The Harbinger Online

Junior Nat Nitsch’s Life Has Been Heavily Impacted By Latin

Photo by Grace Goldman

Then-sophomore Nat Nitsch makes her way frantically through the crowd. The loose folds of the blue-and-white-striped bed sheet functioning as an ancient Greek peplos billow as she runs.

“Someone please help!” she screams. “Caesar has been killed!”

She directs her fellow actors to the Shawnee Mission Northwest stage where the 2017 Latin convention is being held, and where then-freshman Oscar Conway lie “dead.” At the end of the convention, Nitsch and the rest of Latin club were awarded first place for their murder mystery skit “Search and Caesar.” The reward: a paper-mache pig they named “Porkus.”

But performing skits at conventions is only part of why she loves this language. Latin has influenced all aspects of her high school career, from her IB classes and extracurriculars to her relationships. Nitsch has always looked forward to going to school, but Latin has made her enjoy each subject even more.

Knowing that the ending “ides” means “children of” helped her quickly grasp that chloride is an ion, or child, of chlorine in chemistry. Knowing that “tangent” means “they touch” made tangent lines in IB Higher Level Math make more sense. But her Latin knowledge helps her most in English.

“I think a lot of people take Latin expecting it to be useful in the same way that Spanish is useful, but it’s useful in a completely different way,” Nitsch said. “The language is very complex and grammar heavy. It changes the way you think about English because you see all of those structures a little bit differently, and you pay attention to them.”

During a normal week for Nitsch, she stays at school until at least 4 p.m. every day. As a drumline major, fifth chair all-state flute player, a FreeLancer staffer and a Youth and Government lieutenant governor, there’s always a game or meeting keeping her occupied.

Though she is also very invested in her other activites, Latin has influenced her life more than her other extracurriculars because of its applications to the other parts of her life — and she just loves the language.

Through Latin club and her fifth hour Latin class, Nitsch has been able to meet people beyond IB or band and meet some of her closest friends. She also met her boyfriend, 2017 East graduate Caleb Hanlon, through Latin.

Nitsch and Hanlon became acquainted at a Latin club meeting her freshman year. In April of her sophomore year, Hanlon asked her to prom at a Latin convention, with a sign that read, “Life without you would be pain itself. Nat, prom?” an inside joke about the Latin words “lorem ipsum,” commonly used as placeholder text.

“It’s in Latin,” Nitsch said. “It’s kind of like word salad. It doesn’t actually mean anything, but the first couple words translate roughly to, ‘Pain itself,’ and that was on our T-shirts two years ago.”

Though Nitsch had to miss the prom, she, Hanlon and other Latin club members got to take a 10-day trip to Italy last summer. While touring Venice, Florence, Sorrento and Rome, Nitsch was able to read signs in Latin, making her realize once again how much she loves the language.

On the trip Nitsch wasn’t yet elected consul, Latin for co-president, but Hanlon saw her taking it upon herself to make sure everyone was having a good time, even if they were just jetlagged or having a bad day.

“I’ve never met someone who puts so much hard work into making sure others are cared for,” Hanlon said. “Obviously Latin is something that she absolutely adores, and she cares about the people there.”

According to Nitsch’s mother, Susan, it isn’t a surprise that she chose to study an ancient language freshman year. Nitch has loved classical music and other classical things since a young age.

“Latin has really impacted her because it’s opening up a whole new vocabulary that’s been used in so many other languages, or in professions like law and medicine,” Susan said. “She just loves it, she loves learning about the ancient civilizations and all that, and then getting to travel there just kind of pieced it all together for her.”

Though she’s involved in many other things, Nitsch struggles to imagine her life without the ultimate discus competitions, Latin conventions or Cena Romanas — Roman dinners — at Cinzetti’s with Latin teacher Athanasia Worley.

“Without Latin, I honestly have no idea what I would be like as a person,” Nitsch said. “I would be completely different, and probably not as enthusiastic about anything as I am now.”

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Gabby Leinbach

Gabby Leinbach is a sophomore at Shawnee Mission East and is on her first year of Harbinger staff as a designer/writer. Gabby is also involved in cheer for East and oddly enjoys math. She is excited for her first year on staff and can’t wait for what’s to come. Read Full »

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