Tag: Eliza Andrew

Principal Cynthia Dillon Reflects on Her First Year

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photo: Eliza Andrew

In a school of 1,612 students, a single face passes by new principal Cynthia Dillon. She says hello, just as the student smiles with a welcoming invitation to their club event later in the week. With a beaming look she says, yes, of course!

Dillon, after almost 180 days of being principal of Centennial High School, has attended nearly every student event possible: from band concerts, to It’s Academic tournaments, art galleries, sports games, and Worldfest. She has devoted the majority of her time here to the students– their individual needs, requests, and ideas.

“The hard part was when a kid would say to me in the hallway, ‘Hey, can you come to this tonight?’ I kind of felt like I couldn’t say no… my job is to be here for you and serve you,” Dillon assured. “If there’s a kid who wants you to come, you’re there.”

The average high schooler, as Dillon has noticed, yearns for change. She is fascinated by Centennial’s students, who yearn for school inclusion, safety, and success.

Such student-driven change can only make for an exciting, yet overwhelming year. As principal, handling such drive can become a challenge.

With only seven hours in a school day, and an exponential number of people to oversee, Dillon recognizes the powerful position she holds, and how different it is from being principal of a middle school.

“I quickly figured out what I do, because there are twice as many of you, twice as many teachers, twice as many parents, but I still have the same 7-hour day,” said Dillon. “So when you guys come to my door, I’m stopping what I’m doing.”

Out of the plethora of memorable moments from the past school year, the ones that stuck out most to Dillon were the individual, intimate conversations with students. The most seemingly insignificant and trivial responses may last a lifetime.

Despite these incredible moments, not all moments have been positive. Such an intensive job can only come with extreme highs and lows, times in which school conflicts feel endless, and parking permits may never be resolved.

“Another thing I care about is equity,” said Dillon. “If we take the parking for example, we asked every high school in the county, what is your process, how do you issue permits?”

In the heights of such student, teacher, or parent frustration, Dillon must sit back and understand her place.

“The hardest thing in the first year in any assignment is stopping and watching. So what I think it should be, may not be what it is here, and just because it’s not what I think it should be doesn’t mean it’s wrong,” said Dillon. “It’s just different.”

Upon walking through the expansive front doors of Centennial High School, Dillon immediately felt a wave of anxiety among the students. What formerly had been only warnings of the competitive nature became reality within an instant. Centennial’s high-achieving reputation does not exist without truth, as she discovered.  Students from ages 14 to 18 crowd the halls in discussion of their grades, SAT scores, AP test results, and anxieties.

“Certain students stress themselves out trying to achieve at such high levels that it’s emotionally unhealthy. I think a big part of this issue stems from students being reticent to talk about their stress.”

Dillon has appreciated every second she has spent in Centennial, learning and understanding the school’s community. Centennial, as she put it, is like no other. Especially different from that of middle schools, high schoolers possess an interest in the community’s well being. Often taken aback by the intensity of student passion, Dillon appreciates student conversation.

“All of a sudden, my primary target customers [students] are advocating for themselves, and coming to the door, whereas middle schoolers will very rarely seek you out.”

In Dillon’s past experience as a middle school principal of 12 years, she learned lessons she thought would be applicable to this new job, but soon realized otherwise. The most significant lessons, recalled Dillon, came from recognizing there was a lot to learn.

“A couple times this year I’ve made decisions like a middle school principal and not a high school principal… and didn’t go and say hey, this is what I’d like to see, how can we make it happen,” Dillon stated. “Once or twice I ruffled some feathers unintentionally.”

In just a year’s time, a lot has changed in Centennial. Most of all, it may be Dillon’s view of her position, and the students who make it possible. An experience many high schoolers can describe as the best of times, and the worst of times, is a year to remember- as Dillon’s legacy has only just begun.

Most importantly, to Dillon, of course, is her relationship with the students. “I think the role of the principal is to serve,” she says.

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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.

Cosining Off: Math Teacher Mr. Coe Retires

Words: Delanie Tucker

Photo: Eliza Andrew

For the past 37 years at Centennial High School, students have walked the halls, whispering about a certain class and how its teacher never fails to match his shoes to his outfit.

