We’ve all heard the saying “They have a memory like an elephant,” and while not many of us have any idea if that is true or not, there’s definitely evidence that Leah Strassner, a 12-year-old, 6th-grader from Kernersville, NC, would put any elephant to shame with her memory and will soon compete in the National Memory Master.
National Memory Master is a competition for students in the final year (age 12) of the Classical Conversations, a homeschool program founded in North Carolina, which combines all the years of memory work that a student does in a single, spelling-bee style competition. Students must recite a passage in Latin, draw and label a map of the world, and write a creative story that features selected memory- work facts. 16 children are chosen from Classical Conversations programs nation-wide to compete for a $10,000 prize. This year’s competition is on April 28th in Southern Pines, NC.
Leah Strassner, the oldest of five in her family, has participated in Classical Conversations, since the age of four. “Each year, students build their academic background through three year-long cycles of memory work that includes seven subjects: History, Science, Math, Timeline, English Grammar, Latin, and Geography. This means that students in this program memorize around 600 individual pieces of information every year! Leah has been a Memory Master, meaning she has recited the entirety of each year’s memory work five times throughout her school career,” said Melissa Strassner, Leah’s mom.
Leah’s interest in National Memory Master began around age five, when an older friend of hers auditioned for it. Although Leah’s friend was not selected to compete, she learned enough about the competition to know that she wanted to be a part of it one day.
“There was so much excitement when we received the call that she had been selected. She couldn’t stop jumping up and down and felt as though it was a dream. One of the best parts of this experience as her mom is to see her set a big goal at such a young age and the incredible gratifying joy it is to watch her make that dream become a reality,” Melissa commented.
From a very early age, Leah had a good memory. “While she was still a baby, I would hear her over the monitor practicing enunciating words or naming animals or colors in the middle of the night. Although Leah is tremendously gifted academically, it is her perseverance, which doesn’t come naturally, but has been consciously cultivated and helped her to overcome her doubt, that has made this possible. I am so proud of the strength and the determination she has shown,” stated Melissa.
Leah’s preparation could be compared to readying for a marathon or an event in the Olympics.
“It is an enormous task that requires focus and commitment. While Leah’s siblings are at soccer practice, or out riding bikes, she is frequently pouring over flashcards or drawing out an enormous map of the world. As with a marathon, she began small, just half an hour each day in practice. With the competition coming up, that dedicated time has grown to 1-2 hours each day. But all that time training is paying off…we can’t wait for her to show her stuff on April 28th!” Melissa commented.