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Haverhill Archive

October 25, 2006

Keeping a dead language alive:Haverhill High students embrace Latin, follow a regional trend

It may be a dead language, but Pinkerton Academy students are signing up for Latin classes in larger numbers than ever before.

"Latina est scelesta," is the slogan on T-shirts worn by students at the Derry, N.H., high school where the ancient language is making a comeback. Translation: "Latin is wicked hot."

Haverhill High School students and teachers have known that all along. While Latin enrollment in some area communities has dipped and then made a comeback - as in Pinkerton's case - Haverhill High classes have held steady.

Haverhill High has always been focused on Latin and currently offers six Latin classes with a total of 105 students, said Bernard Nangle, acting principal and former head of the school's world languages and social studies department.

The number of Latin classes and students enrolled has remained close to 100 over the years, and the students taking it learn more than a language, Nangle said.

"It's one of those classes that gives you history and special context," he said. "It's a good basis for anyone in a government course, social studies. All things Western come out of it."

He also said Latin fulfills a college admissions requirement for a language or social studies class.

Pinkerton Academy - the high school for the New Hampshire communities of Derry, Chester and Hampstead - has seen increased enrollment in its Latin program in recent years. While school enrollment has dipped slightly, Latin teacher Mat Olkovikas said the school had to add classes to accommodate the program's 50 to 75 new students. Between 200 to 250 Pinkerton students are now enrolled in Latin.

Pinkerton isn't the only area school that offers Latin - Londonderry and Salem high schools in New Hampshire, and Lawrence and Haverhill also have thriving programs - but Pinkerton is the only one that has seen such a dramatic increase in the number of students studying the language.

Though few people speak Latin anymore, students said they are drawn to the language because it helps with SAT scores and vocabulary, and they are looking for something other than the traditional foreign languages.

Teachers at Pinkerton said there is no clear reason why the Latin program is growing so quickly, other than that they have been actively marketing the program to incoming freshmen in recent years.

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