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Issue date: April 19, 2000

Latin rocks! And so do local students Latin rocks! And so do local students (April 19, 2000)

By Doug Brent

Special to the Almanac

More than 1,000 kids from middle and high schools across California recently packed an auditorium at Bellarmine College Prep in San Jose. They were screaming and urging on their teams. But this wasn't a football pep rally. It was the annual state convention of the California Junior Classical League.

These toga-clad middle- and high-schoolers were rooting for their favorite Certamen squad (a Jeopardy-style classical quiz).

The National Junior Classical League (NJCL), founded in 1936, is a 55,000-member group that fosters secondary education of Greco-Roma classicism, with a particular emphasis on training in Latin language.

There are a number of good reasons to study Latin. It was the common language of educated people in Western Civilization for almost 2,000 years. The JCL also points out that Latin students score more than 150 points higher on the verbal SATs than their Latin-challenged counterparts.

Still, the work of the JCL, by both the teachers and the students, seems to be truly driven by a passion for their subject.

La Entrada

A great example of that passion can be found in the Latin program at La Entrada middle school in Menlo Park. Linda McGouirck started a Latin program at La Entrada just two years ago, and in that time has built the small program into a JCL powerhouse.

Ms. McGouirck's La Entrada Leopards earned a fistful of awards in academic and non-academic categories, including First Place Overall for a medium-sized school and the First Place Middle School Overall individual winners at both the advanced and beginning level.

Added to this impressive set of firsts were many other awards in the arts, sports and academics. (And, yes, they did win that Certamen competition.)

Not just for nerds

OK, some nerd-ism is required. Ms. McGouirck's secret to success (beyond commitment and dedication) is an expectation/demand for high performance on the part of her charges.

In this difficult subject there are no easy A's. Still, the best students respond to the rigorous homework and testing schedule by rising to the challenge, and the good students find themselves growing in knowledge each week.

Still, the convention is designed to focus on more than the academics, and helps draw all kinds of students (one high-schooler was spotted wearing a toga, a tattoo on her arm, and full gothic-look make-up).

Again, La Entrada had winning entries in chariot racing (with some 8th-grade boys playing the drayage role), and catapult throwing. In both cases, the kids (with some help from Ms. McGouirck's husband and interested parents) built their own entries in their spare time, with a red, white and blue catapult and a custom Leopard chariot.

The opportunity for all kids to compete was tremendous, with categories ranging from fine art (mosaics, models, pastels), Latin poetry readings, basketball, tennis, costume, banners, T-shirts and much more.

With all of the doom-saying about public schools in general and California schools in particular, it is great to see a committed teacher and a strong group of students excel academically and have some fun at the same time. They came. They saw. They conquered.

La Entrada winners

**La Entrada won these awards: Overall Award, Medium-Sized School, 1st Place; Creative Arts, Middle School, 1st Place. **Overall awards to individual students: Overall Middle School Advanced (all around), Laura Brent, 1st Place; Overall Middle School Advanced Academics, Laura Brent, 1st Place; Overall Middle School Level 1 (all around), Anna Erickson, 1st Place; Overall Middle School Level 1 Athletics, Anna Erickson, 1st Place; Overall Middle School Level 1 Academics, Cara Arcuni, 3rd Place. **Middle School Awards. Certamen Advanced, 1st Place (Team: Laura Brent, Mark Daiss, Tyler Holland, Madeleine Nguyen, Nick Vallarino). Certamen Level 1, 1st Place (Team: Michael Charley, Taylor Margot, Collin McVeigh, Noah Wachtel.) Chariot, Boys' Team, 1st Place (Team: Mark Daiss, Tyler Holland, Robert Kent, Nick Vallarino; Driver: Katherine Daiss). Chariot, Girls' Team, 2nd Place Team: Cara Arcuni, Katherine Daiss, Anna Erickson Caryn Ice; Driver: Zane Brown. Banner designed by Cara Arcuni. 1st place T-Shirt designed by Matt Howard, 1st Place. **Creative Arts. Costume (Hephaestus), Lee Taylor, 3rd Place; Costume (Arachne), Cara Arcuni, 2nd Place; Dance, Caryn Ice, 2nd Place; Talent Show, Caryn Ice, 3rd Place; Mosaics, Ashley Graumann, 1st Place; Mosaics, Katherine Daiss, 2nd Place; Mosaics, Cara Arcuni, 3rd Place; Mosaics, Laura Brent, 3rd Place. **Sports. Swimming, 100M Freestyle, Zane Brown, 2nd Place; 100M Freestyle, Anna Erickson, 1st Place; 100M Individual Medley, Anna Erickson, 1st Place; 50M Backstroke, Anna Erickson, 2nd Place; 50M Breaststroke, Anna Erickson, 1st Place; 50M Butterfly, Anna Erickson, 2nd Place; 50M Butterfly, Kyle Mulroe, 2nd Place; 50M Freestyle, Anna Erickson, 1st Place; Tennis, Ashley Graumann, 1st Place. **Middle School Advanced, Academic Tests. Derivatives, Laura Brent, 1st Place; Mottoes/Quotes, Madeleine Nguyen, 1st Place; Pentathlon Laura Brent, 1st Place; Pentathlon, Madeleine Nguyen, 3rd Place; Vocabulary, Nick Vallarino, 1st Place; Vocabulary, Mark Daiss, 2nd Place; Latin Oratory, Laura Brent, 1st Place. **Middle School Level 1, Academic Tests. Daily Life, Michael Charley, 2nd Place; Daily Life, Caryn Ice, 3rd Place; Daily Life, Anna Erickson, 3rd Place; Mythology, Cara Arcuni, 1st Place; Reading Comprehension, Cara Arcuni, 1st Place; Dramatic Interpretation, Anna Erickson, 1st Place; Latin Sight Reading, Cara Arcuni, 1st Place; Open Certamen, Cara Arcuni, 1st Place.

You can find out more about the California Junior Classical League at, and look at La Entrada Middle School on the Web at

The author of this article is Doug Brent, proud father of Laura Brent, the overall middle school winner and an eighth-grade Latin 2 student at La Entrada.


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