When Harry B. Evans, Ph.D., professor of classics at Fordham University, took to the podium at the McGinley Center Commons on March 20 and said salvete, the students from the Bronx Latin School squirming in their chairs knew exactly of what he spoke. Almost in unison, the response came: salve, the Latin word for hello.
Thus began a busy day for more than 150 middle school students from the Bronx who had the opportunity to get a sense of the wonders of the ancient world and a taste of college life on the Rose Hill campus. The students and their teachers were guests of the Fordham Department of Classics, the Office of Government and Urban Affairs and the Faculty of Arts & Sciences as part of Fordham Latin Day.
“To have 155 Latin students in one room is quite an achievement,” said Evans, who teaches in Fordham College at Rose Hill and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “In fact, this may be a record. It’s very good for Fordham to do this kind of outreach and it builds on our strengths as a liberal arts university.”
The Bronx Latin School is one of nearly 200 small schools created by the Bloomberg administration over the last few years. Opened three years ago with the help of the educational nonprofit New Visions for Public Schools and funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the school currently has students in 6th through 8th grades. Eventually, it will enroll students through the 12th grade.
All 155 students at the school, who come from neighborhoods throughout the Bronx, learn Latin, which teachers use as a way of bolstering academic achievement by helping them develop critical thinking skills and gain a better understanding of the Latin roots of the English language.
Principal Leticia Pineiro said that her goal was to expose the students to Fordham while the University was still in session so that they could get a feel for college life.
“These kinds of experiences are extremely valuable [for the students],” Pineiro said. “For many of our students, this is the very first time they’ve been on a college campus. We talk to them about college all the time, but they need to see it — they need to experience it.
“For us, Fordham was a logical choice because we’re a school for classical education.”
The students were led on tours of campus by Evans and a number of graduate and undergraduate students. The Fordham students also organized presentations on the Roman city of Pompeii, discussed the study of Latin and classics at Fordham and fielded questions about college life.
Evans said Fordham has established a working relationship with the Bronx Latin School, with undergraduates providing tutoring after school. Evans said that not only would he like to see Fordham Latin Day become an annual event, but he’d like to see the students enroll at Fordham in the years ahead.
“We are very, very pleased that you could be here today,” Evans told the students. “We hope that you enjoy yourselves, learn something, and think about coming to Fordham when you are ready for college, because people who have started learning Latin in the sixth grade are exactly the students we want at Fordham.”
By Victor M. Inzunza