Tag: Caleb McClatchey

Centennial Performing Arts Programs Perform The Nutcracker

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Eliza Andrew & Melissa Notti

Centennial’s Performing Arts Department kicked off the holiday season with its performance of The Nutcracker on December 5 and 6 in the auditorium.

Members of Centennial’s dance, choir, band, orchestra, and theater programs all collaborated to produce the famous holiday ballet, which consisted of two acts and ran for approximately an hour and a half.

Although the dancers in the junior and senior dance companies were the focal point of the performance, choir members also sang and performed on stage at various points throughout the show. Band and orchestra members formed a pit orchestra below, providing a live soundtrack for the performance. Meanwhile, theater students served on the backstage crew and assisted with technical aspects of the production.

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Why November? The Truth Behind College Board’s Decision

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo: Adithi Soogoor

For the world of secondary education, the College Board’s seemingly innocent February 6 press release contained a bombshell. In it, the educational non-profit announced it would be making two major changes to the Advanced Placement (AP) program for the 2019-20 school year. The first, giving teachers access to new online resources designed to help them better prepare their students for the AP exams, elicited largely positive responses from educators. The second, however, instantly sparked nationwide criticism.

This second change involved moving exam registration from the spring to the fall. Students must now sign up for AP exams by November 15, instead of March, to only pay the base exam fee of $94. Students who sign up for exams between November 16 and March 13 will have to pay a $40 late fee on top of the base exam fee. If a student changes their mind and decides to cancel an exam after November 15, they will still have to pay $40 of the $94 base exam fee.

According to the College Board, the decision to adopt fall registration was inspired by policies already in place in some AP schools. The College Board claims that some form of fall registration is already a “best practice” at over half of schools offering AP courses. However, it is unclear what specific policies the College Board considers fall registration or how strict these policies must be to be considered a “best practice.”

As the College Board explains, they learned that students in the schools which already offered fall registration were “more engaged and less likely to give up.” This increased commitment, the organization says, meant they were “more likely to earn a score that [would] translate to college credit.”

During the 2017-18 school year, the College Board conducted a pilot program to study the effects of fall registration and its alleged benefits. The organization implemented fall registration, among other changes, at 14 school districts across four different states. Combined, over 100 schools and 40,000 students participated in the pilot.

Although the College Board has provided minimal information on the nature of the pilot program or its results, it has relied heavily on anecdotes and highly limited data from the pilot program to support its claims. A video on the “2019-20 Changes to AP” page of the group’s website, for instance, shows teachers and students from pilot schools describing how they were initially skeptical of fall registration but came to realize that, as one teacher put it, “[It] really makes a difference.” Next to the video, the College Board explains that, “We’ve heard words like, ‘engaged,’ ‘confident’ and ‘less likely to give up’ when students register in the fall-and that commitment translates into more students taking the exam and earning college credit.”

Beyond anecdotal evidence, College Board boasts that, “Scores of 3+ increased across student groups” in their pilot program. A 3 is considered a passing score on the exams and is typically the minimum score required by colleges to earn credit. What College Board puts the greatest emphasis on, however, is the effect that fall registration had on groups it deems as traditionally underrepresented in the AP program. According to the College Board, underrepresented minorities (African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans), low-income students, and female STEM students fall under this category. The College Board claims that while fall registration “made a difference across the board,” it “had the strongest effect” on these students. Accompanying this claim– often in graph form– is essentially the only data from the pilot program which the College Board has currently made readily available to the public.

Chart contributed by: the College Board

The data, which shows the percentage increases in scores of 3+ across different student groups, reveals that underrepresented groups saw significantly higher relative increases in passing scores than their counterparts. The total number of scores of 3 or higher increased by 12% for underrepresented minority students compared to 5% for White/Asian students. Likewise, passing scores increased by 20% for low-income students and only 4% for moderate/high-income students. The same trend occurred with female STEM students, who achieved a 14% increase compared to a 5% increase for their male counterparts.