Math teacher Alan Coe is commonly known for his coordinating clothes, sarcasm, and, more often than not, strictness in the classroom.

It’s no secret that his class is harder than most, but at the end of the day, his students have nothing but positive things to say about their experiences in his class and, more specifically, their bittersweet feelings towards his retirement.

“While the material was rigorous and often confusing, Coe was always very dedicated to helping students understand the material,” junior Piper Berry commented. “He would always answer my millions of questions until I understood the concept.”

Berry had Coe for two years, and during that time he left quite the impression.

“Coe taught me that I am capable of way more than I think I am. He always encouraged me to try my best and keep going when I was stuck,” Berry stated. “Even when I would doubt myself he would push me to keep trying and believe I could do it instead of giving up.”

Sophomore Kiran Vepa said, “It was a hard class, sure, but nothing I couldn’t handle. It sucks that he’s leaving, though, because he made an impact on so many people and now no one else will get to experience that.”

Prior to working at Centennial, Coe studied at Buffalo State College in New York, majoring in teaching and minoring in mathematics.

Out of college, he did three years of teaching in Virginia and Southern Maryland, before settling in Howard County.

Centennial was a new environment for everyone involved, as it was a fairly new school, but Coe adjusted easily and enjoyed the spirited atmosphere the school upheld.

“In the first 15 or 20 years of being here there was a whole lot of school spirit, and it wasn’t just around the academics,” Coe stated. “It was a sports-oriented school. This school was huge in athletics.”

Another thing Coe has grown to admire about Centennial is what it teaches.

“[Centennial is] driven to make sure students are ready for everything that they are going to do,” Coe said. “Whether they go into college or go into a career, it really does try and get them ready for the next step.”

As for his own impact on Centennial, he believes he has done well to teach his students independence, and that they will carry that skill with them as they finish high school and move into college.

According to Coe, he taught them “to be able to think on their own. To not have to rely on someone else to tell them exactly what to do.”

While Alan Coe has been making a difference at Centennial for a long time, he is not the only one who will leave a lasting impact on the school. His daughter, Kayleigh Coe, is another Eagle who will be leaving at the end of this school year.

As a freshman at Centennial, Kayleigh was more out of the loop than most. She went to a middle school with kids that would go to Mount Hebron High School, which is where she would have gone had her father not been a teacher at CHS.

“At first, I was hesitant because I was leaving all my friends,” Coe stated. “However, I realized that I was going to have an opportunity to make new ones.”

Despite her unfamiliarity with her fellow classmates, the school itself was nothing new, as she “grew up here and scootered around the hallways.”

“I will definitely miss that once I graduate and my dad retires.”

Another thing Kayleigh will miss as she moves on to college is her English teacher, Sara Duran.

“[Duran] has taught me so much in the two years that I have had her,” Coe expressed. “She inspires me almost every day to try and never give up.”

Similarly, Duran expressed her feelings on having Kayleigh as a student, and how her presence in the classroom made a difference.

“Kayleigh was a very dedicated student and constantly came to class prepared,” Duran commented. “She was a pleasure to have in class both years and I know that my class would have been a completely different place had she not been there.”

Regardless of her father being a teacher, Coe’s academic success was due to her own motivation and determination to work hard in the classroom.

She explained that her parents never had to push her in school, and her father’s presence in the school hardly affected her work rate.

“I don’t think going to my dad’s school made me try harder,” Kayleigh Coe said. “I already try hard in all of my classes.”

Coe continued by saying, “My parents don’t really put any pressure on me with grades because I already put enough pressure on myself.”

This consistent work effort in school was awarded with an academic scholarship to West Virginia University.

Even though Alan Coe never really had to push his daughter, he was still there for her when she needed it.

“My dad has supported me through everything and I’m so lucky to have him,” Kayleigh Coe commented.

Alan Coe also said a few words about his daughter, explaining that in her years at Centennial he did, in fact, teach her.

“I taught her for only one year.”

And that she did teach him a thing or two.

“[Kayleigh taught me] patience,” Alan Coe laughed.

