Cooler Than a Mullet

Reading the War on Poverty


One Saturday each April, a group of high school Latin students do something extraordinary. They read aloud at a children's bookstore the entirety of one of the Greco-Roman epics.  In a three-year cycle they read the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer and the Aeneid of Vergil. In an event initiated by the Latin students of North Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana, titled Reading the War on Poverty, these students obtain pledges and donations for their reading. Their purpose? To raise money to contribute to Shepherd Community Center, whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty on the near east side of Indianapolis.

Starting at 9:00 a.m., the students arrive and begin to read. The bookstore, Kids Ink, sets up a leather, wing-backed chair in its display window with a column, which could have come from the Roman forum, tipping at an angle behind. There the students take their place and begin to read in fifteen-minute segments.
Freshmen through seniors, boys and girls, students of various ethnic backgrounds take part in this unique project to combat poverty and raise the awareness of Classical literature in our community. It clearly catches the attention of many people.
First, there is Kids Ink bookstore. Not only does the staff provide a lovely space in their storefront window where the students can read, they contribute 10% of that day's sales to our cause. They even hang our banner outside under their awning!


And speaking of banners, Sign-a-Rama donated the banner to advertise this event. Using a design created by one of our students, Zoe Smith, Sign-a-Rama produced a beautiful all-weather banner that we have used for several years.




I would say it is an experience unlike any I have enjoyed before, but I have had over the years many opportunities to watch my Latin students do amazing things. Still, to listen to one of these epics read aloud, as it would have been in the days of Homer and Vergil, straight through from beginning to end, and to know that the students who read are using their enjoyment of Classical literature as a way to fight poverty in their community, is truly one of the highlights of my career. It is always a great way to spend a Saturday.







Shepherd Community Center

Shepherd is a faith-based, non-profit organization established in 1985 with a simple but staggering goal: to break the cycle of poverty on the near east side of Indianapolis. Located centrally within the community it serves, Shepherd offers programs for children, teens, adults, and families, helping to meet their physical, emotional, academic, and spiritual needs.



All Content provided by Steve Perkins