An “Early” Year Introduction to JCL


Ryan Smith, Human Interest Department

Euge! Or, for those who are not learned in the classical language of the Romans, and “mother language” to several languages including our own, Hooray! For a new school year has begun and new TMHS students, freshman and newcomers alike, must be flummoxed by the absolute quantity and variety of sports, clubs, and extracurricular activities with which to pad their time spent in the school as well as their college applications.  


Choosing a club is a task unlike that of any other after-class activity, because a club reflects genuine interests in a student, rather than simply their athletic ability or necessity of community service hours.  The young freshman will follow their passion for business into DECA, compassion into Best Buddies, or whatever the appeal of anime is into Anime Club.


But while the most popular clubs in our community see the mass of conscientious TMHS students pass through them, one club remains perpetually as a haven for a select few. A place where students of an ancient language congregate to study and enrich themselves under a name that most TMHS students will go their whole academic careers without ever even hearing: Junior Classical League (or JCL for short).


JCL has requirements like many of the other clubs at TMHS, although their simple request of a potential member to have taken a Latin class (or Greek, for anyone who’s found that class on the roster) makes it the most exclusive club in the school. The Latin knowledge is required because JCL is a sort of fan-club for all things Roman, Latin, or just plain old. JCL is a supplement to the TMHS Classics experience that includes cultural study, field trips, and even participation in gatherings of the wider national JCL or SCL (Senior Classical League) community.


Isolation has made the group very close, and so the typical meeting feels like a gathering of friends more than anything else. The group is often afflicted with having to redirect the meeting towards official business when personal conversations are about. Tasks are assigned to group members regarding the next group outing and ideas are gathered on what JCL should do next. Sitting in on just one JCL meeting will get you the “jist” of what the club is about, but to understand what has kept JCL alive and well in TMHs, you have to talk Mr. Paul Early, the club’s proprietor. As anyone acquainted with him knows, having a conversation with Mr. Early on any topic is no difficult task, but in spotlight I will provide you with the highlights from an interview with Mr. Early in which we focused on what the student body should know about JCL.  


What does “Junior Classical League” mean?

 According to Mr. Early, its name ends with “Classical League” owing to the fact that it is centered around the study of the classics, i.e. Rome and Greece. It’s “Junior” in order to distinguish from the collegiate “Senior Classical League”.


Is JCL only available to Latin students?

“Unfortunately yes,” he says, “unless there are any Greek students around”.


What are some of the challenges of operating such a niche club?

“Maintaining interest is definitely one,” he tells us, “as well as keeping the energy up. This year we have a high energy group.”


Any other challenges for you as an administrator?

“Just the occasional student who needs extra attention, like on a field trip or something.” “Yes, I’m something of a student wrangler sometimes.”


How long have you run JCL?

“Since I started here, so about 15 years.” Why JCL?


What can students expect to get out of JCL?

“A sense of camaraderie definitely […] a chance to participate in our culture as descendants of Rome, [..] and a chance to learn outside of s school environment.”


What is the advantage of studying Latin in today’s world?

In addition to a kind of “foreign exposure”, he says the reason is “analogous to the reason we study history. We understand so much of what we do now because of them”.


Today, JCL is going strong with a dedicated membership, a new recruit, and plans to do as many activities as possible, including a field trip to Worcester to witness a gladiatorial re-enactment, to participate in the Latin knowledge competition known as Certamen,

and almost immediately to have a booth at this year’s Applefest. Mr. Early is always looking for new members in his Latin classes, and even Non-Latin students are encouraged to stop by. From all the members of the Junior Classical League, Vale!