Tag: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Aloha from the Senior Class

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Noorie Kazmi

On Thursday, February 7, seniors participated in the annual Senior Luau. The celebration included luau-inspired foods, a DJ, and a sea of Hawaiian t-shirts. Seniors ate, drank their complimentary slushies, and danced the night away from 5-7 pm. 

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

PLASTIC: Your Evil Best Friend

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photo: Sara Ferrara

Here we are. A generation of radical, idealistic, and often angry teenagers. We see the way the world has fallen apart under our feet: rainforests cut down, carbon emissions higher than ever, ice caps melting, mass extinction, oceans of plastic. We have been handed this responsibility, this enormous task of reversing hundreds of years of destruction and pollution. But we accept, no questions asked. Because we understand that this responsibility is greater than us.

I never imagined I would be the type of kid you hear about in the news, in the human interest stories after main program hours. The ones that run their own charities at age eight, the ones who are working day and night to make a difference, the ones who make you feel like you’ve done absolutely nothing with your life. My parents watched quietly before making the oh-so-familiar joke, “Why aren’t you trying to save the world?”

Then, the summer before my freshman year, I saw the Earth in peril and suddenly, I was.

My godmother had introduced me to Flow, a documentary detailing the privatization of water and its detrimental effect on both the worldwide class system and the environment. After that, I began spending the majority of my time observing my own post-consumer waste, not to mention that of my peers. The toothpaste bottle is empty and trashed at 6:38am. My best friend’s leftover coffee drink, watered down, is discarded at 11:12am. At 12:38pm, the bell rings and the lunch table is decorated with three Dasani bottles, sandwich bags with half-eaten PB&Js, Go-Go squeezes, and the assumed necessity of our school’s plastic utensils— despite the absence of their use.

At home, I stand in front of the enormous green bin in my complex; it begins to look the size of my apartment. Its opening is a void, a hole yawning for the day’s trash. None of which, I remember, will degrade in my lifetime. Nor the next. Nor the one after that.

We believe we live in a progressive society— but do we?

Awareness of plastic waste and its environmental effect is no secret. It now feels as though the idea of being “waste-free” is a trend. Reusable straws and biodegradable alternatives are now a marketing term. If capitalist America has caught up, why hasn’t the school system? Is Centennial really a self-proclaimed “green school” if we possess the ability to fill an entire landfill on our own?

In Howard County, we have the privilege of not acknowledging our post-consumer waste; to throw away that crumble of paper in our hands, that soda, in a split second, without another thought. We each produce pounds of trash every day. So, in the minds and hearts of our community, why doesn’t it matter? The answer is obvious: this waste does not directly affect us.

The day’s trash will be taken to the landfill. And that’s all we really need to know, right? What you don’t see are the pounds of waste that will never degrade. The billions of plastic materials  that will exist at the bottom of the ocean, in our forests, and in the stomachs of innocent animals for as long as they are alive.

There it was: my big project.

The one that could potentially be the answer to my parent’s fateful question.

Where does the single greatest amount of plastic exist within a high school? Three bins laying on a cafeteria table, each containing an abundance of forks, spoons, or knives.

So it began. I jumped in and invested two months of research into the depths of biodegradable and sustainable utensil distributors. I wrote and sent email after email to the officers at the Board of Education; hoping for traction. Constantly, desperately, always.

Eventually, my Principal Cynthia Dillon aided in landing a meeting from three officers from the Board of Education to discuss the transition away from plastic utensils. We met in the central office of Centennial, with Dillon there to facilitate. Nothing substantive came of the meeting, but I am not discouraged. I will continue to chronicle my research and experiences in a Wingspan series for the 2019-20 school year.

I inform you of this not to point the finger at anyone, nor to deem myself the heroine of this impossible challenge. Instead, I point my question to you.

What are you going to do?

 

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

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

Seniors Dominate In Centennial’s First Ever Men’s Volleyball Game

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew & Adithi Soogoor

During Eagle Time on Wednesday, September 25, the gym flooded with students anticipating Centennial’s first ever boys volleyball game. Following the structure of the traditional powder puff game, eighteen junior and senior boys went head-to-head.

With people packing the student section, a display of USA-themed school spirit and excited chants could be seen.

Juniors began with an advantage as Paul Russell took the stage. With a 12-5 lead, the seniors needed to make significant strides in order to catch up. Senior Shawn Kruhm had a strong serve, scoring over the juniors and beginning their comeback.

“They had us in the first half,” said Kruhm. “We played really well, it was a well deserved win.”

After 20 minutes of intense back and forth play, the clock ran out and the seniors won 29-27. The senior student section cheered as they flooded the gym floor, creating a dog pile on the court.

While the boys played with great sportsmanship and intensity, Centennial’s first ever men’s homecoming volleyball game will go down in history as a triumphant win for the Class of 2020.

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

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.

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.