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I stare at the blank page in front of me, trying to make sense of the jigsaw before my eyes. I glance at the clock. Great. Midnight. As I begin to doubt my abilities to successfully translate 30 lines of the Aeneid, my eyes wander to my dry erase board, filled with pictures of family and friends, reminders for upcoming tests and tennis tournaments, and crinkled sheet music for my upcoming orchestra concert. A 4x6 postcard clustered with quick messy writing catches my attention. I had received this small piece of paper in the mail the second week of my freshman year. An award bestowed upon the few that not only captured a teacher’s attention but also for one who stands out from the rest of the herd, the Phenomenal Phoenix, given to me by none other than my Latin teacher. Only just the second week of school and already I received an honor so rare only few knew about. Next to the card were 3 glossy purple ribbons and immediately the memories begun to flood my mind of the event that changed my life, which had only taken place not even a year ago.

Sitting with my fellow members of our 6-years-in-a-row first place Latin Club, the intense nerves overtook me. Huddled arm in arm, there we sat, anxiously listening for our names to be announced in the award ceremony at the Texas State Junior Classical League Convention. Never before had I won an award at any state convention I’ve attended, a surprise to many because I have been an officer every year and so involved with the club and its countless activities. Yet, unlike all the other officers, I could never pull in the 1st place awards. I never thought that I could ever one day be like them. Tired of always coming in 5th place at the area convention, I set a goal at the beginning of my junior year that I would become a 1st place winner and for once feel like an asset to the club’s continuing glory. To do so, I knew I had to switch out of the category I studied in my first two years, Mottoes. While I did love studying and learning the various Latin mottoes of universities and countries, after two years of coming in 5th place, I knew that it just wasn’t the right category for me. With the new goal at the start of the year, I made the decision to switch into a new category, Dramatic Interpretation. Instead of studying all year to compete in a 60 minute test, I was now going to spend my year memorizing a passage in Latin and perform it for judges.

After months of practicing and perfecting my fourteen lines of Latin, giving appropriate gestures and modifying my tone of voice for each word to clearly convey the meaning, the moment had come. The moment that would soon prove that all my hard work truly had paid off. My nerves at this point were agonizing as the announcer read aloud the winners of my category. The results for both third and second place had come too slow as my heart was practically throbbing out of my chest as the anticipation for the name of the first place winner grew nearer until a lapsus linguae (slip of the tongue) occurred. He accidently let out a “K..” and at that moment I along with my entire club jumped in joy at my amazing accomplishment. To be honest I never even heard my name, just the first syllable, but that was all that I needed to hear to run down to the stage and accept my shiny purple ribbon that I worked so hard for. Later on in the award ceremony, I came to win TWO MORE first places, one in scrapbook and the other in state T-shirt design. Once thinking I could never live up to the accomplishments of the officers I had shared office with my first two years in the club, I then realized I had done something never done by any of them before. I won not only one, not two, but three first place awards.

The award ceremony concluded as it always does with the results of the sweepstakes awards for the Latin clubs as a whole. I never knew the feeling of not winning first place as a club because we’ve won it six years in a row. That tradition continued as yet again we received first place in the state of Texas. Each year, we’re more and more surprised that we receive it because each year the competition trails behind us with a fewer point margin. Riding home on the bus with my club, I found out that we had won by only 29 points. I then did the math in my head. A first place contributes 10 points to the club score. Because I won three first places, I contributed a total of 30 points. From once never receiving any awards to ending up being the difference in keeping a legacy of now seven years alive, I knew that with determination and hard work I could overcome any obstacle put in my way.

Paying closer attention to my teacher’s words on my index card, I came to the realization that ever since my second week of high school he had seen the potential in me that I had yet to see. While Latin has certainly not been the easiest class I’ve taken my past four years in high school, it has not only taught me the most, but changed me the most. So as I began to doubt my ability to translate my 30 lines of the Aeneid for homework, I remember my ribbons and how I received them, and dove headfirst deep into the Latin.



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