Millen, a rising freshman, is concerned about missing out on high school events.

“I am worried that some of the things I was looking forward to, such as homecoming, may not happen or will be very different,” said Millen. 

Despite the uncertainty of the nature of this transition, whether school is online, in person, or a combination, the typical changes in a students life still stand true. There are new people, new teachers, and new opportunities. Millen is still optimistic, even though she is not completely sure what lies ahead.

“I am looking forward to having more freedom, more opportunities, and meeting new people,” expressed Millen. “I [just] hope that things won’t change too much so I can still have a semi-normal high school experience.”

However, not all students have been totally thrown off by online schooling. Anurag Sodhi, another rising freshman, says that, at least for this year, the change in speed has helped him prepare. “In a sense, COVID-19 has actually relieved some stress from my high school transition,” Sodhi stated. “Being at home with less school work has allowed me to focus more on moving to high school and such.”

Like many students, Sodhi has had to bring down his expectations for the school year. Original hopes of joining new clubs and participating in afterschool activities have been forgotten, at least for the foreseeable future. 

“Three months ago, I would have said I was looking forward to all the new clubs and activities at high school that weren’t at middle school,” explained Sodhi. “However, at this point, I am just looking forward to the school experience, so to speak.”

Millen was also hoping to meet new classmates through school activities, but she realizes that there is almost no possibility of having a completely conventional school year. 

“What will become normal for my class might be very different from other years,” recognized Millen.

However, some normalicies still stand. The students will still be taking high school classes with new classmates, subjects, and possibly a different workload. Sodhi is hoping to treat the transition as he would in a normal situation.

“In some senses, high school isn’t too different from middle school. Obviously, it’s one step closer to college, but transition from middle school to high school isn’t as big as the jump from elementary school to middle school,” said Sodhi. “So, like I did from 5th to 6th grade, I’m hoping to just keep an open mind and try to fit in as best as possible to the new environment.”

For now, both of the students are just looking forward to their return to the classroom. These past three months without classroom interaction have been difficult, and they, like most students, are hoping for a semblance of a normal freshman year. 

I reached out to the Howard County Public School System regarding learning structure for next year and was directed to their website with a list of possible systems. HCPSS will be basing the system for next year off of the surveys that were sent to both students and parents as well as the infection rate at the time of school reopening. The options include a fully online model, a hybrid model of both in school classes and online classes, and a fully in school model with the appropriate precautions taken. Similarly, the county is working to address possible curriculum changes, fall sports, transportation, before and after care, and food distribution. These tentative plans can be viewed at


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BLM: A Look at Performative Protests on Social Media

Words: Emily Hollwedel

In the midst of a virus’ wrath, the nation reveals another deep, old wound that has been with it since the beginning: racism. 

Within the span of a month, three names— maybe more— have flashed across television and smartphone screens across the country: Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. And most recently, George Floyd. The common thread between these people is that they were all black people, unjustly killed because of their race. 

This is not a new phenomenon. There are countless names and faces, which initiated the Black Lives Matter organization: devoted to combating racism and white supremacy. Most recently, BLM has been calling for justice in the case of George Floyd, whose life was taken by a police officer in Minnesota. Now, the movement has been thrust directly into the public eye. And now more than ever, people are taking notice. 

In Howard County, a number of students have been posting informative, detailed information about how to help. From petitions, to donations, to resources that can help tackle bias in their own communities, posts have flooded the feeds of the nation— Centennial is no exception. 

Yet at this point it is important to reflect on if we are solely doing this for the public eye. Voices must be heard; however, simply posting a picture and not actually taking action against racism in the country via petitions, donations, and so on does not make that change. It is also essential to reflect on what we are posting and how it affects others. By reposting traumatic videos of Floyd’s death, someone is revisiting an experience that brings so many people pain. There are other things we can do to help make a difference. 

The goal should be to make a change, and not to spread anguish. We must work to stop these tragedies from happening rather than leaving a post and pretending that is all that can be done. For more information visit 


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Centennial Hosts a Counselor Corner

Words: Sarah Paz

On Friday, May 29, and June 5, Centennial High School counselors organized a Counselor Corner for juniors at 12:00pm. The objective of the meetings was to answer student’s questions about how the college admissions process has been affected by COVID-19.

On Friday, June 12, Centennial’s counselors hosted another Counselor Corner for all grades.

“Normally at this time of year, CHS juniors begin to ask questions about college prep. We thought one way to capture the questions was through a Google Meet… [to] reach more students,” explained Ellen Mauser, a Centennial school counselor.

Mauser encouraged all students to ask for help if there are any concerns.

