The Latin club experience: inside Festivus 2018

Every year, Latin students across Memphis gather to celebrate the language and compete at Festivus, or “festival.” White Station’s Tennessee Junior Classical League chapter attends every year, bringing students of all Latin levels to show what they know.

Kennedy Ray
Philips Pratt (9), Jackson Ruddick (9), Sarina Milman (9), and Monica Williams (11) pose for the camera prior to academic testing in MUS’s lecture hall.

This year’s Festivus began with an academic competition, in which students were given two multiple-choice tests: one on mythology and one on vocabulary. For White Station’s resident Latin teachers, Ms. Virginia Lafon and Mrs. Elizabeth Moats, academic testing is the time to let their students shine. One of their students did happen to shine on the mythology test, taking home first place in his Latin level: Jonathan Nwokeji (9), a Latin I student.

Kennedy Ray
Mrs. Elizabeth Moats, who teaches Latin II, III, and Etymology, instructs members of the Latin Club after academic testing.

Following academic testing was a grace period of free time, in which students engaged in games, snacks, and a movie, The Last Legion (2007).

Kennedy Ray
Left: Evvia-Townley Bakewell (11) and Abbye Friedman (10) take a break from competing and watch The Last Legion (2007) in MUS’s lecture hall.
Right: Dylan Fuentala (11), Abbye Friedman (10), Blanca Willis (10), and Monica Williams (11) play a game of Scrabble before the long day begins.

One of the unique games MUS offered at Festivus was a Latin-themed Escape Game, in which students were required to use their knowledge of the language to figure out how to escape a room.

“My favorite event was the escape room because it really challenged us to think outside the box, even with what we already knew,” Monica Williams (11), a third-year Latin student said.

Kennedy Ray
Monica Williams (11) and Dylan Fuentala (11) are busy using Latin knowledge and other tools to solve a puzzle and escape a room.

Also unique to Festivus are two contests: the costume contest and the airing of grievances. In the costume contest, students are required to dress as either a Roman (historical or general) or a mythological character and explain who they are. Evvia Townley-Bakewell (11), and third-year Latin student, and Ahava Salomon (9), a first-year Latin student, both competed in this contest and took home third and second place, respectively.

Kennedy Ray
Evvia Townley-Bakewell (11) and Ahava Salomon (9) appeal to the judges during the contest. One of those judges, in fact, was Ms. Virginia Lafon. She teaches Traditional Latin, Latin I, IV, and AP.

As for the airing of grievances, it is a contest which requires students to assume the character of either a historical Roman or a mythological character and, in the form of a monologue, negatively speak to another historical Roman or mythological character. Abbye Friedman (10), a White Station thespian and third-year Latin student competed as Ulysses.

The biggest of all the competitions, however, was Certamen. The game is practically the Latin version of knowledge bowl, and while it is intense, it is the most looked-forward-to event at all Latin competitions.

“I really enjoyed Certamen. I’ve always loved Certamen, even though I’m not good at it at all,” Friedman said.

Kennedy Ray
Noel Madapahe (9), Blanca Willis (10), and Jackson Ruddick (9) prepare for their Certamen rounds.

Two students ended up on top in Certamen: Dylan Fuentala (11), a third-year Latin student, took home second place in upper Certamen; and Philips Pratt (9), a first-year Latin student, took home third place in lower Certamen.

The academic achievements definitely do not end here for the Latin club. Next semester, they will be competing in the National Latin Exam, and they will also be competing at the TJCL State Convention in April.

Kennedy Ray
Jonathan Nwokeji (9), Ahava Salomon (9), Dylan Fuentala (11), and Evvia Townley-Bakewell (11) pose with their ribbons, which are indicative of their academic and entertainment achievements at Festivus 2018.