Face of the Week: Shyla Cadogan of Western School of Technology
Team BCPS is made up of thousands of accomplished and interesting students, employees, and community supporters. “Face of the Week” introduces you to some of the people who make BCPS such an amazing mosaic of talent, caring, and commitment.

Face of the Week: Shyla Cadogan of Western School of Technology

In some ways, one of Shyla Cadogan’s most influentual teachers this year is a 285-year-old astronomer, abolitionist, author, farmer, and naturalist named Benjamin Banneker. Who better to inspire and instruct Shyla and her budding interests in the environment, self-sustenance, and justice?

Banneker – a life-sized facsimile of him, actually – greets the 17-year-old Shyla each day as she arrives at the museum and nature center bearing Banneker’s name in Oella in southwest Baltimore County. A senior at Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, she comes to the Banneker Center as part of an internship between her school and the center. Along with Catonsville High student Tobias Wack, Shyla spends a part of each day feeding birds and frogs at the 142-acre preserve, geocaching places in the park, or tagging Monarch butterflies on their migration to warmer weather in Mexico.

The work dovetails nicely with Shyla’s goals – a confirmed naturalist herself, she seeks to major in environmental and international relations in college.

“I’ve always been curious and wanting to learn as much as I can about the environment,” says Shyla. “I love it out here.”

Staff at the museum love having her work there as well. “We are thrilled to have Shyla working with us this year,” says Justine Schaeffer, director and naturalist at the Benjamin Banneker Historical Park and Museum.

“Shyla has been a terrific asset to the Banneker Museum, as she has helped with so many different projects: raising and tagging Monarch butterflies, caring for our live amphibians, feeding our backyard birds, helping prepare for programs, and marketing our public programs,” Schaeffer says. “She is personable and accomplished, and we're glad to have her help us tell Banneker's story.”

Shyla lives in Reisterstown with her Panamanian-born father, Armando, and Ohio-born mother, Cheree.  A committed vegan, she caught the nature bug as a student at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, learning about food sustainability and feeling comfortable in the woods.

The internship at the Banneker Museum was a natural fit, especially since it also catered to another of Shyla’s loves – working with children. Each week, classes of Baltimore County school children regularly visit the museum to learn about Banneker, his accomplishments, and the world in which he lived. Shyla, who holds a part time job at a fitness center for children, introduces the students to the park’s amenities, including nature trails and a cabin similar to the one Banneker lived in nearby.

Her admiration for the 18th-century scientist continues to grow, she says, the more she learns about Banneker. “You see where his curiosity led him,” she says, motioning to the displays – Banneker mapping the stars, Banneker writing to Thomas Jefferson about the evils of slavery, Banneker helping to survey the borders of the nation’s new capital in Washington, D.C.

For now, Shyla will continue interning at Banneker, dancing with the Savage Dance Co. in Sykesville in her spare time, and waiting for colleges to call; already she’s earned an acceptance to Temple University in Philadelphia. At Western, she continues her membership with the Forks Over Knives vegan club and Cal’s Pals, which pairs up student buddies with special needs children.

Like Banneker, she says she plans to keep focused on her passions; she bemoans the public’s lack of interest in animal agriculture, for instance. “People don’t talk about it like they should,” she says.  

“So many things Banneker has done to improve the daily lives of all of us,” she adds, surveying a hall full of exhibits about Banneker’s world and his achievements, including authoring and publishing a widely-respected almanac.

“He’s inspiring,” she says. “A thought is all it took for him; with just one thought, he learned how to change the world.”

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