By Dr. Kim Given, Indian Hill Middle School Gifted Intervention Specialist
For the last seven years, I have had the privilege of chaperoning Indian Hill seventh through 12th graders at the Ohio Junior Classical League (OJCL) State Convention. In my 30 years as an educator, I have come to recognize and understand the importance that key events can have in shaping the learning of students and their development as citizens and as members of a community. The OJCL State Convention is one such event. Throughout this weekend, students engage purposefully and positively with one another as team players, leaders, scholars, artists, and performers. They must learn independence and how to work well as a group. They must manage their time and learn to be ‘in the moment.’ The weekend invariably weaves a tapestry of stories that more people should hear and that I am richer for having experienced.
According to the OJCL website, “The Ohio Junior Classical League (OJCL) is the state organization which promotes the study of the Latin language and classical civilization. Each year, the OJCL hosts a convention in Columbus which brings together over 600 students, teachers, and parents from across the State of Ohio to celebrate the study of Latin. There are a variety of competitive activities at the convention: academic tests, art contests, certamen, and creative performances (in both English and Latin). In addition, the convention offers a number of social activities, including a dance, a toga banquet, and OJCL’s Got Talent! State Convention is also an opportunity for students to run for the OJCL Executive Board. Delegations compete in various contests to win prizes and recognition.” These stories of student State Convention experiences are aligned with our District values, and clearly demonstrates Indian Hill High School’s pillars: leadership, integrity, pride, excellence, respect, and opportunity.
Leadership & IntegrityMaggie Jutze – Stepping up and out of her comfort zone
Maggie Jutze, Indian Hill High School (IHHS) junior, ran as the state of emergency presidential candidate for the Ohio Junior Classical League State Elections. She made her campaign speech on stage in front of over 600 people. Jutze tends to prefer helping others rather than being in the spotlight, herself.
“I had thought about running for office at State Convention in the past, but never went through with it,” Jutze shared. “I promised myself that if a position was in a state of emergency (one candidate running unopposed), I would enter the race. That office turned out to be president.
“Coming up with a platform to run on was the toughest part with our timeline. We basically had about 24 hours to pull everything together. Ms. Burgess talked through ideas with me and helped me to decide that what I cared most about was helping bring Latin and a love of the classics to more students. When my younger sister Molly was trying to make a decision about what language she wanted take in sixth grade, she was planning on French. I spoke with her about all of the additional elements studying Latin could bring to her learning. In thinking about the reasons why I thought it was important for Molly to be a Latin kid, it occurred to me that more students should know what our Latin program at school and through OJCL has to offer.”
Jutze said that running for OJCL helped her to connect with more students.
“I had been to Latin Convention in the past, but had felt scared to talk to people or meet people I didn’t know there. While running for office, my job was to get out and meet people, talk about my platform, and to persuade them to support me for president. I definitely would not have met or talked to so many people without the campaign.”
Jutze ran a great campaign, spoke in front of the entire state delegation, and had many other students working to help her get her ideas across before the election. When the winner was announced, Jutze took it in stride.
“Even though I didn’t win the election, I learned that running for office is something that I can accomplish. I plan to apply for OJCL State Gubernator, a role in charge of running Latin Club service and organizing events for Make a Difference Day. The gubernator has to coordinate events and communicate to club leaders and students.
“My advice for other students is not to be afraid to put yourself out there. It was scary at first to think I needed to campaign, meet and talk with strangers, and speak in front of a crowd. The further I got into the process, the easier it became. The OJCL State Convention is a great opportunity for students to come together and share their love of the classics.”
Pride Kim Zwolshen & Alison Ma - The Importance of Spirit
Indian Hill High School juniors Kim Zwolshen and Alison Ma talked about the important role of spirit as a part of the State Convention experience. Zwolshen is the co-president of the Indian Hill Latin Club. She and Alison worked with other student leaders to make sure that the Indian Hill students attending State Convention understood how to show their spirit at General Assembly events throughout the weekend.
“Showing our spirit requires unity of the group, a loud, energetic, big and expressive presence,” explained Zwolshen. “We want to show all the other schools that we are proud of who we are as a Latin club and as a school. We want to get our name out there as one of the top groups in the state and for our performance to reflect well on Indian Hill.”
Zwolshen mentioned that showing spirit at a large event can be daunting.
“It can be loud and chaotic when you enter a large room and there are 570 other people yelling at the top of their lungs. Helping our members with less confidence or experience to understand their role and to have fun is an important part of the Convention celebration and in being a team,” said Zwolshen.
“There are definitely barriers to overcome,” Ma agreed. “Friends might make one another feel more self-conscious. We (students) don’t know how to scream for something. There aren’t many opportunities where screaming is acceptable and encouraged. You’re in a room full of other people doing the same thing. New attendees are probably thinking, ‘Are they crazy?’ or, ‘What’s going on here?’ People are tired and it’s loud.”
Zwolshen and Ma held discussions with other club leaders to build ideas on how to improve, develop strategy, and how to ensure new attendees understood what to do. There were props, cheers, and a lot of practice to make sure all club members were ready to show their spirit.