In their time at Centennial, both Coes will leave an impact on the people and place around them, one that will stick, even after they’re gone.

Likewise, Centennial, whether it be the people or the place itself, is leaving a lasting impression on the pair, teaching lessons that may not have been learned otherwise.

Kayleigh Coe, in particular, said that she’ll do well to remember what she learned as she moves out of high school and into the real world.

“One thing I’ve learned [at Centennial] is that no matter how hard things are at the time, you will always come out on the other side.”

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

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

Centennial Boys’ Varsity Lacrosse Wins Overtime Thriller Versus Rival Mount Hebron

Words: Joey Sedlacko

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On Friday, April 26, the Centennial Varsity Boys’ Lacrosse team defeated their rival Mount Hebron High School 6-5 in overtime.

The game-winning goal came from senior midfielder Andrew Kauffman who scored with 3:40 left in overtime. Junior attackman Connor Carpenter assisted Kauffman, who was cutting down the middle for the goal which would secure the Eagles the victory.

Early in the first quarter, the Eagles found themselves down 2-0, but were able to regain their momentum on defense to allow no more goals in the second half, leading at halftime 3-2.

It was a back-and-forth game in the second half. Late in the fourth quarter, junior midfielder Ty Sams scored an unassisted goal to tie the game 5-5.

In overtime, sophomore midfielder Ryan Firebaugh won the opening faceoff which gave the Eagles the first opportunity to score which the Eagles converted on.

The boys’ lacrosse team’s next game will be against Glenelg High School on Wednesday, May 1 at 5:30pm.

 

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

Centennial Celebrates Culture

Words: Madison Baltimore

Photos: Eliza Andrew & Natalie Knight-Griffin

On April 11, 2019, Centennial’s annual WorldFEST took place; a celebration of the many cultures that make up Centennial’s student body.

The event started with food served from 5 to 7 pm, followed by rotations of activities, including a trivia game put on by It’s Academic. After the rotations of activities, a talent show, fashion show and taekwondo demonstration concluded the evening in the auditorium from 8 to 9 pm.

Junior Daria Cara expressed how much she enjoys the fashion show aspect of WorldFEST and its impact on the school and the community.

“I absolutely adored the fashion show! It was absolutely wonderful seeing so many different cultures, and seeing everyone so confident and having so much fun on stage,” stated Cara.

Different clubs each served food at WorldFEST, ranging from sushi, to pizza, to funnel cake. The different activities that took place from 7:10 to 7:55 pm were Hair Braiding, Anti-Human Trafficking, Diversity in the Media, Latin Dancing, Taekwondo, Irish Dancing and It’s Academic Trivia.

Students from National Honor Society and the National Dance Honor Society, Delta Eta Pi, participated in the fashion and talent show, as well as students not in either honor society.

WorldFEST continues to celebrate Centennial’s unique diversity.

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

RISE Conference Inspires Students in STEM

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On April 1, 2019, Centennial’s National Science Honor Society hosted its annual RISE Conference. Students interested in pursuing the STEM field attended to explore internship opportunities, meet mentors, exchange ideas, and learn from the society members’ project boards. The night consisted of a jam-packed event calendar, from interactive discussions to intellectual student conversations.

Keynote speaker and director of data analytics for the Baltimore Ravens, Eugene Shen, gave an hour-long talk and presentation of what he felt leads to success. Meant to inspire, engage, and educate, Shen’s personable lecture captured the audience.

“If you put your mind to something, you can achieve it,” said Shen, promoting the main idea of his talk.

After Shen’s presentation, students participated in various workshops of their choice, each consisting of one out of seven STEM professionals representing their respective fields.

Following the workshop was the gallery walk, which included an impressive display of student-created projects and boards, depicting studies from computer science to data analytics.

As night rolled around, students began their second round of workshops, offering them the opportunity to engage with numerous professionals and explore multiple fields.

Students participating in the conference felt as though the experience provided a stronger pathway for their futures.

“I think the RISE Conference is an opportunity for high school students to expand their boundaries and horizons in what they want to do in life,” stated junior Shubi Saxena.

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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.

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.