These results indicate that fall registration will help these student groups, who have historically had lower participation and passing rates, move closer to equitable representation within the AP Program. In fact, the College Board touts that, during one year of fall registration, “schools sped up the work of AP Equity– the share of AP Exam registrations for students of color– by seven years.”

However, the minimal data which College Board is currently providing, and corresponding claims it makes, are meaningless when taken out of the context of the rest of the pilot program data. Earlier this year, the College Board itself released somewhat more detailed data from the pilot program on its website. Although the College Board has taken down that web page since then, screenshots exist and the graphs which the College Board used on the page are still hosted on its website. These graphs displayed the raw number of total exam takers, underrepresented minority exam takers, low-income exam takers, and passing scores by low-income students within the pilot districts for the 2016, 2017, and 2018 AP exams.

This data, which the College Board has taken down for unknown reasons, is essential for putting the minimal data which they are currently trumpeting into context. This deleted data shows that while the total number of low-income exam takers increased by 33.5% from 2016-17 to 2017-18, the total number of moderate/high-income exam takers only increased by 3.9%. Given this fact, the graph showing a 20% increase in passing scores for low-income students compared to a 4% increase for moderate/high-income students is somewhat misleading. The number of low-income students taking exams simply increased at a much higher rate than did the number of moderate/high-income students taking exams. As a result, the number of exams passed by low-income students increased at a much higher rate as well. Relative to the increases in exam takers, low-income students did not see nearly as significant of an increase in performance compared to moderate/high-income students as the 20%-4% comparison suggests at first glance. This pattern is repeated with underrepresented minorities and non-underrepresented minorities as well.

To gain a more complete understanding of the program’s results, The Wingspan tracked down five of the fourteen school districts who participated in the 2017-18 pilot. Through public information requests, The Wingspan obtained previously unpublished AP data from four of these districts: Klein ISD in Texas, San Antonio ISD in Texas, Amarillo ISD in Texas, and Jefferson County Public Schools in Kentucky. The Wingspan would like to note that, despite The Wingspan’s best efforts, the data obtained for San Antonio ISD is limited to 11th and 12th graders.

Overall, the total number of exams taken increased by 7.7% across these four districts in the pilot’s first year. Since the total number of passing scores increased by a nearly identical 8%, the overall passing rate only increased by a marginal 0.11%.

For the three districts which reported results by economic status, the number of exams taken by students considered economically disadvantaged/eligible for free or reduced lunches (Eco-Dis/FRL) increased by 12.2%. Meanwhile, the total number of passing scores for these students increased by 17%. This translates to a 0.8% increase in pass rate. In comparison, the total number of exams taken, total number of exams passed, and pass rate for students not economically disadvantaged/not eligible for free or reduced lunches (Non-Eco Dis/FRL) increased by 2.2%, 6.2%, and 2.0%, respectively.

Across all four districts, the total number of exams taken by African American and Latino students increased by 10.36%. At the same time, the total number of exams passed increased by 15.6% and the pass rate increased by 0.99%. For all other students, the number of exams taken, number of exams passed, and pass rate increased by only 5.8%, 5.9%, and 0.05%, respectively.

In the aggregate, the detailed data obtained by The Wingspan appears to tell the same story as the College Board’s deleted data. It seems that the changes implemented by the pilot did increase equity with regards to access. Underrepresented groups saw a much higher percentage increase in exams taken than their overrepresented counterparts. However, the pilot appears to have done little to close the performance gap between underrepresented and overrepresented groups. In the three districts which reported results by economic status, the passing rate for Non-Eco Dis/FRL students was 30.8% higher than the passing rate for Eco Dis/FRL students in the 2016-17 school year. In the pilot’s first year, this gap actually increased to 32.0%.

It is important to note that the results of the pilot program varied significantly between districts. How the pilot affected an individual district often differed from how the pilot affected the four districts as a whole. Although the number of exams taken by Eco Dis/FRL students increased by 12.2% overall, this number increased by a staggering 116% in Amarillo ISD and actually declined by 0.68% in Jefferson County. Furthermore, despite the gap in passing rates between African American/Latino students and other students decreasing by 0.94% overall, this gap increased in three of the four districts.

