Latin Lovers

An ambitious new Southwest Philadelphia charter school uses an ancient language as a formula for learning.

By St. John Barned-Smith
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 40 | Posted Jun. 11, 2008

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Photographs by Michael Persico

caption: caption: School building: Teacher Sara Flounders and CEO David Hardy hope Latin will help their students achieve.
Web headline: Latin Lovers
Web subheadline: An ambitious new Southwest Philadelphia charter school uses an ancient language as a formula for learning. -->

An ambitious Southwest Philadelphia charter school uses an ancient language as a new formula for learning.

There are minefields on the path to maturity for every young person in this city. But for many young male Philadelphians, the danger runs deeper.

Young men in Philadelphia public schools are more likely than most to live with one parent, have a parent in jail, reside in drug-addled neighborhoods or experience violence. Students in too many Philadelphia public schools can't be guaranteed basic safety, let alone a decent education.

Enter the Boys' Latin of Philadelphia Charter School, a new college prep school at 55th and Cedar in Southwest Philadelphia with an ambitious plan to avert the tragedy that defines the city's public school system. Boys' Latin's first batch of students--144 ninth-graders--occupy a 10-room temporary structure as they wait for contractors to finish renovations on the building next door.

Last year there were 11 murders within five blocks of where Boys' Latin sits. "I worry about the students," says teacher Paula Sahm, who lives in the Art Museum area of Philadelphia. "I'll sit and watch the news, and if I even hear Southwest Philly, I get chills."

Next to the trailer setup is the shell of a former school, once attached to Transfiguration Church, which was destroyed by fire in 2006. Boards cover most of the windows, and pickup trucks occupy most of the adjacent lot. But by next year the school building plans to house 300 Boys' Latin students, with plans to grow enrollment to 600 by 2010.

Inside the temporary structures teachers drill Latin, biology, math, music, and English composition and literature into the minds of the kids who make up the school's inaugural class. It's a full-blown college prep program, one entirely different from the curriculum offered by the schools most of these students attended before. The range of student ability is dramatic. While some of the students previously attended private school, others can barely read.

David Hardy, 57, Philadelphia Boys' Latin's CEO, says he chose Latin as the foundation for his new school because students who study it consistently score higher on SATs and do better in other subjects because it holds them to high standards that public schools can't hold them to.

Studying the Latin language, according to the school's statement, also helps students learn other languages faster--especially romance languages--while aiding in the acquisition of non-romance languages. Additionally, Latin's differing structures and sentence order "help develop observant, analytical and logical students," according to the school's website and promotional pamphlets.

That it may seem more difficult for his students is of no concern to Hardy. "If you can create an environment where learning can take place," he says, "you can teach anything."

Hardy says Boys' Latin recruits students through advertising, school visits and word of mouth. Interested parents attend information sessions held by Hardy and his staff. Prospective students are then scheduled for an interview in which they're told what will be expected of them--essentially reading them the riot act about the amount of work and time they'll have to put in on homework and other school activities, as well as the strict discipline and behavior codes of the school. If they're still interested after that, they're enrolled on a first-come, first-served basis, he says.

Philadelphia Boys' Latin is a far cry from 78 Avenue Louis Pasteur, home to the Boston Latin School, the original American Latin School founded almost 400 years ago and that enrolls about 2,400 students in grades seven through 12. That Latin school, a magnet public school, draws from the smartest sixth- and eighth-graders in the city and the surrounding area.

School building: Teacher Sara Flounders and CEO David Hardy hope Latin will help their students achieve.

A far cry because many of these Philadelphia students struggle to spell and grasp basic concepts--not in Latin, but in English. Boston Latin enrolls mostly affluent students, predominantly white and Asian, and these days increasingly female.

The students seem to increasingly come from richer and richer sections of the city. Few hail from neighborhoods anywhere near as dangerous as those where many of the Boys' Latin students reside. Still, it appears some of the same intensity Boston Latin is famous for may be brewing here.


Sara Flounders' classroom could be the set of a high school-set TV show.

