Tag: Mariam Shafy

TedX: Students Share Their Stories

Words: Mariam Abd El-Shafy

On Thursday, February 27, Centennial High School’s Young Democrats held a TedX Talk from 6:00pm until 9:00pm. There were eight speakers, Emily Kim, Farah Helal, Natalie Knight-Griffin, Calvin Lee, Brendan Hlibok, Hibah Khan, Adam Goldstein, Caio Goolsby, and two workshop hosts Peter Wilschke and David Aylaian. Each speaker had around 10 minutes to present their topic and share their story. During the 30-minute intermission, the audience enjoyed the provided food and engaged in the workshops.     

The club has been applying to Tedx for three years with hopes of being accepted. This year, the current presidents, seniors Lexi Fang and Sonia Saini, were in charge of planning the event.

The theme “The Essence of a Changing World” allowed students to talk about the problems they have faced and have overcome in today’s world. The goal of the event was to give selected students the opportunity to share their stories with peers who may be dealing with similar struggles.

Saini says, “a lot of the things they’re talking about are things that people need to hear but are kind of unspoken.”

  In senior Calvin Lee’s TedX Talk, he explained the hardship of wanting to pursue art in a society that does not accept it as an actual career. “I’m speaking on studying the visual arts, and how someone who grew up in this area- a strict academic environment- [goes] from there to…full-on [pursuing their dreams].”

Junior Brendan Hlibok was grateful for the opportunity to speak about growing up with two deaf parents, and gave thanks for the opportunity TedX has given him. “I’m glad that I’m able to share [my story] with everyone, because if it were just me trying to get my story out person by person it would not be as effective and impactful.”

Senior Emily Kim talked about what she called the “10-second skip.” She shared her personal experience as a young female in the workplace, and how she wished she could have applied the 10-second skip. “[The 10-second skip] enables us to skip what we feel uncomfortable viewing, but in real life we don’t have a 10-second skip. It’s about how, in the digital age, we have to face what we’re uncomfortable with,” Kim shared.

A member of the audience, Senior Reshma Jasmin, shared the impact of the talks after the show. “Being told the choices I would like to make aren’t dumb, which is not what I normally hear, is reasurring and it makes me feel comforted going into what I like.” 

Sophomore Vanisha Maram explained the variety of the TedX talks. “Some tugged on my heart strings, some made me worry…all of them were so well thought out.” 

After the show, the sponsor of the club and event, teacher Corry O’Brien, reflected on the impact of the event. “I don’t see the actual [speeches], I see the people afterwards and the smiles were huge, you could see the heart in their faces…and that’s beautiful, that connection, there’s nothing more meaningful than that.” 

After the event, the team gathered to share heartwarming words. “Watching them on stage literally brought tears to my eyes,” said Fang, “It takes strength to be that vulnerable in front of people you don’t really know and they rose to the challenge…they were amazing.”


To view the TedX Talks on youtube, click here!

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

Visitors From Korea

Words: Mariam Abd El-Shafy

Photos: Ellie Zoller-Gritz

Video by: Alexandra Valerio

On Tuesday, January 14, 12 students from Korea visited Centennial High School to experience the American school system.

Centennial has a very strong relationship with foreign exchange agencies; it has accepted many different guests from all around the world seeking cultural enrichment.

These students are attendees of the Kyeongbuk Science High School in Pohang, South Korea. For most of them, it was their first time visiting the country. Kim Tae-Hyung, a senior at his school, says although they’ve only been here for a short time, he is “very excited to be here.”

Staying for the ten days of their winter break, these students visited Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Montgomery County before they came to Centennial. For the next few days they will be joining the Johns Hopkins Cognitive Psychology Research Program before leaving for New York and Boston.

Jihyang Cheon, a senior exchange student says, “I really like it here.” She is learning a lot about the American public school system through the many differences.
“We stay in our own classroom, and the teachers come… we also stay in a dormitory,” she says.

Cheon explains that through this experience of visiting Centennial and other American schools, she is hoping to learn more about the culture before applying to American colleges. “This [trip] is to learn about the science programs here, but my big goal in America is to attend MIT.”

The students say they have been given a great opportunity and are very excited to see what it leads to.

Click here to view a video of the students visiting Centennial!



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

Uighur Awareness Day

Words & Photos: Mariam Abd El-Shafy

The Centennial Muslim Student Association (MSA) held an event called Uighur Awarness Day on Wednesday, October 30. The MSA asked students of Centennial to wear blue, the color of the Uighur flag, and paint the flag on their faces to encourage questions and raise awareness.

The Uighur people are a Muslim minority group in Xinjiang, northwest China. At least one million Uighurs that inhabit China have been detained by the Chinese government in what the PBS NewsHour have termed “re-education centers.” Their article shared on October 4, 2019, described how the Chinese government had been denying the existence of the centers until satellite imagery of buildings surrounded by barbed wire were found by Google map satellites. Members of the minority group who escaped claimed to be detained, interrogated, and beaten in these “re-education centers.” 

In June 2019, BBC’s John Sudworth shared the extreme measures China takes in keeping the conditions of the Uighur people silent in his documentary, “Searching for Truth in China’s Uighur ‘Re-Education’ Camps.” Like the documentary, the MSA’s purpose was to educate students on the crisis in China. Farah Helal, MSA President, explains the approach the MSA took in educating the Centennial Community. “During our morning information and activity session, we made sure to separate what the government is doing from actual Chinese citizens and draw light to the Uighurs’ amazing history, cultural traditions, religious uniqueness, and current struggle underneath the government’s rule.” 

