While other high school students either slept in or stayed up for sleepovers during the summer week of July 25th to August 1st, nine Park View High School Latin students journeyed south for the fifty-first National Junior Classical League (NJCL) National Latin Convention at the University of Richmond.
In the midst of approximately 1,550 other delegates from 34 other states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian province of Ontario, Park View delegates lived up to the theme Facta Non Verba (“Deeds, Not Words”) in a variety of academic, athletic, social and spirit activities. They represented both their school and Loudoun County with pride, earning places in the top thirty, twenty or ten on a variety of national-level competitions.
The academic competitions offered ranged from numerous tests to national certamen, a college-bowl style game in which state teams answered trivia questions about the Latin language, Roman history, culture and literature and Greco-Roman mythology.
One Park View student, Kevin, earned a position on the Lower Division Virginia state certamen team through a special tryout session held at the convention. Although this was Kevin’s first time playing certamen in a competitive setting, much less on the national level, he played admirably and scored Virginia’s only points in the semi-final round.
In addition to the academics, Park View students excelled in Olympika and creative art contests as well. Carly placed third in the 50-yard breaststroke swimming competition and Caitlin placed fourth in the marathon. Bethany placed 2nd in Sight Latin Poetry Reading and 6th in Impromptu Art, while Phil’s mosaic project took 8th place on his level.
Park View students helped Virginia win its second consecutive first-place finish in “overall spirit.” Delegates sported themed T-shirts, waved spirit props, and cheered endlessly in unison during the beginning of each day’s general assemblies. During one such assembly, Park View sponsor Mr. Chang was recognized for winning a Miller Fellowship, a scholarship allowing first-time teachers to attend the convention for free.
Besides competitions, the convention also offered plenty of recreation for both the student delegates and the adult sponsors and chaperones. Nearly every evening, students could attend dances, sing karaoke songs, watch movies, or play cards, pool and ping pong in the university’s commons.
In the afternoons, students could view art projects, cheer for their state team in national certamen, or attend a variety of colloquia, including the popular presentation of Myth and Magic: The Classics in Harry Potter.
On one of the final evenings, the National Senior Classical League, a group comprised of college students, produced and hosted its annual talent show, That’s Entertainment!.
“The That’s Entertainment! show,” said Kevin, “showed us that people who love Latin aren’t just people with dictionaries and translations, but also great amounts of talent in music, dancing, and general entertainment with a sense of humor!
On the final afternoon, the entire convention lined up for the “Day in Old Pompeii” spirit procession. Each state in attendance produced props reflecting the theme, which delegates incorporated into costumes brought from home.
Walking in the procession not only provided a visual reinforcement of the national popularity of Latin but also proved to be a fun conclusion to a week’s worth of non-stop activity.
Students expressed their enthusiasm one last time for both the language and the unique convention experiences that brought them together and created new friendships as well.
Caitlin stated, “The convention was so awesome and so addicting,” adding that “[the convention] was a great experience for me and also sleep depriving since you get so excited you can't go to sleep.”
Kevin indicated that the convention helped him see Latin in a different light, explaining, “Where else would you see massive crowds of people waiting to take tests for fun….or listen to state delegations yell and scream their hearts out in a spirit competition about how much they love Latin?”
Phil concluded, “I realized that Latin isn't just a language: it's a part of our culture, it's a part of our community…it's everywhere – you can’t turn the corner without seeing Latin in some form. Whether it is in the arts, or in a sign, or in the way people speak to each other, Latin is all around us, and we mustn't forget that.”
With its deeds, Park View High School’s Latin Club helped ensure that Latin will not be forgotten in Loudoun County for quite some time.