Tag: Caroline Chu

Those Who Don’t Celebrate Christmas: What’s the Holiday Season Like?

Photos: Minah Mubasher and Harshitha Sayini / Words: Caroline Chu

Symbols of Christmas are everywhere. Blow-up figures of Santa dotting lawns, Christmas tree cookies sold at chain restaurants, and wreaths covering neighborhood doors are all commonly-seen images.

These symbols represent a vast majority of American beliefs. According to Gallup, 75% of Americans identify with a Christian religion. However, not everyone celebrates Christmas. This statistic seems to suggest that 25% of Americans, a sizeable portion of the United States, do not celebrate the holiday.

Members of this religious, or non-religious in some cases, minority may feel left out during the holiday season because of the fact that such an emphasis is placed on Christmas in American society.

Some of the people that fall under this blanket religious category are Amirah Elgendy, Jake Horen, and Zoha Fatima, all Centennial students.

Elgendy is a Sunni Muslim, and feels as though society is not as inclusive as it could be. She states, “[The holiday season] does not tie all religions together as well as it could because holidays like Hanukkah and Kwanzaa aren’t given as much attention during this time.” Horen, who is Jewish, echos similar beliefs in that he interprets holidays other than Christmas as still represented, but not to nearly the degree Christmas is.

Fatima, a Shia Muslim, sees things in a harsher light, believing that Muslim holidays are not represented well throughout greater American society, but also believes that this representation will increase over time.

However, the period from late November to January 1 is still overwhelmingly positive through the eyes of a few non-Christian Centennial students. Elgendy points out the fact that many people who aren’t Christian still celebrate Christmas, and that therefore, many Americans are tied together through widespread celebration.

Horen is similarly convinced that the holiday season, a season in which he is able to be an individual and celebrate Judaism, “brings everyone together.”

To him, this feeling of unity may ironically spring from the differences between groups of people. He believes that “everyone does their own thing in the holiday season, and who am I to try and change things up?” After all, these differences in viewpoint are crucial for the formation of identity and individuality.  

It’s important to remember that different religions still value many of the same principles, and time with family is an example of this. Because school is held during Eid, a Muslim holiday which can fall between November or December, Fatima is unable to visit Muslim family members living in London or Pakistan, which she wishes she could do.

During the same holiday, Elgendy does a special prayer with her family in the morning, and always celebrates with them by eating out. Like Elgendy, Horen uses a holiday he celebrates — Hanukkah — to connect with his family, lighting the menorah and saying prayers with his close relatives.

Concepts like closeness with family may allow for an expansion in recognition of winter holidays other than Christmas. Elgendy has a hope for the future of the United States of America: an expansion in knowledge of differences. She comments, “[Americans should] stay educated on the multiple other religious holidays during the holiday season, and recognize them.”

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

Earth Day Opportunities

Words: Caroline Chu

Earth Day is celebrated annually on April 22. Here are a few events you may want to attend.

Plant a tree!

The Howard County Conservancy, a local non-profit educational center and land trust, will be holding a tree planting event in Mount Pleasant from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Service hour certification is available upon request.

Attend SpringFest!

An annual event in Old Ellicott City, this festival includes live music, crafts, and shopping. Attend from 12:00-7:30 p.m.

Run a 5K!

The Run For Nature Earth Day 5K will take place in Annapolis at the Quiet Waters Park. The event starts at 9 a.m. Registration is $20, and all proceeds will benefit the Friends of Quiet Waters Park Nature Center campaign.

Visit the zoo!

Earth Optimism Day is an event organized by the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C, and will run from 10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m. Help decorate bee hotels, learn about coral reef conservation, or participate in a conservation-focused scavenger hunt.

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

Life After Injury: Mia Smith

Words: Caroline Chu

On January 5, Centennial junior Mia Smith suffered a harrowing injury, a torn ACL. A member of Centennial High School’s Girls’ Varsity Basketball Team, as well as Centennial’s Senior Dance Company, she worried that her injury would impact her ability to participate in the activities she loved.

