Stuyvesant Students Reach Semifinals in Yale Latin Certamen

Stuyvesant Latin students participated in Yale Latin Certamen for the first time in almost a decade, with one group making it to the semifinals.

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By Ty Anant

Stuyvesant Latin students advanced to the semifinals in the Yale Latin Certamen on November 12 despite not having participated in almost a decade. A Certamen is a competition focused on Greco-Roman elements. The competition at Yale centered around Latin grammar, translation, and vocabulary, as well as Greco-Roman and Egyptian history and mythology. Yale invited public and private schools from the East Coast to participate in the Certamen and introduced students to their Classics Department.

The layout of the competition consisted of A and B teams, which were equal in level. The teams competed in the preliminary round before ascending to the semifinals. The preliminary round presented 20 questions about different subjects of Latin and two bonus questions for every correct answer. The top eight A teams advanced to the semifinals along with the top B teams. In the semifinals, three groups of three teams competed, and the winning three teams were able to move on to the finals.

Latin teacher and faculty advisor of the Stuyvesant Latin club Lance Tomas supervised the trip of 20 Stuyvesant participants. Many participants were members of the Latin club, which prepares its members with practice Certamens. However, participation in the Certamen was open to all students who take Latin or are interested in Latin. Because Stuyvesant has not participated in Certamens in recent years, Tomas wanted to reintroduce the competitions to students. “I did Certamen in high school, so I wanted to bring it here because I think it’s fun and I think the kids are good enough to do well,” he said.

This competition was the first Certamen that Stuyvesant had participated in the past few years, and Stuyvesant lacked resources compared to other schools that participated. “Some of the schools we were up against have actual Certamen classes and training programs, and we don’t do that,” Tomas said. Similarly, some students expressed frustration over the lack of resources provided for the competition. “I just wished we had a little more preparation for it because I think we only started preparing for it two weeks in advance for the competition,” sophomore Hannah Choi said.

In preparation for the competition, students were divided into groups with each member responsible for a specific area of specialization based on their interests. Questions were posed to the entire team, regardless of specialization, but specialization allowed students to become more knowledgeable in a specific area in the short preparation time. “There’s one topic that you specialize in, so for mine, I did Latin grammar and vocabulary, and my other teammates did mythology or history,” sophomore Jada Kim said.

Since there is no dedicated Certamen program, preparation was done mostly independently. “[We had] two tryouts where we tried to answer questions, [but] otherwise we just worked online on a study guide,” junior Chloe Dong said.

Despite having only a few weeks to prepare, the novice B team advanced to the semifinals as the leading team in the novice B division at 430 points. At the semifinals, Stuyvesant placed second and was unable to advance to the finals. “The [group] we were in was [with] Dominican Academy, Stuyvesant, and Roxbury Latin. Roxbury Latin won with 115 points,” freshmen Ian Savino said, who was in the novice B team. “We came in second place with 85 points and the Dominican Academy at 60 points.”

Students were proud of their unexpectedly successful performance. “It’s been a decade since Stuy has participated so we weren’t expecting much, [but] we actually did pretty well. Even our teacher was surprised,” junior Chloe Dong said.

Though Stuyvesant participants did not make it to the finals, they were able to benefit from the experience and view it as preparation for the National Latin Exam (NLE) at the end of the year. “The structure of the questions, I think that’s gonna help prepare me for the NLE [...] since we have to take that every year,” Choi said.

Others enjoyed being able to apply their studies in a real-life setting as well as gain more knowledge about Latin. “It’s fun to see that what we learn actually pays off and that we’re able to understand and get questions correct,” Kim said. “We actually learn new derivatives for certain [Latin] words.”

Besides testing their Latin knowledge, students enjoyed bonding with fellow team members. “I got to know the people on my team better. [...] We got more time to talk to the team that I was working with, and it was super nice. The experience was definitely [something that let me] branch out and try something new,” freshman Stella Anderson said.

Anderson also expressed her eagerness to compete in an event like this and how this experience cemented her passion for Latin culture and club. “This is actually the first time I traveled for a club or for school, so it was really interesting as a new experience, while also solidifying that yes, I want to keep doing this for a while,” Anderson said.

It is likely that Stuyvesant will be participating in future Latin competitions, as attendees enjoyed this year’s event. “They seemed to have fun [...] and I’m hoping we can build this up,” Tomas said. “There’s [another competition] in New York City, usually that’s run by Townsend Harris, that if they do it we’ll probably compete there, and we’ll do a lot better than we did.”

To some Latin students, participating in the Yale Certamen is only the beginning. “We’re trying to get into Princeton’s [Certamen] this year, and possibly also a Townsend Harris one. If we do well at these, we probably have a higher chance of being able to attend the Harvard one next year,” Anderson said.