Small but mighty. This has been Latin Club’s saying for about three years.
“It’s true because the fact that we’re smaller means that we’ve got to be more dedicated if we want to show that we exist,” senior Latin Club co-consul (Roman equivalent to president) Nat Nitsch said. “I think that every single person that’s in Latin is very dedicated to their studies and what Latin stands for.”
However, the program’s small size has come to work against them and, as of March 4, the Latin program has been cut from East for future school years. While the course enrollment is consistent for the number of first year Latin students, the problem arises with the amount of students who choose to continue on with the language: only 25 current Latin students from this school year are enrolled for next year out of the total of 47 2019-20 enrollment requests.
Students who signed up for Latin 1 next school year have been asked to select a different elective according to associate principal Britton Haney. Current Latin students will most likely be given the option to finish all four years including the option for International Baccalaureate courses. It is still in discussion within the district as to how they will teach the students finishing the program.
Principal Scott Sherman doesn’t deny the value of the Latin program and describes how it has benefited students, but says it comes down to a continued lack of interest and resources.
“The Latin program is extremely good in improving ACT scores, vocabulary [and] helps [with] science classes,” Sherman said. “The value of the class is outstanding, but there are not enough students that want to take the class.”
According to Sherman, the limited funding and faculty members permitted by the state plays a major factor in which courses East can offer. If the student interest increased, there would be a possibility for the program to come back in some form.
In previous years, Latin Club visited eighth grade classes and attended orientation night to increase interest and encourage students to enroll by telling them about the benefits of taking Latin and handing out brochures. According to Nitsch, this enabled them to build a personal connection with the students when persuading them to take Latin.
“The students have also had to keep Latin going as a program and I’ve taken the lead on that the past two years,” Nitsch said. “The first thought that ran through my head was, ‘There has to be something I could’ve done,’ because this didn’t happen last year or the year before.”
Nitsch encourages Latin Club members to spread the word about their program as well as their passion for Latin. She believes many people don’t take Latin because they think it’s a “dead language,” but in reality people use Latin everyday because it’s a foundation of the English language.
Sophomore Latin student Aidan Novo says he’s sad that he won’t be able to get the full experience of the program as it is no longer an official course, but also feels bad for the students who didn’t get to experience it at all.
“[When I joined Latin Club], it was a bunch of kids, good people, friendly, and I enjoyed it a lot, so I showed up again, and again, and again, and I started doing all these things,” Novo said. “I couldn’t imagine a timeline where I would’ve done that had there not been a Latin class.”
Novo describes how Latin has shaped his life in the sense that he is a more well-rounded person and is more motivated towards academic achievement in all classes. He feels it has helped him get involved at East, branch out into new friend groups and get a better perspective on the world through his studies of Western civilization.
Latin has also had a large impact on Nitsch’s life — she explains how she plans on going to the University of Chicago next year to major in Classics, which is the study of Latin and its culture. She hopes to one day become a professor.
“To tell the truth, I really love Latin and there’s nothing I’d rather do with my life,” Nitsch said. “It’s something I care a lot about, and out of all the things I care about, I think it’s the one that needs the most help.”
Latin Club continues to meet this year despite their removal. When you visit, you don’t just see a group of kids talking about Latin. They’re bonding over it, with big smiles stretched across their faces as they talk about Caesar and Orpheus and how to make a toga out of a bed sheet.
It’s evident that Latin is not a dead language as students build ideas for a skit using different dramatic points in Latin history while putting a funny twist on them. They all laugh about it in a humor only they can understand because of what they have learned in Latin. Latin is what brings them together.
“Logic. Complexity. It’s as beautiful and logical as a snowflake,” Latin teacher Athanasia Worley said. “If you have language you can learn everything else. It’s something that you have with you for life.”