Tag: Natalie Knight-Griffin

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.

dt/pb/th
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.

th/ks/nk/nkg

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.

jm/nkg/pb/mb

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.

jm/nkg/mw/nk

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.

Annual National Honors Society Inductions

Words: Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Zach Grable

On Thursday, January 11, Centennial’s National Honor Society (NHS) inducted it’s 66 new members. The junior inductees listened to advice from the senior members of the chapter. An emphasis was placed on the four pillars of the society: leadership, character, scholarship, and service.

Special guest speaker Steven Peth, a former Army pilot who fought during the Vietnam War and current Red Cross Volunteer, spoke on the importance of service. Steven shared his personal war story in which he was shot during battle, inspiring his urge to serve the community. After each new member was individually inducted, the group pledged their allegiance to the society.

As the ceremony came to an end, the NHS members and their families joined for cake and refreshments in the cafeteria.

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

Centennial Indoor Track Performs Exceptionally at the 25th Hispanic Games and the Howard County/Anne Arundel County Meet

Words: Joey Sedlacko & Natalie Knight-Griffin

Photos: Eliza Andrew

On Friday, January 4, and Saturday, January 5, the Centennial Indoor Track team competed in the 25th Hispanic Games. Over the weekend, the team travelled to New York City to participate in the annual indoor track meet.

Multiple runners finished in the top ten of their respective events. In the girls’ triple jump for the Freshman/Sophomore division, sophomore Cherakie Pierre placed sixth with a jump of 30-10.50 meters; breaking Centennial’s long jump record. In the Novice division, junior Tyler Dan finished first in the boys 55 meter dash with a time of 6.71. Also in the novice division, junior Zack Garwacki ran a 8.71 in the boys’ 55 meter hurdles to place ninth.

In terms of Varsity, Centennial shined in the field events and long distance events. Junior Anthony Matthews finished ninth in the boys’ triple jump after jumping 42-03.05 meters. Another junior, Jack Ragonese placed tenth in the boys’ shot put. Senior Alison Betler represented Centennial well in the girls’ 1500 meter race and one mile race. In both events, Betler placed tenth.

The indoor track team’s following meet, the Howard County/Anne Arundel County Challenge, took place at the PG Sportsplex on Monday, January 6. Both boys’ and girls’ Varsity teams competed against 11 other schools in the region.

Numerous Centennial runners from both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams placed in the top five of their individual events. In regards to the boys’ Varsity team, junior Zachary Garwacki placed second in the 55 hurdles.  Sophomore Adrian Nwakalor took fifth in the boys’ triple jump.

The girls’ team excelled throughout the meet, as junior Leah Alkire placed fourth in both the girls 500 meter as well as the girls’ 500 dash. The Varsity girls took fourth out of all eleven teams in the 4×400 relay. Senior Christina Stavlas dominated her respective events, landing an impressive third place in both the girls’ 3200 meters and girls’ 300 meters.

Centennial’s indoor track team will next meet on Tuesday, January 15, for the Howard County Championships.

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