These differences in results shed light on a frustrating aspect of analyzing the pilot program data: there are simply so many variables at play. The previous AP registration policy, the cost paid for exams by low-income students, the quality of AP instruction, and any changes in enrollment all influenced how a district’s AP results changed during the pilot program. Since these factors significantly vary by state and school district throughout the country, one should not expect the universal adoption of fall registration to have a universal effect.

Further complicating a true evaluation of the results of the pilot program is the nature of the pilot program itself. As it turns out, instituting a fall registration deadline was just one of many changes implemented by the College Board as part of their 2017-18 AP Pilot. Most notably, all participating school districts received access to a new support system of online resources. According to the “AP Full Year Model Implementation Plan” attached to the pilot participation agreement between the College Board and Jefferson County Public Schools, these resources were meant to enable, “yearlong, college-level practice and instruction in AP classrooms.” Highlighting these resources was an AP Question Bank available for all AP courses. The pilot agreement describes this as a “comprehensive repository of AP released and practice exam questions indexed to unit content and skills, including reports highlighting student knowledge and skill achievements and gaps.” Teachers could use these questions to build custom quizzes for each unit, students could practice with them online or on paper, and administrators could access “year-round performance and usage data.” Furthermore, AP Calculus and World History teachers received access to additional resources including scoring training, unit quizzes, and student-directed practice.

Although the pilot schools and their teachers were free to use these resources as they wished, the College Board provided them with intent and wanted them to be utilized. In fact, the aforementioned implementation plan, written by the College Board, states that, “The College Board encourages District’s utilization of these resources.” The plan explains that this will, “enable the College Board to learn about usage patterns.”

While it is impossible to quantify the exact impact of these resources, it is highly likely that they increased student performance to some extent. Kevin Rasco, District Coordinator of Advanced Placement for San Antonio ISD, described these resources as being “very heavily used,” especially for Calculus and World History. In Amarillo ISD, Director of Counseling/College and Career Readiness Tracy Morman said the resources were utilized to varying extents by different teachers but on the whole were “very beneficial.” Both Morman and Rasco emphasized how the resources allowed teachers and students to track students’ progress throughout the year. This gave students added confidence and teachers the ability to assess the effectiveness of their instruction throughout the course.

Megan Shadid, an AP Economics and World History teacher from one of the pilot districts, echoed these sentiments in an interview with USA Today. “It’s been a game changer for me in terms of how I teach,” she explained.

If the College Board wanted to “further study the effects of moving exam registration to the fall,” as their website says, why introduce another variable into the study in the form of these highly beneficial online resources? Even ignoring all of the other factors influencing a district’s AP exam results, it is now impossible to say to what extent the results of the pilot are indicative of the effects of fall registration and to what extent they are indicative of the benefits of the online resources. Given that this uncertainty was created by the way the College Board designed the pilot, it is curious that they do not mention their inclusion of the online resources in practically any of the information they have released about the program.

Despite questions about College Board’s representation of the pilot program and its results, there seems to be plenty of support for the fall registration deadline from those involved with the pilot.

Regarding the decision to implement fall registration nationwide, Rasco stated, “I’m behind it. I believe in it… For one reason: you commit early to the full AP experience.”

Rasco believes that kids thrive in structure and high expectations. By forcing students to register early, teachers know they have a classroom full of kids committed to taking the exams. According to Rasco, this causes a “dramatic change in the way a teacher conducts their class.”

Like Rasco, Morman also thinks that the decision is a great move and called it  “a win-win for everybody.” She emphasized that the fall registration deadline and online resources were very beneficial for her district and believes that they are what’s best for students in general.

