Aequora – The Unlevel Sea Sharing Latin with Elementary Students

Aequora is one of the many Latin words for “sea,” here with the connotation that the sea is calm and level (it comes from the same word, aequus, that we get our English word “equal” from). For my BLI Capstone Project, I decided to start an Aequora program at an elementary school in Michigan — and my experience was anything but calm and level! It was a wild wave of excitement, setbacks, enthusiasm, drama, emotion, and lots and lots of Latin — but I learned and grew so much more than I would have from an easier voyage, and for that I am grateful.

For a little bit about myself, I am finishing up my Junior year at the University of Michigan, where I am majoring in Latin Language & Literature and seeking a Secondary Teaching Certification from the School of Education — basically, I am a nerd about all things Latin, and I want to be a high school teacher when I grow up.


In the dark winter months of 2016 I was told to check out The Paideia Institute’s website for a summer program that a friend thought would interest me. I saw something else on that site though — an outreach program called Aequora that sought to bring afterschool programs that taught Latin to elementary school students in somewhat disadvantaged school districts. The name was chosen because the first Aequora operated out of an afterschool program called Still Waters in a Storm (get it!? Because Aequora means “still waters”), which is still running to this day. They were looking for volunteers, specifically for more people to start sites across the country.

Around the same time a professor introduced me to the Barger Leadership Institute and their Capstone project, and I decided to put two and two together. For my capstone project I decided to bring Aequora to Michigan. I started a club through Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Futures program where I taught a group of second through sixth grade Ypsilanti students Latin. And thus, the storm began which agitated the sea.

O Socii

The first phase of implementation involved communicating with stakeholders — the Aequora Michigan team was lucky enough to be supported by three incredibly helpful programs: The Barger Leadership Institute, who pushed us to work hard and get our dream off the ground, The Paideia Institute, who every step of the way provided help, tips, and resources for a successful Latin program, and Eastern Michigan University’s Bright Futures, an afterschool program set up in schools around Metro Detroit, who provided a wonderful and quirky home for us to grow as well as even more tips, support, and resources. We also rounded up a dedicated team of volunteers from the Classics Department at the University of Michigan, and I could not have done this program without their enthusiasm week after week.


Once we had all our stakeholders in place and organized our resources, including our textbook and lesson plans, it was time to begin the lessons! This is where we took off, and where Aequora’s definition felt the most ironic; we had a bit of a rocky start to our program. Second to sixth grade is a big gap, especially since we had a textbook geared for fourth graders, and we often struggled to come up with activities that could appeal to all of our students. We also did not have the same group of students every week, since it was an afterschool program and parents picked their kids up at different times, which meant that we had no idea how much Latin was going to stick with them. Finally, we were all new and inexperienced afterschool class leaders, and discipline issues arose and were sometimes difficult to control. After one particularly harrowing game of Latin Simon Says, we knew that we were going to have to approach our classroom differently. It was our turning point.

If BLI taught me anything, it’s that I have to be proactive. So we adjusted our sails. We started dividing the kids up into groups based on age (and sometimes gender) — this assisted with the issues in range of activity, since we could do different exercises with different age groups, as well as with the discipline problems, since it was much easier to reason with groups of three or four rather than the whole group of ten to twenty. The attendance problem was something out of our control, but we still decided to work with it rather than write it off — and for the rest of the semester we focused less on grammar and vocabulary (no more games about imperatives) and more on the culture that surrounds the Latin language. We played a game where we walked around the room and identified significant landmarks from Rome (the Colosseum, the Forum); we read stories about the founding of Rome; we did a puppet show based on the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. Once I realized that that was what was going to get the kids excited, I ran with it.

So, I don’t know if I taught any of these kids Latin. A few of them might remember Salve as “hello.” One or two might remember shouting “I’m a puer!” when they learned the word for “boy.” But my hope is that all of them will remember the stories they learned and that they will remember the Classics fondly in their future!

Gratias tibi ago

It feels like I am giving an Oscar speech now, but I really do have a lot of people to thank. I am incredibly grateful to Evan David, Liz Butterworth, Julia Spears, Vaughn Williams, Patricia Chen, Tiffany Purnell, Nancy Christensen, Lynn Kleimann Malinoff, Sandy Krupa, Stephen Haff, Danny Misra, Neena Pio, Malia Piper, Ed Nolan, and all of the wonderful students whom I was privileged to work with this semester. You all truly are responsible for getting this program up off of the ground, and I cannot thank you enough. I would also like to thank everyone who has supported me and believed in me as I went on this voyage across the unlevel sea.