“Leading spirit is a group effort,” said Ma. “We placed ourselves at either end of the group to encourage all to participate. Any veteran of convention should be helping to lead the cheers.” Ma reports that she had never yelled before she got to high school. “I’ve found I have a pterodactyl screech and surprising amount of stamina when it comes to cheering for our club,” she joked.
Both students said that their role at OJCL State Convention had changed this year from participant to leader. Zwolshen has advice for how to be a better group member.
“Be comfortable with yourself, talk with leadership, be informed, put knowledge into action, and be proud.”
Olivia Sheldon - How to Win at OJCL State Convention (Photo of Olivia Sheldon at top of story.)
For the second year in a row, Indian Hill High School junior Olivia Sheldon won the Overall Sweepstakes Prize at the Ohio Junior Classical League State Convention. The Sweepstakes Prize is awarded to the student who won the most points across all contests: Graphic Arts, Creative Arts, Academic Tests, Certamen, and Pre-Convention. Sheldon reported that she entered a total of 23 arts-based contests this year ranging from poetry to costuming and a lot in between.
“I only entered 17 projects last year in Graphic Arts,” said Sheldon. “During a trip to Rome over spring break with a group of Latin Club students I already started planning with other club members some projects for next year’s convention that can include our photos and videos on location. This year at convention, I also was more involved - we helped Maggie (Jutze) with her campaign and helped to lead other students through the schedule of the weekend’s events.
“Entering contests has a great direct reward. I put the work in and often receive ribbons for the projects I enter. Not all kinds of events give these kinds of results. I hope my work influences other people to want to do more projects and to see the results of their hard own work. My sister Alex (eighth grader) and I push each other to do better each year. We finished first and second place in the Graphic Arts category. We worked on a lot of our projects at the same time, encouraging one another.”
RespectBlake Phillips – A Lesson in Developing Lasting Friendships
Indian Hill High School junior Blake Phillips attended his first OJCL State Latin Convention this year. One of the elements of OJCL State Convention are the multiple opportunities for leadership, formal and informal. Phillips saw a chance to help our Indian Hill Latin Club and ran with it. He became the self-appointed campaign manager for Maggie Jutze’s bid for OJCL President.
“As soon as I found out Maggie had decided to run, I started by texting my friends at other schools,” said Phillips. “I wanted them to know about Maggie and her goals as president - to get her name out there. After sending out the text, I grabbed some friends and walked around Convention to talk about voting for Maggie. A teacher from another school listened to our pitch and gave us ideas on how to improve and better connect with the students.”
Phillips said that he really enjoys meeting new people and that putting his naturally outgoing personality to work for Maggie’s campaign seemed like an easy choice. “My biggest takeaway from the convention is that it is a great way for students and teachers to interact, and form bonds. I had only maybe said 200 words to Maggie before the convention, and now I’ve formed bonds through this convention experience that I could not have gotten through another situation or event.”
Phillips toured Italy with the Latin Club over spring break and said he definitely plans on going to State Convention again next year.
OpportunityEvelyn Bond - A first-time visit to State Convention story
“My brother, Andrew, liked the convention last year and it sounded like fun so I decided I should go,” said Evelyn Bond, who attended her first Ohio Junior Classical League State Convention this year as a seventh grader. Bond said she enjoyed taking the academic tests. In fact, she earned first place in her division on two of the tests she took.
“I was surprised I did so well,” shared Bond. “I thought the projects I completed would be my highest level performance, but my test results and our team’s participation in Certamen were both higher.”
As Bond would discover, academic achievement isn’t the only focus of State Convention.
“I also enjoyed going to the Colloquia over the weekend,” said Bond. “I learned how to make Roman armor in one session.” Bond appreciated being able to demonstrate her knowledge as a part of the weekend. “Attending the convention meant I could show off my Latin knowledge over Andrew instead of him always beating me. I earned a higher place in nearly every event. I definitely plan to go again. My advice to others to prepare is to study, prepare for the contents, and don’t try to do your projects on the bus on the way to Columbus.”
Molly Jutze - Sister Power
Molly Jutze attended her first OJCL State Convention as a seventh grader this year. When her eleventh-grade sister Maggie decided to run for OJCL State President, Molly agreed to introduce her sister on stage in front of over 600 people.
“The convention was really fun and exciting, but standing up in front of a crowd of 600 people to introduce my sister for OJCL President was scary!” Molly reported. Even so, she shared that she felt like she had accomplished something important by speaking on her sister’s behalf.
In her introductory speech, Molly said that she had been thinking about taking French as her middle school level language. “Maggie told me how fun convention was and how Latin can help with learning English so that helped me decide to take Latin instead. I was so proud of Maggie that she ran for the position.”
When asked about whether she will run for state office in the future, Molly laughed and said, “Maybe.”
Molly plans to attend next year’s Convention and to double her project entries.
These were just a few of many stories created at the OJCL State Convention this year and just one of the many opportunities that Indian Hill Schools offers its students to grow both in and beyond academics. I feel fortunate to be able to share in these stories, to work with our students and families, and to be a part of a district that values the growth of the whole child.