“I hear many graduates say that the process of applying to college seemed overwhelming when they were in the middle of it,” stated Mauser. “Asking for help or guidance made the process much easier [for students].”

She reassured rising seniors: “be kind to others — it really matters,” and of course to “enjoy being a senior and [to] try not to worry about what’s to come.”

If you missed either session, more information can be found in the Centennial High School’s Student Resources under Modules in the tab labeled “11 Grade Spring Lesson.”

Frequently asked questions can be found in the Centennial High School Student Resources announcements section called “Topic: Friday, June 5th 12 – 1pm, Counselor’s Corner for Rising Seniors, Part II.”

There will be another Counselor Corner session for other grades on June 19 at 12:00pm.


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How the Music Programs are Learning Online

Words: Hoang-Phi Quy

Since April 15, Howard County Public Schools have resumed lessons and continued the online learning program. HCPSS has continually stressed the importance of learning throughout these difficult times. 

Unlike regular academic classes, music classes have been particularly difficult to conduct electronically. Students in musical classes have to record themselves once a week playing the newly assigned piece.

“In orchestra, we submit playing tests,” explained freshman Melissa Le. “[We turn in] about 50 measures each week.”

Students in Orchestra are required to submit recordings as a video with their face and instrument visible. Other musical classes have different requirements and assignments than orchestra. 

“You can either listen and write about a [piece] or play a solo,” said junior clarinetist, Enric Jiao. Band students have two options to choose from, unlike the orchestral unit, which only submits playing tests. Jiao usually likes to do “the listening reflections.”

Both Jiao and Le believe that the way the current programs are running is the best way for the situation they are in. They both still believe they are able to learn from their respective classes during this time. 

“[The teachers are] handling this well,” said Jiao. “It is an efficient and effective way to still learn in these difficult times.”

Despite the success with online music classes, Le still believes that the best way to learn music is through direct instruction from the teacher. She is ready to get “back into the classroom.”


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Class of 2020 Virtual Graduation

Words: Delanie Tucker

On Thursday, June 4, the Centennial High School class of 2020 officially said goodbye to the last four years of their lives. While the seniors couldn’t have a traditional graduation ceremony because of COVID-19, they were still able to experience some formal closure to their last year of high school in the form of a virtual graduation.

The virtual graduation was brought to them in their own homes through a video that included speeches from Centennial students and staff along with the names and video clips of each graduating student. To kick things off, a Processional was played, followed by the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Individual recordings of members of the Centennial Madrigals singing the National Anthem were edited together to create the sound of one singular choir.

Jack McGowan and Regina Wang each gave speeches at the beginning of the ceremony, McGowan to introduce program participants and Wang as Centennial’s student speaker. In her speech, Wang took the opportunity to encourage and support her fellow classmates and hale them for the difficulties they overcame in the final months of their senior year.

“During these uncertain times, we became more adaptable. We taught ourselves to navigate through classes online [and] celebrated each other’s post-secondary plans on instagram…” Wang said. “This pandemic neither defined nor defeated us. Rather, it united us and highlighted fundamental morals and values that we will carry with us throughout our lives.”

Others who spoke during the ceremony were Thomas Wheeler, Centennial English teacher and the CHS Senior Teacher of the Year; Cynthia Dillon, Centennial’s principal; Calvin Ball, Howard County Executive; Kevin Frazier, Hammond High School graduate; Sabina Taj, a member of the Howard County Board of Education; and Michael Martirano, HCPSS Superintendent. 

Now that their year is officially over, seniors have shared their opinions on the final months of their senior year, as well as on how it was wrapped up.

“[Distance Learning] was the best substitute for regular teaching,” said Pravas Dhakal. “It was nice to see my teachers and classmates, even if it was through a screen.”

Stephanie Lee, another 2020 graduate, believes that online schooling made it hard to stay focused, and amplified their already obvious “senioritis.”

“I think online school most definitely facilitated slacking,” Lee stated. “But it did make me miss actual school.”

As for the graduation, opinions differed.

Some students, while not totally disappointed, wish that they got more of an ending to such an important part of their lives.

“I wish we had a chance to say goodbye,” Garrick Agbortarh admitted. “It just feels like we were robbed, in a way.”

Agbortarh understands why a traditional graduation could not be held, but he wishes that  seniors were given something more than a video. 

“Maybe we could have had an in person graduation on the school field,” suggested Agbortarh. “Everyone could stay six feet apart with masks.”

Others, like Lee, thought the virtual ceremony was a nice way to end things, considering the circumstances.

“Although we didn’t get a proper ending to our high school years like we wished, I think our graduation was a cute and sweet farewell.”