Though she was not able to stand or walk by herself, Smith first believed she had just twisted her knee, and that she would be cleared to play basketball in a week or so. Sadly, she found out that she had torn her ACL a week after the accident, around the time she thought she would be back to dribbling and pirouetting.

Despite her season ending injury, Smith remained a team player and supported her teammates, showing up to nearly every practice and game.

For the two months before her surgery, she went to physical therapy led by Centennial High School’s trainer Amanda Ward.

The first five days after surgery were long as Smith was on bed rest. She needed to wear a brace for two weeks and use crutches for three, and was certainly happy once the equipment phase was over.

Attending physical therapy two times a week has aided in allowing Smith to become as flexible and as strong as she was before her injury. Though she described the early stages of recovery as “painful and exhausting,” she now looks forward to “recovering quickly and easily.”

In the future, Smith will need to wear a knee brace when playing sports, but she hopes that her injury will otherwise not continue to impact her life a year from now.

Smith learned a lot throughout the difficult process, “if I was in shape, ate healthy, and was prepared for the basketball season, my injury might not have been as terrible. Next year when basketball season comes around I’ll definitely be sure to fuel my body correctly and make sure I can endure all the physical aspects of practice and games.”

A strong support system composed of her parents, sister, teammates, and friends helped Smith push forward in her recovery. Smith will continue to work hard so she can return to both the stage and the court for her last year at Centennial.

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

Moody’s Mega Math Challenge Review

Words: Caroline Chu

On Saturday, February 25, two Centennial teams competed in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge. This year’s problem required students to create a model that would determine the overall risk posed to specific national parks as a result of climate change.

Senior Suzie Byun led Mr. Watson’s team, and senior Sahil Saini headed Mr. Kennedy’s team. The two teams were not competitive with each other, and even shared food during lunch. Saini said the competitors were “happy campers.”

The competition, which focuses on real-life modeling, is described by Byun as “a different type of approach to math.”

Though the real-life application area of mathematics was not something most competitors were used to, Byun still hopes both teams finished well.

The competition results will be announced in April.

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

Moody’s Mega Math Challenge

Words: Caroline Chu

On February 25, ten Centennial students, divided into two teams of five, will compete in Moody’s Mega Math Challenge.

The Challenge requires each group to work with one teacher-coach to solve a 14-hour applied mathematics problem. Past problems have included those related to car usage, the value of higher education, and student nutrition.

Robert Kennedy and Timothy Watson, two of Centennial’s math teachers, plan to lead the two teams. The problem will be received at 7 a.m. and a solution will be uploaded at 9 p.m.

Ten students were selected to represent Centennial High School in the Challenge this year. Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Watson chose these contestants from a group of 15 with the help from Elaine Whalen, another Centennial teacher.

A panel of 225 Ph.D.- level applied mathematicians will determine the Challenge finalists sometime in April. Scholarship prizes for the competition total $150,000, and the grand prize is $20,000, which is divided among the winning team members.

Kennedy discussed the prospect of a future program that would start training competitors as ninth-graders, which would increase the chances of Centennial teams taking home a win.

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

Centennial Students Qualify for FIRST Tech Challenge States

Words: Caroline Chu

Centennial students Mathew Zhang, Andrew Zhao, Mathew Zou, and Keertik Bacon won the county level qualification round for the FIRST Tech Challenge on January 29.

The competition requires competitors to build and program their own robots and battle other teams. Zhang, Zhao, Zou, and Bacon, along with Burleigh Manor Middle School student, Philip Wang, will move onto states after their win.

The state-level competition will be held at Mount Saint Mary’s University on February 12.

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

National Honor Society Induction

Words: Caroline Chu

On Thursday, January 12, Centennial’s National Honor Society inducted their new members.

The event began with a president’s welcome from senior Brittney Murugesan, included a performance from the Centennial Orchestra Quartet, and ended with a speech from Principal Claire Hafets.

The inducted students received certificates, roses, and applause from the audience.

Kristin Shipp, one of the two society advisors and an English teacher at Centennial, stated that the ceremony was focused on “celebrating the accomplishments of these students in serving their community and in embodying strong moral character in all that they do.”

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