Vinita – Virya Mobility 5.0 (Bangalore, India)

The Start-Up Environment

Interning at a start-up has been a completely new experience for me. The work culture is very much how one would expect a start-up to be – quiet, small and scenic. In fact, my first day was also the first day of the first employees they hired, and it was the first day of the new office. It has been a busy first two weeks. The work pressure is high; it’s all-hands-on-deck where everyone is helping out with each other’s roles. Everyone works 6 days a week, and most people stay back till quite late in the evening. It leaves me with little time after work, but I’m hoping this will improve in the coming weeks as everyone gets settled in.

Bangalore in synonymously known as the City of Gardens, of which the location of my office is a living example. Replacing two walls are two large window panes showcasing the famous palm trees, sunny skies and colorful flowers Bangalore is famous for. The greenery provides a calming effect, allowing creativity to flow and brighten the atmosphere. I personally really enjoy the casual atmosphere – be it the dressing attires, the friendliness or our daily debates on which restaurant to order from. Plus, everyday there is some new addition to the office, from the coffee machine to paintings and plants. It’s interesting to witness the company and office being constructed piece by piece.

While there is still an element of hierarchy within the company, I have really bonded well with some of the new employees. We’ve even planned to go to an escape room this week, and soon go on a scuba diving trip nearby! I’m excited to build friendships alongside learn from my co-workers.

Mid-Point Reflection

It has been three and a half weeks into my internship, and it’s been a steep learning curve. I had hoped to get exposure to the fields I would be working in after graduation. With interests in Business/Economics and Computer Science, I wanted tasks that covered all these 3 subject areas so that the experience would solidify my decision to pursue these areas, through a more informed decision on where it would lead my future. As I progress through the internship, I think this goal still accurately describes my experience.

Goat 1The tasks I have been given are very interesting and varied, giving me exposure on different avenues of business. I have been involved in things from market research, to consumer in-sighting and developing job descriptions. Currently I am working on developing financial models to provide a recommendation whether they should full own or franchise the product, and this is something I am particularly enjoying. I have never been exposed to financial data and to dive into modelling has been a fun, steep learning curve. The experience is creating a growing interest in finance that I want to further explore academically. My work has an immense impact on the direction the company does to go in, and I’m glad that I’m contributing in a meaningful manner to the firm.

My co-workers all have an engineering background, which does make me stand apart – I do not have an engineering background. Occasionally while it does create a drift that I do not necessarily understand their discussions, I am slowly overcoming my hesitancy to ask questions and clarifications. I am increasingly being more questioning, and I have learned exponentially on the physics behind systems and how that can be applied to daily life. Our differences turned out to be a blessing in disguise!

I would be able to explore the Indian work culture and gain a better understanding on how leadership skills can be transferred between different types of projects. This would allow me to both develop my skills and also gain a deeper understanding on how to employ leadership skills effectively in a global context. In an organization that will scale up alongside the emerging economy, I look forward to learning how leaders adapt to an evolving economic climate, in order to have the most impact and be successful. Especially in the technology hub of the country, this experience will provide valuable and a unique insight into the electric vehicle market in a developing country.

The month has been a phenomenal learning experience, where I have grown in both knowledge and also as an individual and my leadership skills. I’m excited to see what the next month have in store for me!

Overcoming Obstacles

One of the most valuable experiences I have had in the internship was conducting financial modelling. The final goal was to provide my recommendation on whether the company should own or franchise their large-scale product. While it was my most favorite task, it has simultaneously been my hardest task.

What made this such a phenomenal experience is the fact that prior to this internship, I have never been exposed to financial data nor any form of financial modelling. When given my task and goal, it initially felt quite overwhelming and a monumental challenge to carry out. Where do I even begin to build a financial model?  What does it comprise of? What do I even model to derive results and an eventual recommendation? It seemed that I had more questions than answers. And yet, after a week, I managed to achieve a conclusionBangalore

As I began to attempt this large task, I initially strived to study financial models previously
developed by the firm and understand them thoroughly. Asking more questions from the models, I employed online resources and started to self-teach the basics of financial modelling. Before I knew, I was progressing through my modelling, learning exponentially about how to build them – but more importantly, how they were relevant and would help reach and prove my recommendation.

Although learning through YouTube and Google has left gaps in my understanding, I’m excited to explore this new-found interest. As I take a class on these very concepts next semester, I look forward to being able to apply my modelling experiences to class and develop a thorough understanding of the field. My work has an immense impact on the direction the company does to go in, and I’m glad that I’m contributing in a meaningful manner to the firm.