Mt. Zion High Latin: Vocatio egregio

By Greg Gelpi

It may be a dead language, but for Mt. Zion High School students Latin is providing a lifetime of opportunities.

All nine students who took the 2005 National Latin Exam scored at or above the national average on the test, including Samantha Haring, who made a perfect score.

Although students are given 50 minutes to take the test, Haring, 17, says she finished in 15 minutes.

Only 1,591 students of the 135,000 who took the test in all 50 states and 14 foreign countries scored a perfect score.

Haring will put her Latin experience to use as she graduates and moves on to major in chemistry and minor in Latin at the University of Georgia.

Mahtab Rahman, who got 35 of 40 correct, adds Latin to his list of foreign languages, which includes Bengali and Hindi.

"It's something about Latin that sticks in my head," Rahman, 16, says. "My memory is horrible, but Latin sticks."

Learning a dead language is actually "cool," he says.

"I can say stuff and no one knows what I'm talking about," Rahman says, hoping that Latin will pay dividends when he takes the SAT.

By learning Latin, he increases his English vocabulary since many English words find their root in Latin, he says.

That's the reason that Unwanaobong Udoko, 15, decides to take Latin classes.

Udoko scored a 36 out of 40 on the Latin Exam and says the language will also benefit her after school as she pursues a career in the medical field. Many medical terms are derivatives of Latin words.

Each of the students credits their success to the teaching style of their Latin teacher, Marjorie Powell.

"I'm a no nonsense teacher I guess," Powell says. "I don't play around. We get in here and we work."

Powell says she learned Latin at the age of 12 in her native Jamaica and uses her extensive knowledge of the language in the classroom to create her own style of teaching.

"I know how (learning Latin) helps because it's helped me a lot," she says. "This is not an easy course to teach. This is not an easy subject to learn."

Powell avoids mnemonic tricks such as having the students learn songs to remember the days of the week, instead preferring strict memorization.

"The successes I've enjoyed with students makes me want to continue to do what I've been doing," she says.

Haring and Rahman earned gold recognition on the national test, Udoko and Simone Hodge earned silver, Lauren Mungin and Takarus Deas received outstanding achievement honors and Marlon Cabrera earned achievement honors.