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 40 of 40
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1. Magistra said... on Aug 13, 2008 at 05:49PM

“Where are they going to get teachers for Boy's Latin? Most public school teachers today can hardly write a coherent sentence in English, much less Latin.”

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2. Puck said... on Aug 13, 2008 at 06:49PM

“Where are they going to get teachers for Boy's Latin? Most public school teachers today can hardly write a coherent sentence in English, much less Latin.”

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3. UnKnown said... on Sep 9, 2008 at 01:41PM

“I think Boys Latin is a great school. Its not always comfortable being a round all Boys but this school is what the neighbor hood needs.It might not be in a safe neighborhood but it a nice school.I think latin is a challenging but fun to learn language.I would have to agree with Mr.Hardy ,ceo of Boys Latin when he said, he doesn’t like neighborhood schools, because if you “live in a bad neighborhood you get a bad education.” thats true,but the neighborhood which hold Boys Latin is not that bad.I think Boys Latin is a great school....”

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4. Julius said... on Sep 9, 2008 at 08:19PM

“Lab User 24: I think the artical is outstanding. I am very pleased with being excepted into Boys' Latin Charter High School of Philadelphia and I plan to stay here all 4 years of high school. We are offered alot as students of BLC, and we should use our sources to our advantage. Like our parents & teachers say NO other school is offering us any better opportunities and I believe every word they say.”

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5. javon said... on Sep 10, 2008 at 11:39AM

“lab user 2,i think boys latin is a good school,i consentrate better with out worring or tryin to inpress a girl,we were the same uniforms like everyone else so we all look prasentable and look nice,boys latin faced huge opposition and almost didnt exist sussporters say boys latin is despiraely needed in the city where 45 percent of the students drop out.The founders of the school is david hardy.Boys latin only have two grades at the moment each year they will add a year until the get to grade 12”

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6. Darren said... on Sep 10, 2008 at 12:30PM

“Lab User 6 I think this article is a fine example of why Boys Latin is one of the new top charter school. it's great teacjer and curriculm can give a good example for many other school.”

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7. hazz said... on Sep 10, 2008 at 05:15PM

“lab uesr5 I think that boys latin is a great school . Anyone who wants to goe a great education should go.I like the fact that we are learning latin .The school is big and new people ask me why all boys I say that I can stay on track much better.Its fun to learn about latin.culture. latin teaches logic and discipline and analytical skills. Also Ihave the best Latin teacher in the world. Ithink its one of the best schools, and hope to go on and better my Education. ”

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8. user24 said... on Sep 12, 2008 at 06:00PM

“I think this article says a lot about this school I like the place that Boys Latin choose it a great opportunity for us boys to show our true talents and our learning abilities. I think attending this school is a great opportunity for me. I think it will help me achieve all my dreams in life. I hope to be a high achiever in life and I think this school will help me do that. ”

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9. Jaleel Mccall said... on Sep 12, 2008 at 08:20PM

“Labuser 14 I find this artical very interesting.This artical shows how much Mr. Hardy cares about Boy's Latin and his students. I think when Mr.Hardy creacted this school he wanted it to be a challenging school acadimicaly.I think Ms.Flounders is the best Latin teacher I ever had even tho she is the only latin teacher I ever had. I understand now why Mr.Hardy pick to have a same sex school. I think alot of people have high standers for this school and, I belive as a student at Boy's Latin we will suseed those standers. I Respect and thanks everyone who had part in putting this school together because, without this school i'll problelly be in public school just sitting there and not caring about my education.Also,one thing they didnt put in this article which I wish they did is talking about our NTA's and the tech. class cause they are a big part of our school ”

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10. given a chance said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 08:06AM

“I think what you guys are doing for us is great. Because when my mother told me about the school i was like what are you talking about? I'm not going to an all boys school . But when I got there it was so amazing, it was like a home away for home and the teachers where nice and friendly.And i say think you boyslatin for everything and i hope the school last for 600 years because you and the students deserve it and keep it up.Shaquille phoenix computer 22 / me_play@live.com”

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11. Avery Brown said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 01:18PM

“I think Boys'Latin stands out from all schools. Not just phisically wise but studys wise. Boys' Latin holds education from the most finest teachers of the state and it will soon show on upcoming tests. Its not just a gradute school. This school is a graduate from higschool then go to collage school. Thats what I feel about this topic on latin lovers.”

