Carpe diem: St. Veronica Certamen team puts Latin skills to the test

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Anyone who says Latin is a dead language has probably never met the Certamen team at St. Veronica School in Chantilly.

The dedicated group of sixth-, seventh- and eighth- graders travel to competitions around the region where they participate in fast-paced rounds of questions and answers about Roman culture and the Latin language. Sometimes the Certamen (Latin for "contest") teams translate modern movie and song titles into Latin, respond to commands or answer reading comprehension questions.

This year is one of the team's best yet; St. Veronica students have walked away with a trophy at each of the five competitions held this school year.

"This year has been phenomenal," said Jenifer Scott, Latin teacher at St. Veronica. "We've won trophies in the past, but sometimes we came away in fifth or sixth place."

The team is unique because St. Veronica is one of the few schools in the Arlington Diocese to offer a Latin program for grades 1-8. Students practice and participate in the competitions on their own time, after school and on the weekends. They receive no extra credit for participating, said Scott.

The 10 students, who are divided into two teams based on skill level, are simply passionate about Roman mythology, history, culture and language. And then there's the thrill of doing well in a competition - where they often compete against high school students.

"I get an adrenaline rush every time I compete," said Jane Kearns, an eighth-grader and captain of her Level One team.

As a teacher, Scott appreciates what Certamen does for her students.

"They take away that they are smarter than they know, that they can go up against these prestigious schools. And if they don't win, they always learn," she said. "There's always something to grow on. They are a team and they have to support each other. They look on it as a great accomplishment."

The students will travel to Charlottesville in April to compete in the state finals during the University of Virginia's Classics Day. With any luck, they'll be able to say at the end: "Veni, vidi, vici."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016