In high school, classics students commonly study works like the “Aeneid” or the “Odyssey.” But it is rare for these students to get together and read the entire “Aeneid” in one 12-hour, all-night session. On Saturday, April 28, Rocky Hill School hosted one such event: its second annual Virgil Vigil.
The session started at 8 p.m. with the reading of the English translation of Virgil’s “Aeneid” and didn’t end until 8 the following morning. The marathon session was held inside Rocky Hill School’s Flynn Commons, a popular study area designated for high school students. The Flynn Commons are outfitted with comfortable chairs and couches, which made many participants’ efforts to stave off sleep even more difficult. Some students weren’t able to keep their eyes open the entire time.
“It’s tough, because you want everyone to stay awake, but you don’t want to be draconian about it,” said Matthew Gnolfo, the event’s organizer and sole chaperone.
The Virgil Vigil is an annual event organized by Gnolfo, Rocky Hill School’s only Latin teacher. The purpose of the event is to raise money for charity while celebrating the author Virgil and the “Aeneid.” Both this year and last year, proceeds from the event went to the Global Literacy Foundation. The Global Literacy Foundation is an organization based in Arizona that focuses on providing underprivileged children with basic school supplies, such as pens, pencils and paper, among other things. While more and more schools are beginning to integrate technology in their core curriculum, Gnolfo remains steadfast that the best education can be gained without any technological integration.
“To get the best education, you don’t even need a textbook,” said Gnolfo. “You just need a competent teacher and a student who’s willing to learn.”
This year, the reading raised more than $750, besting last year’s total of $600.
The event was open to all Rocky Hill Upper and Middle School students, but each one of the 16 attendees was enrolled in Latin. Gnolfo was not concerned that the event’s niche appeal was detrimental to the amount of money that could have been raised. “It is difficult to convince some kids of the merits of staying up all night and reading a classical text to one another,” he said, “But it is helpful to have a niche in some respects, because the kids who did participate went to the outside community as well, and received donations from others. It wasn’t as isolated as it may seem.”
Originally, this year’s Virgil Vigil was planned to be on Saturday, April 21 to coincide with the founding of Rome on that date in 753 B.C., but many students would have been unable to attend on that day due to previously scheduled conflicts. In the future, Gnolfo hopes to continue the Virgil Vigil as an annual tradition. The Robert Fitzgerald translation, which was used this year, will continue to be used.
Despite the fact that this year’s Virgil Vigil was ultimately a success, Gnolfo admits that there was some difficulty in running the event.
“Going forward, I am hopeful that we can get both more students and more parents involved,” he said.