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12. saleem cobb said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 02:54PM

“labuser3 boys latin seems like they have everthing in their hands. i think this school is great because not only they teach u the basic subjets but they also teach u a language that not everybody speaks in philadelphia and thats latin. as people can see south west is a bad area and last year during school their has been 11 murders right down the street from boys latin but thats why this school is trying to make a difference and to do that we need to be educated and thats why ceo mr. hardy thought of a way to make a difference and thats boys latin.”

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13. labuser18 said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 03:04PM

“lab user 18 I think this one of the best school i attend to.This school can prepare me for college by encountering many difficulties,and accomplishing them that requires hard labor.Since this is my first year here at boy's latin,i a shot of working towards full scholar ships for college.I thank all the teachers for working hard to train our minds to become successful in life and to anticipate that we boys latin warriors reach our goal.These are my reasons why this is one of the best school i ever attend to ”

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14. labuser18 said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 03:14PM

“labuser 18 9E”

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15. the boss said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 05:09PM

“I think BoysLatin is a great school its not cool being around all boysall day.and some people say latin is hardbut if you study and work hard you will get it. And thats why i think boys latin is a top school.”

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16. Travis said... on Sep 13, 2008 at 09:24PM

“I think Boys Latin knows what they are doing, and ik learned some different launages but never Latin and I think it's cool how some other launages oringinated from Latin so i am going to enjoy it alot!”

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17. Jonathan McDowell said... on Sep 14, 2008 at 08:57AM

“this article shows off what why my mom chose boys' Latin for me.One reason its a college prep school. Also the school teaches us Latin and if you learn Latin learning any other languge will be a peace cake.”

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18. Jonathan McDowell said... on Sep 14, 2008 at 09:18AM

“this article shows off what why my mom chose boys' Latin for me.One reason its a college prep school. Also the school teaches us Latin and if you learn Latin learning any other languge will be a peace cake. labuser 16 Jonathan McDowell ”

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19. Labuser6 said... on Sep 14, 2008 at 12:53PM

“Labuser 6: I tkink Mr. Hardy had a good idea for a all boys school for good actvites.So when people in school get use to communicate with other students. ”

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20. Lilnell said... on Sep 14, 2008 at 01:00PM

“Although sometimes I wish their were girls that go to this school I have to relize that girls are a distraction from me getting my work done. Thats why when i come to this school, every day all i have to worry about is me getting work done and becoming one step further of me acomplising my dreams. I dont' have to worry about last year girl problems and losing focus of what school is really about. Boyslatin is a priviledge and Im honored to be apart of it.”

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21. lab user 11 said... on Sep 14, 2008 at 01:11PM

“i think this artical is cool because it talks about the school and what it doing for us young men and how is it helping us to become better men in the future. so thats why i think my mom pick this school for me.”

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22. Jerrell said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 04:17AM

“Lab User 20: This story is intresting and biological of Mr. Hardy. It tells much about him and the school. I say Mr. Hardy came a long way with the progress of the school. These would be reasons why this story is interesting.”

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23. Keith said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 07:14AM

“Lab user 7 This article shows how much of a good school Boys' Latin really is.I fell like the whole curriculum is great.I just don't understand why all boys.”

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24. antwyne said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 07:15AM

“lab user 10 9-a this school sucks. i just have to do a assignment that why i did it.”

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25. Labuser8 said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 07:15AM

“i think boys latin is and good school. Before i used to play a round in school thinking that school was a joke just not taking it serious. i thought all boys?? i can't do that.thinking I need girls. BUt after a couple of days i realized this school is less stressful having to worry about impressing girls all the time. I could just do my work. i would good grades but not the best because girls would distract me. Now i don't have to worry about them. this school is offering us a great oppurtunity it being a colege prep school. I think being at this school will do goo for me...Mr. Hardy is doing a good job keeping us boys in line. this school will stand out from all the others”

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26. Labuser8 9(a) said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 07:20AM