As long as there are skeptics of the College Board, there will always be controversy surrounding the decisions it makes. The move to a fall registration deadline for AP exams is no different. The inconvenient truth, for both the College Board and its critics, is that no clear narrative appeared to emerge from The Wingspan’s investigation of the 2017-18 AP Pilot Program. Although the changes implemented by the program seemed to increase equity with regards to access, their effect on equity with regards to performance seemed to be minimal. While some of those involved in the pilot like Rasco and Morman have expressed their support of fall registration, the College Board’s limited and somewhat misleading representations of the pilot program’s results and its nature raise questions. Unfortunately, there is and in all likelihood will be no final verdict, no definitive answers.The truth, much like the pilot program and the College Board itself, is complicated.

 

To listen to a behind the scenes interview with the author, Caleb McClatchey, click here!

To view the entire November issue, click here!

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

Seniors Attend Annual Crab Feast

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Noorie Kazmi

On Wednesday, September 25, Centennial seniors ate, danced, and socialized together at the annual Senior Crab Feast from 6-8pm in the cafeteria.

Seniors spent most of the first half of the night enjoying an all-you-can-eat menu featuring crabs, turkey, ham, green beans, macaroni and cheese, and more. Towards the end of the night, however, many ditched their crab mallets for the dance floor.

Keeping with tradition, the majority of seniors wore homemade crab-themed t-shirts to the event. These t-shirts, along with all of the crabs and dancing, helped this year’s senior class start the year off with a sense of unity.

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Concerns Arise Over Limited Club Interest in Homecoming Carnival

Words: Caleb McClatchey

As of Thursday afternoon, only 13 clubs had signed up for this year’s Homecoming Carnival. If the unusually low number holds through tomorrow’s registration deadline at 2:10pm, John Sharbaugh, nicknamed the “Carnival King” for his role as the event’s lead organizer, says he would recommend cancelling it.

“Thirteen booths at a carnival is not what we want. We need more for the carnival to be successful,” explained Sharbaugh. While the decision to cancel or proceed with the carnival ultimately lies with the administration, Sharbaugh would advise them to choose the former should the number of clubs remain unchanged through tomorrow’s end of the school day deadline.

Although Sharbaugh emphasized that there is no exact minimum number of clubs needed for the carnival to occur, he did mention that it would be best to have at least twenty booths at the carnival.

In order to sign up for the carnival, club sponsors must complete and submit a fundraising form to Cheryl Beall, Centennial’s bookkeeper, and notify her that they will have a Carnival booth.

As of now, the Homecoming Carnival is scheduled for Saturday, September 28 from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Clubs typically set up their booths and fundraise by offering games or selling food and drinks. According to Beall, around 40 clubs participated in the carnival last year. She estimated that clubs normally fundraise between $50 and $100 each, and around $3,000 total at the carnival. Losing this fundraising source could negatively impact many clubs because, as Sharbaugh pointed out, “the carnival is the main fundraising activity most clubs do all year.”

In past years, the carnival has been held on the Friday afternoon of Homecoming weekend, not Saturday morning as it is this year. According to Sharbaugh, the move came over concerns about the safety and supervision of students between the end of the carnival and the start of the football game. The lack of club interest in the Homecoming Carnival this year might be due, in part, to these scheduling changes.

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End of an Era: Hollwedel Steps Away from the Sideline

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo contributed by: Wingspan Archives

When Chad Hollwedel switched his major from engineering to education, he knew that, wherever he taught, he wanted to have an impact on the school community beyond the classroom. With sports being a major part of his youth, he also knew that he wanted to coach.

However, what the 26-year-old Hollwedel didn’t know when he first started teaching at Centennial in 1997 was just how impactful his coaching would be. He didn’t know that he would help lead the basketball program to ten straight winning seasons. He didn’t know that his teams’ success would bring an entire school community together. He didn’t know that in 2015, with all of Centennial behind its back, his team would win the first boys basketball state title in school history. He didn’t know that his coaching would continue to influence and inspire his players years after they graduated. Now, twenty-two years later, with his coaching career finally coming to an end, Hollwedel knows. And so does Centennial.

