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Q&A: Winters Mill High graduating class member reflects on pre-, post-COVID experiences

An audience surrounded a sea of burgundy at the Carroll County Agricultural Center’s Shipley Arena on Wednesday morning, the 255 seniors graduating from Winters Mill High School during the Class of 2021 commencement ceremony.

The school surveyed those seniors and found that 87% of those who responded plan to continue their education at either a four- or two-year institution.

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Throughout the ceremony, many students were recognized for their accomplishments and awards. One of the award recipients was Kristian Whitehead who, along with Chance Caprarola, earned the Outstanding Character Award. It’s given to those who “demonstrate respect for self, others and property, and have conducted themselves throughout their four years of high school as examples of good citizens,” according to a news release from the school.

The Times caught up with Whitehead to learn about her high school experience and her plans for the future.

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Q: How would you describe your high school experience?

Kristian Whitehead, a 2021 graduate of Winters Mills High School, received the Outstanding Character Award at Wednesday's graduation ceremony.
Kristian Whitehead, a 2021 graduate of Winters Mills High School, received the Outstanding Character Award at Wednesday's graduation ceremony. (Kristian Whitehead)

A: As both challenging and rewarding. Challenging for a multitude of reasons such as the academic rigor of some of my classes, juggling club activities, maintaining a social life, and of course with the impact COVID-19 has had. But, throughout my whole high school career, the academic achievements, along with the experience from the clubs I was a part of such as SGA, and our club Cultural Differences Unite, all of these things have been instrumental in developing my skills for the future.

I think high school can play a big role in developing a students’ social skills, test their academic abilities and, hopefully, provide them with tools for the future. And I feel that I’ve been able to do that, and have had these things provided to me throughout my whole high school experience at Winters Mill.

Q: How would you describe your experience when schools were virtual/hybrid?

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A: I can initially remember switching into virtual during the latter half of my junior year and it was very weird at first. And adjusting to this new format was difficult. I was naïve to think that virtual learning would just last until the two weeks it was initially called for. Little did I know that we’d still be faced with the same circumstances a year later. After each and every extension I realized that it would be permanent, and began to attempt to adjust accordingly during the end of my junior year. It was hard because I think the best thing about school was the classroom environment, and that was obviously lacking.

During my senior year, it was very interesting to see for the first time my teachers on a computer screen rather than in front of me, and the same with my classmates being tiny bubbles during a Google Meet. Overall, I have to give credit to my teachers this year for adjusting and making all us students feel any sense of normality we could retain. They worked hard to switch all their lessons and activities to a virtual format. So, most of my experience through virtual learning was productive and engaging 100% because of my teachers this year.

Q: What are your academic and/or career plans?

A: My academic plans after high school include enrolling to Carroll Community College where I will be studying under the Teacher Education program with a specific interest in becoming a high school history teacher. I’ve just recently scheduled all my classes for the first semester, and am very excited to start toward my dream career. I plan on transferring after two years to get my degree, and then hopefully continue studying African history academically. My ultimate goal is to become a history teacher in Baltimore city.

Q: How has high school prepared you for those plans?

A: I was inspired to become a history teacher because of my own history teachers at Winters Mill. My history teachers have always promoted critical thinking, and different analytical methods of thinking about history, so taking courses, such as U.S. history, world history and human geography, have really piqued my interest in going beyond what I was taught to continue to expand ways of thinking and analyzing history. Also, all of the skills I have gained throughout high school are numerous, including communication, collaborative, and overall people skills that I don’t think I would gain anywhere else, and will most definitely be needed in the future for my career.

Q: What is your favorite high school memory?

A: My favorite high school memory was during my junior year when our club Cultural Differences Unite went on a trip with Manchester Valley’s diversity club to Washington, D.C., where we visited the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Every time I think of that trip I can only remember the happiness I felt that day hanging out with my friends, walking around both museums and enjoying the time we all spent together. Also, it was obviously pre-COVID-19, so it reminds me of the times of being surrounded by people in a public setting. From the time we left, until the time we got back to school, we all had so much fun.

Q: What is something you learned in high school that you will carry with you in the next chapter of your life?

A: To be myself all of the time, 24/7. There were plenty of times during my freshman and sophomore years that I found myself assimilating, rather than continuing to discover my own style or way of thinking. But, doing those things didn’t help me at all, and instead were a hindrance to my self-esteem, and overall mood. So, I’ve come to the conclusion that the only true way that I should live is to be connected to my own roots, and my own way of thinking and living. Being yourself can be expressed through many outlets such as art, clothing, etc. So, I myself am continuing to search for the best outlets I can be myself, but I learned this lesson throughout the four years of high school.

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