Centennial teachers and administration recognize the struggles that the seniors went through, and applaud them for overcoming and making the best of a bad situation. 

Wheeler, in particular, had a very personal message for the seniors. His time at Centennial began when this graduation class was in their freshman year, and now, because of redistricting, he will leave with them, as well. 

Despite his departure, Wheeler is thankful for the time he got to spend at Centennial, and for all the students he was able to work with.

“Congratulations to the resilient class of 2020,” Wheeler expressed in his speech. “You’ve done us all proud and it was a sincere privilege to be a small part of your journey thus far.”

Dillon’s speech was also quite personal and heartfelt. Her message to her seniors held a lot of emotions, and even made her tear up towards the end.

“I put my faith in knowing, as you step out into the world, viewing the undercurrent of circumstances we are currently swimming against, that you will find a way to celebrate what is right and to make the world a better place than it is in this very moment.”

Her final wish for this class is that she will get to see them again when the world allows it.

“When the moment arrives when we can safely come together again, it is my sincerest wish that you will come back to us,” Dillon admitted. “I look forward to the day when we can celebrate together, in person, with great anticipation. Sharing a moment with you again is something that I would like ever so much.”

To watch the full ceremony, visit


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Centennial Senior Pick-up Events

Words: Jeramy Stavlas

Photos Contributed By: Adithi Soogoor, Farah Helal, Jessie Gabel, and Constanza Montemayor

On Saturday, May 16, Centennial High School held their senior pick-up drive-through for caps and gowns in the Centennial parking lot. More recently, on Monday, June 1, they held their diploma pick-up. 

For the students, these were big and long awaited events that sparked a social media trend of seniors posting pictures in their new attire, awaiting their virtual graduation which will be held on Thursday, June 4.

“Given what the school had to deal with, they exceeded my expectations for what I thought they could do,” stated Charles Reisner, a member of the 2020 graduating class over a text interview.

Centennial’s faculty was just as content as the students. “I observed so many happy, smiling faces,” remarked Centennial’s principal, Cynthia Dillon, over an email interview. “I think the moment when you get to feel another person’s energy is both surprising and comforting.”

Seniors also dropped off textbooks and other school materials they were unable to return before school closures. 

There were very strict precautions for this event, and the students had to follow an alphabetical time schedule, stay in their cars at all times, and follow a traffic pattern to ensure that everyone stayed safe and healthy. Only one car per family was allowed. 

According to the students, the safety measures were executed very well. “I never felt as if anyone was in danger of spreading or contracting the virus,” added Reisner.

“We followed our approved plan and the guidelines issued by the CDC, so I’m comfortable with our result,” stated Dillon.

Centennial plans to do a similar pick-up event for non-seniors who left essential items such as medications and personal technology later in June. 


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Teens in Essential Work

Words: Ellie Zoller-Gritz

Photos Contributed By: Julia Stitely, Noorie Kazmi and Kheira Tuck

Every rule comes with an exception. During a nationwide time of panic, there has been a select group of people who have continued to work, despite stay at home orders. These essential workers are allowed to continue at their jobs if their line of work is deemed necessary enough. However, many of these essential workers are teenagers.

As an essential worker, a teen could work at a restaurant open for delivery or takeout, a gas station, retirement home, or any other business that remains open. 

Lutheran Village at Miller’s Grant is a retirement home in Ellicott City, one that employs several Centennial High School students. These employees are considered health care workers, and are tasked with protecting the residents of Miller’s Grant from COVID-19. It is vital that they are very careful to not come in contact with anyone who could be carrying the virus, as the elders they work around would be extremely high-risk if they were to contract it.

To further ensure the safety of the residents, the staff is required to get temperature checks upon arrival at work, to wear masks during shifts, to fill out a mandatory questionnaire, and to practice basic procedures like social distancing and hand washing.

Since their working conditions have changed, teenagers now have the responsibility of being the frontline of defense against the virus, while also balancing distance learning and their own personal health.

The staff’s jobs have changed from serving in dining halls to delivering food and groceries to residents at their homes and apartments. They are also doing activities such as noodle ball, painting, trivia, games, and more with the assisted living and health care unit. The residents in these units are not allowed to have visitors until further notice.

Kheira Tuck, a senior at Wilde Lake, has been working at Miller’s Grant in these trying times. 

“[Residents] cherish every single interaction they have,” said Tuck. Even though the residents must stay six feet away, they still enjoy seeing other residents and staff from their balconies and when they pass by their apartments.

Teenagers who work at grocery stores are also powering through the stress that COVID-19 has brought with bulk buying and overstocking.