When he first arrived at Centennial, Hollwedel wasted no time getting involved. In 1997, he joined the basketball program as an assistant for the Junior Varsity (JV) team. Hollwedel worked his way up the coaching ladder, serving as a Varsity assistant under head coach Jim Hill before taking over as head coach of the Junior Varsity team in the 2000–01 season. When Hill stepped down after the 2006–07 season, he felt confident leaving the program in the hands of Hollwedel.

Over the next twelve years, Hollwedel turned a historically inconsistent program into a model of consistency. After beginning his tenure with two losing seasons, Hollwedel led Centennial to ten straight winning seasons. His 193 career wins include three regional titles and one state championship.

Behind Hollwedel’s extraordinary success was his unwavering passion for the game. For twenty-two years, he devoted his life to the Centennial basketball program. For every hour of game the public watches, there are hours upon hours of practice to coach, meetings to hold, and film to watch. Factor in his off-season responsibilities and it’s easy to understand why, as Hollwedel put it, “Everything I did in my spare time was really [at Centennial].”

And while Hollwedel’s passion was evident in the amount of time he devoted to the program, it was how he coached in that time, and how much the program meant to him, which truly gave a sense of his incredible ardor.

Ben Goldsmith, a 2012 Centennial graduate, played for Hollwedel on the 2011 and 2012 regional championship teams.  In Goldsmith’s eyes, Hollwedel’s greatest skill was the passionate attitude he coached with.

“He never had an off day,” Goldsmith recalled. “Whether it was an early Saturday morning practice or over holiday break, Hollwedel brought an energy to the gym.”

This energy —a general enthusiasm for the game and a demand for excellence— was contagious.

“It was easy to play our hearts out and enjoy doing it,” explained Goldsmith, “because we had a coach who was coaching his heart out and enjoying it too.”

For many of Hollwedel’s teams, the spirited, team-oriented culture which he developed translated into on-the-court success. In Goldsmith’s junior year, Hollwedel led Centennial past the regional finals and into the state final for the first time in school history. And although the 56–44 loss to Milford Mill in the championship hurt, making it there in the first place was an extremely rewarding accomplishment for Hollwedel.

The following year, Centennial won the regional title again and made it to the state tournament for the second year in a row. Having already been there and lost, Hollwedel felt that Centennial had to win this time. So when they came back empty-handed again —this time losing to Thomas Stone in the semi-final— there was a much greater feeling of failure for Hollwedel.

“That was personally devastating at the time,” he recalled. “I was just hoping to be able to get back.”

Three years later, after posting a 20–2 regular season record and on the heels of a dramatic win at the buzzer over River Hill in the regional final, Centennial got back. And this time, with the 2012 semi-final loss still weighing heavily on his shoulders, Hollwedel felt an even greater sense of urgency to win.

Nevertheless, he entered the state tournament at ease, confident that his team would finish what his 2011 team had started.

“After [the buzzer beater], I just felt like we were going to do it. Whether I had the right to believe we were going to do it or not, I believed we were going to.”

Centennial cruised past C. Milton Wright 75–61 in the semi-final, setting up a showdown with Westlake in the state championship. It’s a game which, one may argue, epitomized Hollwedel’s career.

Hundreds of fans greeted the Centennial players and coaches as they walked onto the Xfinity Center court before the game.

“It just looked like this mountain of red,” described Hollwedel. “It was overwhelming how many people were there.”

Making up that mountain were students, parents, teachers, alumni, and future Eagles– an entire community brought together by one basketball team. Hollwedel had built something which they all found hope in together, took pride in together, and celebrated together. From when the clock started ticking till the sound of the final buzzer, his team united them as Eagles.

Those Eagles cheered on, as loud and spirited as ever. Even as the two teams battled back and forth over the first three quarters, Hollwedel and Centennial never wavered. Then, with eight minutes left to decide whether they would make history or go home devastated, Centennial broke through.

