When members of Columbus City Council entered Centennial High School earlier this week for a community outreach session, they were greeted by what library-media specialist Nancy Clendenen called a "visual representation of who we are and how we are connected to the world."

When members of Columbus City Council entered Centennial High School earlier this week for a community outreach session, they were greeted by what library-media specialist Nancy Clendenen called a "visual representation of who we are and how we are connected to the world."

Centennial is possibly one of the most diverse high schools in Ohio, according to Northwest Civic Association President John Ehlers, and the recently unveiled "Hall of Flags" certainly attests to that.

With a single flag representing the country of origin for a student or student's family, the hall has 37 of them.

"We may be adding some more," Clendenen said. "We already have a child from Albania going, 'Where's Albania?'

"It just emphasizes the idea of how culturally diverse we are and what a wonderful thing it is to be in a cultural diverse school," Clendenen said.

"It makes it a very, very rich environment for education."

The genesis for the project dates back to January, Ehlers said, when neighborhood liaison Isom Nivins Jr. mentioned at a civic association meeting that funding was available to neighborhoods through the second round of the Chase 200Columbus Neighborhood Grant Program, administered through the Greater Columbus Arts Council as part of the city's bicentennial.

"The JPMorgan Chase Foundation has invested $200,000 to help the effort to get neighborhoods across seven counties involved in celebrating the 200th birthday of Columbus," according to a website devoted to the program.

"The grant program seeks to inspire neighborhoods to get creative and help create a community that is more inspired and proud of the increasing vitality of Columbus," the website said.

"Participants are encouraged to explore the role their specific neighborhood has played in the city's 200-year history and develop cultural, educational, diverse and multigenerational activities that may include legacy projects, works of art, customized performances, and other creative programs/activities."

It sounded like a good thing to NWCA members, according to Ehlers, and he eventually wrote a proposal in conjunction with Clendenen, Centennial High Principal Frances Hershey and former American government teacher John Erfurt.

It was only natural, Ehlers said, to involve the school in celebrating the 200th birthday of Columbus.

"We've had this long relationship between NWCA and Centennial High School back to at least the 1980s," he said.

The civic organization received $3,000 from the Chase200 program, and some of the students involved with NWCA last year came up with the idea of flags reflecting the different countries represented by the young people attending Centennial High.

Ehlers said he thought that number was something like 20, and so was surprised to learn it was closer to 40.

Other ideas were kicked around, according to Ehlers.

"This was one that everybody could agree upon," he said.

Former Centennial student Teddy Jones, now a college freshman did the "legwork" in pricing the pennants at the Flag Lady Store in Clintonville, Clendenen said.

"I think it's important the students who came here from other countries see something that represents them and their family's homeland," Ehlers said.

"I feel it's a source of pride for them. In that regards, I think it's pretty remarkable."

"They're proud of their flags," Clendenen said. "They know where that flag is, even if I don't or other students don't. But we still say the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.

"We can get along and we do, and everybody is tolerant and everybody is respectful. You'll see all different types of children sitting together."

The Hall of Flags will be an ongoing thing at the school, with additions or subtractions based on the student body, Clendenen said.

In conjunction with the Hall of Flags, student Carmine Frye has developed a website, http://centennialhs.wix.com/diver-city, that will offer stories and videos from his classmates about the diversity at the school, Clendenen said.

"I've never been in a high school like this," said Clendenen, who is in her 33rd year in education. "I personally learn so much."

List of nations

Countries with flags currently or soon to be on display at Centennial High School include:

* Puerto Rico

* Dominican Republic

* Honduras

* El Salvador

* Mexico

* Ecuador

* Peru

* Guatemala

* Iraq

* Palestine

* Kurdistan (although not an official country, the region has a flag)

* Morocco

* Egypt

* Afghanistan

* Russia

* Uzbekistan

* Kazakhstan

* Japan

* China

* Vietnam

* India

* Pakistan

* Bangladesh

* Indonesia

* Somalia

* Ghana

* Kenya

* Uganda

* Togo

* Sierra Leone

* Senegal

* Nigeria

* Mauritania

* Guinea

* Brazil

* Germany

* Sweden

* Ethiopia

* Eritrea

* Macedonia

* Serbia