“ think boys latin is and good school. Before i used to play a round in school thinking that school was a joke just not taking it serious. i thought all boys?? i can't do that.thinking I need girls. BUt after a couple of days i realized this school is less stressful having to worry about impressing girls all the time. I could just do my work. i would good grades but not the best because girls would distract me. Now i don't have to worry about them. this school is offering us a great oppurtunity it being a colege prep school. I think being at this school will do goo for me...Mr. Hardy is doing a good job keeping us boys in line. this school will stand out from all the others ”

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27. patrick pray said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 08:44AM

“This made me understand a little more on why im here”

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28. ladd said... on Sep 15, 2008 at 12:41PM

“labuser12, i think boys latin is a good school , the fact its a all boys school will help us focus on are study's. boys laitn wiil prepare us for college not only that but at boys latin they teach us latin. boys laitn is a good school for boys who want to become young men. ”

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29. computer 26 said... on Sep 16, 2008 at 05:37AM

“I THOUGHT THAT THE ARTICLE WAS GREAT AND THAT THE SCHOOL IS GOOD AND THE TEACHERS ARE VERY NICE and in think thats why boyslatin is one of the top high schools in philadelphia.”

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30. Magistra said... on Oct 2, 2008 at 03:16PM

“The 2-person Latin department was actually trained at the College of the Holy Cross, the top-ranked Classics program in the nation. Can I answer any other questions for you, "Puck?" ”

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31. Anonymous said... on May 6, 2009 at 07:55AM

“Boys Latin is not a great school. Its not run correctly and they make us stay monday's tuesday's and thursday's till 5pm. Itz not a good school. I reguet being a student here at Boys Latin of Philadelphia Charter School.”

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32. Anonymous said... on Jun 2, 2009 at 06:22PM

“We remember Dave Hardy from YC. He was our friend.
Al & Kay”

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33. Anonymous said... on Oct 15, 2009 at 11:44AM

“My son just entered ninth grade at Boy's Latin School, neither to say I am a single mom and have all the positive expectations of my son's future, and couldn't ask for a better School. My son came from one to the top middle schools in Philadephia, but yet he still struggled with reaching his true potentials, and I know that Boy's latin will open all the right doors and gear him in the right direction. To Mr Hardy, teachers and staff members I thank you all for giving my son a world of oppurtunities, and I pray for nothing less than successful men in tomorrow world, thank you all again”

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34. Anonymous said... on Dec 1, 2009 at 08:18PM

“i'm still diggin' this fine artcle. what a writer. what a school!”

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35. Anonymous said... on Mar 27, 2010 at 09:59AM

“I live one block from Boys' Latin and its a pleasure to see these young, mature men walk either to their home or wait on the bus corner with much respect for themselves and others. Mr. Hardy, you and your staff are doing such a tremendous job and will keep you and your boys in prayer. Look for me in another two years so that my husband and I can enroll our son in your school. God Bless.”

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36. Boys Latin Class Of 2014 Mom said... on May 28, 2010 at 09:47AM

“I am humbly honored and privileged of the opportunity that Boys Latin Of Philadelphia Charter School has bestowed not only upon my family but to all of the families who are represented at the school. I believe that the school (Boys Latin) is giving young men the opportunity to explore various venues when it comes to learning. I look forward to being apart of the Boys Latin Family.”

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37. Anonymous said... on Sep 13, 2010 at 06:14AM

“I live one block from Boys' Latin and its a pleasure to see these young, mature men walk either to their home or wait on the bus corner with much respect for themselves and others. Mr. Hardy, you and your staff are doing such a tremendous job and will keep you and your boys in prayer. Look for me in another two years so that my husband and I can enroll our son in your school.”

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38. transporturi agabaritice said... on Oct 4, 2010 at 12:46AM

“The irony of this story taking place in the City of Brotherly Love was powerful," says comics writer/artist Kevin Colden. His new work Fishtown is loosely based on the true story of a particularly ...”

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39. Anonymous said... on Nov 15, 2010 at 01:13AM

“I feel a lot more people need to read this, very good info!”

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40. Anonymous said... on Nov 27, 2010 at 01:31PM

“test”

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