Over the final quarter, Centennial outscored Westlake 20–9. As the clock hit 0:00, sealing a 57–43 win and the first state title in school history, the mountain of red erupted into a thunderous roar.

Shortly after the game ended, the announcer called up each of the players one-by-one to receive a plaque. As Hollwedel looked back on that moment a few weeks ago, the emotions of that day, the extraordinary significance of that win to him, his players, and the community, suddenly came flooding back.

“It was the happiest and most rewarding feeling that I’ve had as a coach,” he said, holding back tears. He searched for the right words to match the magic of that moment but could not find any. His voice shaky, all he could manage was “It was indescribable.”

When it was his turn to receive the state championship trophy, and the announcer officially pronounced the Eagles as Class 3A State Champions, Hollwedel turned and hoisted it triumphantly toward the Centennial crowd. Once again, they erupted in celebration.

In a way, that trophy was theirs as much as it was his. For years, the program and the community had fed off of and strengthened each other. Now, Hollwedel had brought the ultimate prize back to the community which put him there.

“It was truly a beautiful thing to witness,” remembered Isaiah White, a senior on the 2014–15 team. “Us playing as a team, and then him turning and pumping his fist into the crowd yelling ‘Let’s go!’”

It was not only in the community, however, that Hollwedel’s passionate coaching made a difference. It was in his players as well.

White, for instance, will never forget Hollwedel’s saying, “1–0.” One of Hollwedel’s points of emphasis, it meant players should focus on one game at a time rather than the season as a whole.

“It’s something that’s stuck with me throughout other aspects of my life,” he explained, “reminding me only to take care of what I can control, and to focus on the task at hand.”

After graduating from Centennial in 2015, White went on to play Division 1 basketball at the University of Maine. In addition to teaching him intangible lessons, White credits Hollwedel with coaching him the fundamentals and laying the foundation he needed to take the next step at the college level.

“I know for a fact that he helped get me where I am today,” concluded White.

Like White, Goldsmith also played basketball collegiately after graduating from Centennial. Now, Goldsmith is finishing his second year teaching at Leonardtown Middle School and coaching basketball at Leonardtown High School. Goldsmith says that without Hollwedel, he would have never chosen this career path.

“I try to model what I do after what Coach did at Centennial,” said Goldsmith. He aspires to develop a program at Leonardtown built on teamwork and determination just like Hollwedel did at Centennial.

As Goldsmith walks in the footsteps of Hollwedel, he ensures that Hollwedel’s message and attitude will continue to impact players and communities long after his retirement from coaching. His influence now extends beyond Centennial; he has forever changed the lives of his players and they are eager to have that same effect on others.

This year, Hollwedel is stepping away from the Centennial program. The possibility had been on his mind for years. After the 2018–19 season ended in March, Hollwedel spent time reflecting and ultimately decided that now was the right time.

Most importantly, Hollwedel felt that he was having trouble maintaining the passionate energy he believes is needed to run the program.  He was a high energy coach who no longer had a high level of energy.

Also weighing into his decision was the opportunity to spend more time focusing on his family. His daughter, Emily, plays volleyball at Centennial and on a club team in the offseason. His son, Ryan, is planning on playing basketball at Hood College this winter.  He is looking forward to spending more time watching and enjoying both of their athletic careers.

“I definitely just want to be a dad,” he explained.

While Hollwedel admits that it will be “extremely hard” to step away from something that has played such an important role in his life for the past twenty-two years, he doesn’t feel hesitant about his decision.

Hollwedel expects that stepping away from the basketball program will be similar to when he stepped away from coaching football. He noted that, even though Friday nights were tough for him at first, “It didn’t last very long. I still knew that I could enjoy it without being on the other side of the fence.”

With that being said, there are certainly some aspects of coaching that Hollwedel will miss. He says that the packed crowds, the thrill and emotion of the game, and the opportunity to grow relationships with his players all come to his mind.