A Uighur Centennial student, who, for her safety, will be referred to as Emily, also believes it is important to educate people on the subject because of the great ignorance surrounding it. “A lot of students [don’t] know what’s going on in China, ” she said. “The only thing I can do is to let more people know.”

The MSA believes the Uighur Awareness Day was a great way to educate students on the subject. “A great number of students learned about a population of the world currently struggling, allowing Muslim and Uighur students the opportunity to make a topic close to their hearts heard,” said Helal. 

Emily immigrated to the United States from China three years ago. Most of her family still resides in China and is greatly impacted by the government’s actions against their people. “One day, my mom got a call from the government… and they [told] my mother, ‘your brother is in the camp.’ He’s [been] in jail for more than four years now,” Emily shares. 

Sajjan M. Gohel shares in his article, “The Seven Stages of Terriorism in China,” published on The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, that China took action against the Uighur people because of a terrorist attack on Tiananmen Square by The Turkistan Islamic Party in 2013, which left five people dead and 38 harmed. The organization’s leader, Abdullah Mansour, then threatened the government with more attacks. In 2017, this lead the Xinjiang government to pass a law prohibiting men from growing long beards and women from wearing veils. According to Gohel, Uighur citizens were then detained for their belief in Islam.

 “I was so mad [at myself]; why am I a Uighur? Why have these things happened to me, and my family, and my nation,” Emily said. 

Helal explains the reason behind the club’s decision in representing the Uighurs. “The Uighurs specifically caught our attention due to the increased inhumanity towards them this summer from forced labor and quartering to organ harvesting.” 

22 countries of the United Nations condemned China for its treatment of the Uighurs; however, 33 applauded China’s attempt in suppressing terrorism. China’s crackdown on terrorists has stopped terror attacks for almost five years, says Gohel. But in doing so, Emily says that they have also wiped out the culture of the Uighur people. 

“[The Chinese government] never taught me who I am, my history, my nation’s history… when I came to the United States I did a lot of research; my parents told me who I am and who the Uighur people are, and I was so surprised,” Emily shares. 

 Though there are limits to what a club can do, the MSA pushed the boundaries to speak up for an important part of the Centennial community. “Talking about sensitive issues and gaining others’ perspectives is important to understanding one another, and we believe that these awareness days are a great way to share our side of the events in the media directly with our peers and teachers,” said Helal. “We will continue our awareness days at school so the communities our diverse club-members care about get the right attention and discussion time in the Centennial community.”


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

Changes to Centennial’s Parking Lot

Words: Mariam Abd El-Shafy   

Photos: Eliza Andrew

When students returned from summer break for the 2019-20 school year, there were some major changes made to Centennial’s parking lot. 

Last school year, students without parking permits overcrowded the school’s lot. Parents dropping off their children were unfamiliar with the drop-off rules in the morning, which made it extremely difficult to park. The after-school rush of buses and students all leaving at the same time without adequate traffic rules caused the parking lot to break out into chaos daily. 

Autumn Moore, a driving senior at Centennial, recounts, “there were always so many traffic jams, you couldn’t park. You couldn’t even exit the parking lot because there were so many cars.” 

This year, the school has formalized processes in an attempt to make the parking lot safer. The school has established rules for dropping children off, differentiated between student and staff parking with paint-markings and signs, changed the pattern of the stop signs by adding two new ones and taking one away, and limited the amount of permits given to students. 

“Last year, I got 12 anonymous letters in the mail from parents begging me to do something about the parking lot.” Principal Cynthia Dillon explains that these changes were necessary for the school to maintain a sense of safety. 

“It’s definitely more controlled now,” said Moore, reacting to the new changes. 

“It’s not as hard to park in the mornings; there’s not as much confusion.” 

However, some parents have a different outlook on these new changes. “Things are slow now,” Balpreet Bhamra, a Centennial parent, claims, and “no different than before,” in terms of student safety. 

Some parents, like Jonathan Davis, have the complete opposite view. “If a parent drops off earlier instead of waiting until they are near the gym, they can exit more quickly. The crossing guard is a vital part of the new system,” says Davis. “With everyone dropping off along the curb it’s safer!” 

Davis, however, does see room for even more improvement. “To be even safer, I wonder if they could actually pave along the curb all the way up to the tennis courts since that is where you are asking us to drop off our kids. I’m worried that when it’s snowy, wet, no one will want to get out and walk on the dirt path.” 

Senior Helen Pantoulis agrees with Davis and Moore.

“I see what the stop signs… were intended for, and I believe that something needed to change,” she says.

However, Pantoulis does not believe these changes have been for the better.

“It’s really scary and confusing, and everyone who parks around me has expressed frustration. Many students in a rush will speed out in front of other cars,” says Pantoulis. “I think [the parking lot] has become even more chaotic.” 

Before the school year, many school departments, such as administration and building services, held a meeting in order to address the dangers of the lot. Cameron Rahnama, assistant principal of Centennial, explains the process of establishing these changes. “We involved all of the responsible parties that we could think of to have out there, so when we developed what we were going to do, it was a joint effort, it wasn’t just Mrs. Dillon and [me].” 

Administration admits one of the negative side effects of the changes is parents dropping off their children in random places across Centennial Lane. “It’s really not safe,” Dillon says. “This is not about ruining someone’s day or year by not giving them a permit or by forcing them to drop kids off on the right side of the road; it’s about keeping kids safe, and when parents or students don’t follow the rules, it makes it harder to do our job, keeping people safe.” 


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