ASTORIA, N.Y. – The students, parents, faculty of the school system of the Cathedral of St. Demetrios of Astoria, and all who have labored through the decades, including the school board and clergy, to create and maintain the only Hellenic High School in the United States, were the grateful recipients of a $20,000 donation from the Hellenic Medical Society of New York.
The HMS delegation which visited the school on Nov. 8 was led by its President, Dr. Nicholas H. E. Mezitis, whom Principal Anastasios Koularmanis praised “for the example he has set so that others may follow.”
Mezitis said that one of the purposes of the HMS Science Program of Excellence for St. Demetrios, is to increase students’ interest in science. The contribution came from a number of sources, including funds provided by Dr. Apostolos Tambakis to the HMS in memory of his wife.
He said the society’s officers, paced by strong encouragement from Dr. Mezitis, asked him if he would agree to direct funds to the school, and he was pleased to say yes. Fr. Anastasios Pourakis, representing the parish’s clergy, also thanked the HMS, adding his pride and appreciation, “as the parent of a physician.”
Koularmanis told The National Herald that, “The HMS has currently given our school $20,000 that has been used to bring up to date our current laboratory. With the funds given to us our school was able to purchase new lab material that was needed to incorporate new programs and course in our school.”
The grant constitutes only part of a $40,000 HMS pledge to the Science Program at the St. Demetrios School. The commitment, which includes the presentation of lectures and program to mentor promising students interested in the health professions, is one of a number of important philanthropic initiatives of the Society, and was announced last Dec. 8 at the HMS’s 76th Annual Scholarship Gala.
Koularmanis expressed the wish others will follow the good doctors’ example.” he told TNH, and added ”As important as their monetary contribution was their support and appreciation of what Saint Demetrios Schools offer the Greek community is even more significant. The HMS is probably the first Greek-American organization to not only make a donation but to publicly announce their support and belief in our school.”
“You have taken time away from your work to be here today and we appreciate it,” he said. He continued, saying that, “The HMS and Dr. Nicholas H. E. Mezitis have opened the doors for other organization to step forward and become more active in the support of our Greek culture, traditions, language and religion. The HMS is not a simple sylogo – society but a prestigious organization comprised of remarkable Greek Doctors that are renowned throughout the country.”
Koularmanis said he hoped that the HMS initiative will help to “bring the Greeks who have stayed away, closer to us. Our Greek schools are in crisis, they are closing.” The HMS funds make possible laboratory facilities that are required for a joint program with St. John’s University that offers college level courses to the students of St. Demetrios.
Former Parish Council President Harry Kallas, representing his successor, Gary Sideris, who was unable to attend, also thanked the society. “This community has struggled mightily to build this school into something that we Hellenes deserve,” and he said he too looks forward to seeing more groups follow the HMS’ example.
He said the society’s support for the school will grow, and he cited Lao Tsu’s proverb that “every journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.”
Mezitis said he and his colleagues were impressed the ethos and desire to learn of the St. Demetrios students. “We take a special pride in their achievements,” he said as doctors, they appreciate the scientific foundation built by their Hellenic forefathers which were a gift to all mankind.
He then congratulated the students who were working in the lab, where the presentation was made, on their achievements to date, and declared: “e will be with you every step of the way on your journey.”
Dr. Stathopoulos thanked the clergy and school, and said “In these difficult economic times, we are obligated to help and insure the best possible education for the talented students of this school.” He echoed Mezitis words: “This is a first step.”