In his twenty-two years at Centennial, coaching has become part of Chad Hollwedel’s identity. Visit him on any given day and you’ll likely find him in a Centennial basketball t-shirt, teaching in a classroom whose walls are lined with pictures and newspaper clippings of the program he helped build. He says he’ll miss having that as part of his identity, miss people saying “Hey, Coach” in the hallway. In a few years, he expects that there’ll be kids who never even knew he coached. And for an ordinary coach, that may be true. But Hollwedel’s coaching career was bigger than basketball. In turning the Centennial basketball program into a consistent winner, Hollwedel brought an entire community together. Through his passion and leadership, he made a difference in, often even changed, the lives of countless players. And so, even as Hollwedel steps away from the sideline, to all of those people whose lives he touched, whether they were part of the program or cheering it on, he will always be “Coach.”

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This article is featured in the 2019 Takeover Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

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

Centennial Cheers on Law Enforcement Torch Run

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photos: Zach Grable

Centennial students and staff took a break from their usual routine Thursday morning to support the Law Enforcement Torch Run, a public awareness and fundraising group which supports the Special Olympics.

As students clapped and cheered, law enforcement, along with some Special Olympics athletes, ran down Centennial Lane carrying the Flame of Hope, the Special Olympics torch.

In preparation for the Special Olympics Maryland Summer Games, the torch has been passed between Maryland counties. The games are set to begin this Friday at Towson University.

Each year, 97,000 law enforcement officers participate in the Law Enforcement Torch Run, carrying the Flame of Hope into local, state, national, and world competitions.

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

The History of Centennial’s Senior Traditions

Words: Caleb McClatchey

Photo: Zach Grable

On a late May night nearly 40 years ago, Centennial’s class of 1979 gathered in the auditorium. One by one they walked across the stage, received their diploma, and walked off into the next chapter of their lives. They left behind a school just like them– young and ambitious. They were both blank slates waiting to be filled with countless experiences and memories.

Now, 39 graduating classes and thousands of alumni later, Centennial is no longer the blank slate it used to be. Centennial has its own identity, its own culture, and its own traditions. For generations of seniors, these traditions have helped shape their time at Centennial. And while traditions like homecomings and Hebron games were enjoyed all four years, some of the most memorable and meaningful ones only came once. These senior-only traditions, some of which date all the way back to the Class of ‘79, have provided students with the chance to celebrate, reminisce, and enjoy their final year at Centennial.

The Senior Crab Feast, typically the first senior activity of every school year, took place for the first time on October 6, 1978– making it the first official senior activity in Centennial’s history. Although the menu has varied slightly, the event always kicks off senior year with a casual night of crabs and music with friends. Ever since it began, the overarching goal of the crab feast has remained the same: to help the senior class begin the year with a sense of unity.

According to Lisa Schoenbrodt, a member of the Class of 1979 Senior Board, the board originally decided to organize the crab feast because nearby schools, including those which Centennial’s newly-created student body came from, already hosted similar activities.

Following the crab feast, there is a lull in senior activities as winter sets in. By February, however, with every college application turned in and midterm completed, seniors begin to focus on their much anticipated graduation and the warm summer to follow. The Senior Luau, ironically held in chilly February, allows seniors to start getting in that summer mindset early with a Hawaiian themed night. Dressed in Hawaiian shirts and leis, seniors enjoy a laid-back, tropical atmosphere brought to life with music, dancing, and food.

Unlike the crab feast, the Luau didn’t begin with Centennial’s first senior class and hasn’t been held continuously since its beginning. In fact, it began with the Class of 1982, who, following a successful crab feast, wanted to host another “casual” event before graduation.

“Jimmy Buffett was popular, the Beach Boys would play at the Washington Monument each Fourth of July, so, we figured, why not squeeze one more ‘summer’ event into the year,” recalled Karen Donegan, president of the 1982 Senior Board.

Six years later, in 1988, the senior board decided to replace the Luau with a fancier class night. The Luau returned the next year before again disappearing in 1993.

While the Luau and Crab Feast serve as more relaxed events for seniors, prom is a different story. Although Centennial’s prom is open to both juniors and seniors, senior year prom, typically seen as a sort of “last ride” for students with graduation fast approaching, takes on added significance.

