R-JENERATION: Carpe diem! Conference celebrates Latin language

Most people think of Latin as a “dead language.” But thanks to the Junior Classical League, Latin is far from that.

Where else can close to 1,300 people from all over the country get together and spend a week doing Latin language-related things other than Las Vegas this summer? The 2013 National Junior Classical League Convention will be July 21 to 27 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Shivani Dixit, a senior at The Meadows School, is president of the Nevada Junior Classical League. She is helping the adults on the National Junior Classical League’s board to organize the convention.

The Latin teacher at The Meadows School, Sherry Jankowski, is on this board as the programs and scholastic services chairwoman.

The Arizona Junior Classical League state chairwoman, Sarah Palumbo, is also helping plan. She is co-hosting the National Convention along with Nevada.

Dixit speaks for everyone on the Nevada Junior Classical League Board when she says, “We are all really excited.”

Latin programs from schools throughout the U.S. will gather and participate in academic testing and athletic and arts competitions.

The largest delegations of JCLers, as students who participate and travel to nationals are known, typically come from Texas, Florida and Virginia. Having such a large number and such a diverse group of JCLers adds to the eventful Latin-filled week.

Delegations will spend the week in dorms and eating at UNLV and having a blast.

Jankoswki says having this JCL Convention in Las Vegas increases the visibility of Latin not only for The Meadows School, but for Nevada in general.

“Despite being one of the oldest subjects taught in high school, there are still a lot of misconceptions about Latin and Latin (language) students,” she says. “JCL is a community of highly enthusiastic classicists, and enthusiasm is always necessary to foster an elective program such as Latin.”

When asked about what happens at nationals, Dixit replied, “Everything happens!” And it really does.

She says the theme for this year’s conference is “quid sit futurum cras, fuge quaerere, et quam fors dierum cumque dabit, lucro appone.”

For non-Latin speakers, this translates to, “Cease to inquire what the future has in store, and take as a gift whatever the day brings forth.” These wise words come from Horace, one of the great Latin classicists.

Although conference planning has been in the works for well more than a year, everyone is working in earnest now as the opening day draws near.

Tests at the conference will range from Greek and Roman mythology to Roman history to Greek derivatives. In athletics, there will be plenty of ludi, “sports or games” including soccer and volleyball. Arts competition categories will include sculptures, posters and mosaics.

Each night will feature a dance with a different Latin-language theme, Dixit says.

Dixit says the national conference is a great way to make new friends and bond with current ones. She explains that through open certamen, there is the possibility of having a teammate from California and another from Missouri.

“It’s also a great way to exercise your mind, especially in the middle of summer,” Dixit says. “The myriad of academic tests allow you to specialize in a topic you find really interesting and study it in-depth.”

Dixit also enjoys the end-of-convention talent show.

“Incredible JCLers perform their talents,” she says.

As for the notion that Latin is still a dead language, Jankowski says that the league more than changes that notion.

“It shatters it; Latin is far from dead,” she says. “Maybe the JCL has helped keep Latin current. We foster the idea that Latin isn’t merely an academic subject.

“The JCL inspires us through a myriad of contests and activities to show off our understanding of Latin but it also reminds us to be proper stewards of our discipline.”

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