“Latin is not dead — it’s immortal.”
This quote, espoused by scholars across the world, can also be found on a poster adorning the wall of Ms. Dinh’s Latin classroom here at GGHS. In the Latin program, students devote hours upon hours to learning cases, verb endings, parts of a sentence written in Lingua Latina, and embracing the classics. Each year, after months of hard work, voluntary (yes, they’re that dedicated!) participation in the National Latin Exam and long nights spent studying, the entire family of Latin students come together at the annual Latin Banquet. There, they celebrate their achievements, each other, and the language that brings them all together.
This year’s banquet was held on June 6th in the North Gym, and students dressed up for the occasion began to file in to partake in the festivities around six in the evening. The buffet included pasta made specially by Ms. Dinh, salad, cookies, brownies, Capri Suns, sodas, and other treats. Once again, the food was one of the highlights of the evening — when asked why somebody should join Latin, Tiffany Nguyen (10) said, “Do it for the banquets! Mrs. Dinh makes really good food.”
Once everybody was settled, plates overflowing with food, it was time to announce the awards of the night. The National Latin Exam has three primary ranks of awards. The first rank is Cum Laude, meaning “with honor.” Magna Cum Laude is the equivalent of a bronze medal. Maxima Cum Laude the silver, and Summa Cum Laude the gold. The highest honor a student can receive is the Maureen O’Donnell Oxford Classical Dictionary Award, awarded to students who have received Summa Cum Laude awards for four years in a row.
Eleven Latin I students scored well enough on the exam to receive an award. Ryan Acerto and Hannah Tien earned themselves Cum Laude. Iela Echevarri, Tracy Ngo, Lilly Phan, and Ann Le brought it up to the next level with Magna Cum Laude and Brandon Nguyen with the silver Maxima Cum Laude. Finally, Raymond Sabino, Michelle Lu, Julie Phan, and Melissa Choang brought home the gold with Summa Cum Laude.
Despite a sudden turn in the intensity of the lessons in Latin II and a strong emphasis on grammatical rules, Latin II students still excelled on the exam. Darlene Burton and Nicole Hunter received Magna Cum Laude, and the silver Maxima Cum Laude certificate and medal went to Thomas Hoang, Jasmin Levya, Tiffany Nguyen, Jennifer Pham, and Adriana Villa. Nghiem Pham and Richard Tran earned the gold.
There’s a reason that Latin III and IV are combined: the course becomes so intense that most students drop it after their second year, so the number of third and fourth year Latin students tends to be low. However, these students have not only stuck it out — they have thrived in the language. Latin III students Michael Luu, Liuquine Gasatan, Kathy Nguyen, and Catherine Pham started off their group’s awards right with the silver level, and Janice Badua, Marissa Garcia, Keri Tate, Amy Ho, Tammy Phan, Scott Belair, Angel Nguyen, Cassalyn Nguyen all received the gold. Latin IV, the hardest level of all, also saw many winners: Phuong Pham and John Dang with Magna Cum Laude, Newton Le, Kassidy Tran, Roger Nguyen, and Nathan Leeser with Maxima Cum Laude, and Kyle Arndt and Johnson Huynh with Summa Cum Laude. Kyle Arndt also received the Maureen O’Donnell Classical Dictionary Award for four years straight of winning the gold.
With another generation of the Latin family leaving for college, the banquet was also an occasion to reflect on their time in the program and the memories they have made. Ms. Dinh performed a heartfelt rendition of Kenny Loggin’s “Your Heart Will Lead You Home” as a slideshow of the seniors’ baby pictures and their pictures from throughout their time in the Latin program played.
Garden Grove High School is unique in that it offers a Latin program in the first place — as Marissa Garcia (12) says, “Often Latin is predominantly offered at private schools, but we Argonauts get to be the strong symbols for the competency of public education; this is an honour I will never take for granted.”
The academic payoff is astounding; Latin tends to help students excel in other subjects as well, particularly in writing. Scott Belair (11) says, “You learn English in Latin better than you can in any English class.” But, according to many of the students, the personal growth is what really makes it special.
“Many people say that Latin is a dead language, but it has made me feel so alive for the past three years,” shares Amy Ho (12), reflecting on her three years in the program. “It’s given me a way to understand the ancient world, and thus a way to understand our modern world. It is my connection to the people of the past, but has also helped me connect with some of the most impactful, inspirational people I will ever meet. And as long as the planet is alive, Latin will live on.”
Congratulations, Latinerds, on all of your achievements! Semper ad maleficorum!