When Centennial opened as a new school for the 1977-78 school year, there was no senior class, so a junior-only prom was held. Centennial’s first junior-senior prom came a year later, on May 12, 1979, at the Kittamaquandi Room by Lake Kittamaquandi in Columbia. Since then, many more locations, including the Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore Grand, M&T Bank Stadium, and Martin’s West, have played host to Centennial’s prom.

Outside of the venue, the differences between the prom of today and the prom of the past are limited. Look through the the prom pages of Centennial’s forty-one yearbooks and you’ll start to find that the forty-one different stories, each with their own characters, their own settings, are really just the same story told by forty-one different classes of Centennial students. It’s a story of corsages, of boutonnieres, of dresses, of tuxedos, of limos, of hours of hectic preparation and weeks of nervous anticipation, all coming together, along with countless Centennial couples and friends, for one night full of grandeur and splendor.

And when prom ends, whether it be at 1:00am as it did in 1979, or 11:00pm  as it did in 2019, seniors still have one more night to look forward to spending together before their graduation. Class night, as the name suggests, gives the whole senior class one last chance to celebrate how far they’ve come and reminisce over the years they’ve spent together.

Centennial’s first class night, held just two days before the graduation of Centennial’s first class, took place at La Fontaine Bleue, an event venue in Glen Burnie. The event, slightly more formal than current class nights, featured dancing to live music, a dinner buffet, and reading of seniors’ wills.

Seniors in the class of 1979 gather for the first
ever crab feast. Photo contributed by: Eyrie

Up until the mid 2000s, class nights were mainly held at local hotels or other event venues, such as Martin’s West. In recent years, however, more classes have chosen to take the party from the dancefloor to the deck, with cruises becoming popular alternatives to traditional dances.

The theme that seems to emerge from every senior event, and in particular class night, is unity. As graduation draws near, students begin to realize how ingrained their classmates have been in their lives over the past four, seven, sometimes twelve years. And while yearbooks and pictures can ensure the memories they made and the friendships they forged are never forgotten, the time they spent together, the time which once seemed limitless, is now ever so finite.

Most of Centennial’s first class, composed entirely of students uprooted from their original high schools after their sophomore year, came from Mount Hebron, with a smaller portion coming from other feeder schools. Unsurprisingly, becoming a unified class wasn’t so easy.

“We had to really rally our class to come to some events, like dances,” remembered Schoenbrodt. “It took some time for our class to become a cohesive unit.”

Yet even for the Class of 1979, as the 1978-79 edition of Eyrie wrote, “What particularly characterized Class Night was the harmony which surfaced among such a diverse senior class.”

Outside of the longstanding senior traditions at Centennial, many other senior events and activities have come and gone since 1978. In the 1970s and 80s, some of Centennial’s senior classes took trips to Great Adventure amusement park in New Jersey. The Class of 1993 held a Senior Fiesta featuring a variety of festively dressed seniors. The Class of 1994 hosted a Toga Dance complete with prizes for the most creative, most colorful, and ugliest togas. These short-lived traditions, and the many others like them, are testaments to the remarkable staying power of the Crab Feast, Senior Luau, Prom, and Class Night.

What stands out about Centennial’s senior traditions is the extraordinary timelessness of them all. In the 42 years since Centennial opened, much has changed at the school and in the world in general. Yet now, in a new century, a new millennium, Centennial’s seniors flock to the crab feast, prom, and class night just as Centennial’s very first class did so many years ago. Maybe it’s because of our unchanging love of crabs. Maybe it’s because of our timeless desire for a night of luxury and limos. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something deeper at play. Maybe it’s because as the rest of our lives creep up on us, slowly at first, then faster and faster, we want, or rather, we need, chances to enjoy the present. We need those chances before they, like the present, slip away into the past.

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This article is featured in the 2019 Senior Issue.  To see the full issue, Click Here!

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