“In the morning, the store is usually crowded with people stocking up on whatever had been announced online to be scarce the day before,” explained Mia Zara Bridges, a senior at Centennial who works at sprouts.

Although some people are understanding towards the employees, she still wants customers to realize that she doesn’t have control over supply amounts, and becoming frustrated will not solve the problem. 

Despite the need for these essential workers, some teenagers have been pulled from work by parents, due to school and other reasons. By staying home, these teenagers are still doing their part to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.


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Chromebook Distribution in Howard County

Words: Sasha Allen

Photo: Adithi Soogoor

Online learning is difficult for everyone, but for students and staff across the county who do not have access to a device at home, it is nearly impossible. In order to give everyone the same opportunity to participate in online classes, the Howard County Public School System constructed a plan that would allow them to provide those in need with Chromebooks.

The county collected data regarding how many HCPSS students and staff would need provided technology through an online survey that was sent to all students and parents in the county.

On Wednesday, April 8, there were technology pick-up stations for highschoolers at numerous schools throughout the county, including Centennial High School. All of the social distancing guidelines were followed, and everyone was required to stand 6 feet apart.

Despite these precautions, the pick-up stations presented health concerns in regard to COVID-19. For the elementary and middle schoolers who still need Chromebooks, the distribution process was modified.

“To better enforce social distancing and safeguard the health of staff, students, and families, HCPSS will ship all technology devices through FedEx directly to the students who need to borrow them,” stated the HCPSS website. 

The same process will now be used for staff members who may need access to technology. Although the process is safer, it is taking more time to deliver the computers. According to HCPSS, the delay is caused by the number of requests as well as backlog through FedEx. 

By giving all students access to technology, HCPSS is trying to continue learning for everyone across the county as they are stuck inside their homes. 

For more information on technology distribution, visit


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Online Education’s Grading System

Words: Hoang-Phi Quy

In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Howard County Public School System has resorted to online classes which started on April 14, 2020. According to the HCPSS Website, the Continuity of Learning program is focused on “delivering learning objectives in a variety of ways” to the students in Howard County. 

Weekly assignments are made accessible by 9:00am every Monday via Modules on Canvas. Students are then responsible for completing these assignments in a timely manner and turning them in by 10:00am that Friday. 

To make things easier for students during this difficult time, HCPSS has created a new grading system for the Continuity of Learning program. To receive an A in quarter four, students are required to finish and turn in at least 50% of their assignments. 

If students fail to complete 50% of the work, they will be given the opportunity to finish the work over the summer in order to receive a passing grade. HCPSS has also announced that there will be no end of year exams due to the difficult learning environment and the possibility of academic dishonesty.

There are many different opinions on the temporary grading system. 

“I like the current grading system HCPSS has implemented,” expressed Jason Chen, a junior at Centennial. “[It] takes a lot of pressure off [my] shoulders.” 

However, Junior Michael He has a different view regarding the new arrangement. “The current system does not validate other student’s honesty,” He said. “I am not a fan because [it] encourages students to cheat.”

For more information on HCPSS’ Continuity of Learning Program, please visit


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HCPSS Closely Monitoring Evolving Coronavirus Outbreak

Words: Caleb McClatchey

The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) is diligently monitoring the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak as the number of reported cases in Maryland and the United States continues to rise.

Superintendent Michael Martirano announced Tuesday that all out-of-state field trips will be cancelled for the remainder of the academic year. This is the first major change to standard operations that HCPSS has implemented in response to COVID-19.

HCPSS is following the guidance of the Howard County Health Department, Maryland Department of Health, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their response to COVID-19. A group of HCPSS leaders and staff are regularly meeting with the superintendent to stay updated on new information and prepare for all potential impacts of COVID-19 on Howard County.

With only 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland and zero in Howard County, HCPSS is currently operating as scheduled within Maryland. HCPSS has stated that this will remain the case “until a change is deemed necessary by local and state health professionals.” Martirano noted in his update on March 3 that closing schools “is a possibility” if necessary to protect the safety of students and staff.

According to an update sent by Martirano on Monday, “HCPSS does not currently have the ability to implement distance learning if students were required to be out of school for an extended period of time.” However, the county is preparing resources that would give students the opportunity to pursue non-course specific educational opportunities at home.

HCPSS continues to regularly share updates with the community on the state of its response to COVID-19. The school system is also encouraging the community to take general precautions like washing one’s hands and covering one’s cough or sneeze with a tissue to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Principal Cynthia Dillon advises students and parents to regularly check the Coronavirus 2019 page on the HCPSS website for the most current updates and information. She emphasizes that any decision made in response to the COVID-19 situation would be made system-wide rather than at the discretion of individual schools.


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