By Claire Moran & Patrick Nicholson, Business Manager & Staff Reporter
Members of JCL show their spirit at a spirit contest at the state convention, held from May 18-20. The team placed first for the third year in a row. Courtesy Kirsten Whitaker.
More than 700 people gathered to walk around in togas and offer burnt food offerings to the Roman gods. This scene, however, was not one from a book or movie about Ancient Rome; it was the scene of the Pennsylvania Junior Classical League Convention on May 18-20.
Twenty-six students from the Conestoga Junior Classical League, including five from Valley Forge Middle School, participated in the 61st annual Pennsylvania JCL Convention at Penn State University. The in a row and received many individual awards as well.
“We won our division, but we won it last year too, so we’re continuing on in our domination, Roman style,” JCL sponsor and Latin teacher Kirsten Whitaker said. It was “just a really stellar performance by all participants.”
To achieve their victory, JCL put in a lot of work: the club met every other Friday, practiced for Certamen, a Roman quiz show and organized a routine for the spirit competitions. Individual students worked on art projects and speeches.
Conestoga is part of Division Two, because it has a smaller JCL team. Students took academics tests in a number of Latin-related subjects. There was a Roman banquet, a toga parade, and spirit competitions. Conestoga students also received points for submitting to the state newsletter. According to senior JCL co-president Nina Gurak, the convention is a unifying experience for all participants.
“We have a JCL song that we all sing and we don’t really know what we’re doing, but we all get together and hold hands and sing this song. It’s very unifying and I kind of like that sort of moment when we’re all one and it’s not like competing; it’s just for fun,” Gurak said.
Freshman Bobby Pragada said his favorite part of the convention involved a chariot built by junior Jed Thompson.
“He brought a wooden chariot, and my friend and I pulled the chariot up and down the streets of Penn State shouting out to different cars and people. And that was actually pretty hilarious,” Pragada said.
For Gurak, who has seen this club person club at Valley Forge Middle School to the current twenty-six member state champions, the win is particularly memorable.
“Its just been really, really great. JCL’s been a little bit of a home for me in the school community because Latin is a language that attracts interesting people and I think that… [is] really showcased through JCL kind of getting to hang out with and learn from and experience all these fun things with great individuals,” Gurak said.
Sophomore Manasvi Ramanujam, attending for the fourth year in a row, said she appreciated the way students could bond with others who share their passion for Latin.
“I think it’s really great for anyone who takes Latin, and I think it’s just a way that you know, if you think you’re all alone in your Latin nerdi-ness, you go there and they’re just as passionate about Latin as you are, and it makes you feel like you’re part of this big community,” she said.
Ramanujam also noted that what made the convention special was the fact that everyone could from athletics to art and music to poetry recitation.
“It’s like a bunch of disciplines coming together so that everyone can have fun, it’s not just Latin,” Ramanujam said. “I think there’s a place for everyone there, and I like that Latin brings you together like that, you don’t see that in a lot of other languages.”