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Latin lovers gather at convention

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Jummel Hidrosollo/Special to the Home News

From left, Adi Moas, Angie Baraga, Cabe St John, and Alex Hurtho, sophomores from Del Sol High School, take part in the Latin Competitive Certamen at the Meadows School on March 20, 2009, during the third annual Convention of the Nevada Junior Classical League.

Updated Saturday, March 21, 2009 | 5:22 p.m.

Latin competition

Freshmen, from left, Christopher Wang, Mex Asaf and Steven Gibson consult each other during their bonus question of the Latin Competitive Certamen during the third annual Convention of the Nevada Junior Classical League at The Meadows School on March 20, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Latin isn’t a dead language. It’s alive and kicking this weekend at the Nevada Junior Classical League Convention.

About 190 middle school and high school teens are testing their knowledge of ancient Roman and Greek language, mythology and art at The Meadows School, 8601 Scholar Lane, in Summerlin on Friday and Saturday.

Not only is Latin not dead, it’s making a comeback, said Sherry Jankowski, Meadows Latin teacher and league state chairwoman.

Some teachers believe that as the basis for western European languages and culture, the classics can help students understand their own language and history better, she said. Students who take Latin also often score higher on the verbal section of the SAT, she said.

“There’s a lot of order and structure to the language and, therefore, it helps the kids see the order and structure behind their own languages, even though they would have never learned their first language in that way,” Jankowski said.

During the school year, students in classic studies compete against each other in certamen — quiz bowls focused on Latin vocabulary and classical culture.

They can be as intense as athletic games with students vying for individual and school pride. The state convention is competitive, too, but more relaxed.

Only six schools in the state participate, so the convention also allows students to share their love of the classics with like-minded peers.

“It’s good to know you’re not the only nerd in the world that likes Latin,” said junior Justin Gutzwa, vice president of The Meadows chapter.

Along with The Meadows, Rancho, Del Sol, Liberty, Canyon Springs and Sage Ridge High School in Reno participated at the state convention.

The state convention is in its third year, but the state has one of the fastest growing participation rates in the country as more students become aware of the league, Jankowski said.

The Meadows had one student in the league three years ago and now has about 50, senior Josilyn Sacks, Meadows chapter president, said.

Sacks was introduced to Latin at Alexander Dawson Middle School and joined the league last year.

“The JCL seemed to me the perfect outlet for me to tunnel all my Latin love into,” she said.

The convention isn’t all oration and quizzes. Students participate in drama, graphic arts and Olympic games.

Many of the students also will participate in the national convention in July at the University of California, Davis.

“It was one of the greatest experiences (last year),” Gutzwa said. “It was just so much fun seeing all these kids who are into the same things I was into.”

Jeff Pope can be reached at 990-2688 or [email protected]

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