When I went to high school in the late 70s and early 80s in my hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee, computers weren’t yet part of the curriculum so I found another outlet for my geekiness… Latin club (or more properly the National Junior Classical League). The organization consists of about 50,000 middle and high schoolers from around the US and Canada who study Greek, Latin, and the classics. One of the highlights of the year is the National Convention held on a college campus – this year (the 55th) it was held at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
The convention is a week-long event drawing about 1500 students and teachers from across the country; 34 states participated this year, with an especially strong presence from Massachusetts. Students participate in myriad contests including academic tests, oratory, dramatic interpretation, graphic arts, quiz bowl, track and field, swimming, etc. General assemblies preceded by 15 minutes of raucous cheering are held daily, and there are dances and other activities to fill in the remaining hours, with states meeting for fellowship every night before bed (well, more like every morning, since lights out is typically between 11:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m.) One event that typically garners the most interest among the uninitiated is the procession in Roman garb (see picture) through the streets of whatever town we happen to be in.
I’ve been part of this organization since I was a freshman in high school, and this was my 30th convention. It was also my last year serving on the National Committee as Technology Chair – a position I held for 11 years during which I established the organization’s web site and streamlined the ‘contest office’, where all of the 300+ contest results are reported and tabulated for the awards assemblies at the end of the week.
It’s not an easy thing to describe this experience, and those of you that have been lucky enough to attend a NJCL Convention know what I mean. As I was there this year though, it really hit me that the reason I continue to be drawn to this organization is the same one that drew me to Microsoft… lots of really talented, dedicated people (sure, teachers versus techies) that love to share their enthusiasm for their area of expertise (classics versus computers).
And that’s how I spend my summer vacations!