Graduation 2009: Hellenism’s Marathons and Parthenons Live On at the William Spyropoulos School in Flushing

“It’s the Marathons that give rise to the Parthenons,” Class of 2009 Valedictorian Nicholas Napoleon Tzallas told the 50 graduating seniors at the William Spyropoulos Day School in Flushing, NY, as they prepared to embark on their high school journey. For many of these students, the graduation ceremony held inside the adjacent St. Nicholas Shrine Church was the culmination of 10 years of hard work and preparation, successfully completing a scholastic marathon that began with their entry into the William Spyropoulos Pre-K back in 1998.

“This is the happiest day of my life,” Mr. Tzallas said, while he credited his alma mater for teaching him the value of hard work and inspiring him with the Hellenic ideals. In his speech, he asked his classmates to strive and sacrifice for these ideals just like the ancient Greeks did at the Battle of Marathon, so they too could go build their own personal Parthenons, because just like the great Greek poet Kostis Palamas said, any great work requires sacrifice.

On an emotion-filled Friday afternoon, on June 12, 2009, teachers and school administrators bid the William Spyropoulos Day School senior class a fond farewell at the school’s 28th annual commencement exercises. Principal Athena Krommydas and Vice-Principal Mary Tzallas tried hard to hold back tears as they recalled the seniors’ special moments all throughout the year, while the Pastor of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Community of Flushing Rev. Paul Palesty urged the graduates to “use the teachings of the Church, the knowledge you acquired at our school, and the Hellenic ideals we taught you to advance in your learning and grow in Christ.” He also reminded students that although they were graduating from the community’s day school, their relationship with the parish and their involvement with the community would now be entering a new phase.

Echoing the students’ right of passage, Mrs. Krommydas quoted Plutarch, saying that “‘education is divine and immortal’. This is the kind of Paideia that the St. Nicholas William Spyropoulos School offered you, vesting it with our faith and culture. Now, we know you are ready to open your wings!”

In her closing remarks, Mrs. Krommydas sent her students off with the wish that “the eternal light of Hellenism and Orthodoxy may illuminate your way always.”

Ronnie Nanos, Esq., School Board Chairman – and a Class of 1986 alumnus herself – noted that “in its short history our School has grown significantly, producing honorable and successful members of society. The foundation of their success began here at the William Spyropoulos School, and the principals taught 26 years ago continue to resonate today.”

The event’s keynote speaker was Mamie Stathatos, Esq., President of the Hellenic Lawyers’ Association of New York. Mrs. Stathatos, who is also a product of a Greek American day school, spoke about the virtues and knowledge she received, which helped her go on to become the youngest graduating student from St. John’s School of Law in 1994 at the age of 20.

In her speech, she urged students to appreciate their diploma, noting that it is more than just a piece of paper. “This degree represents the decade of schooling you attended faithfully to reach this point; it symbolizes the knowledge you have gained throughout the years and it signifies the deep rooted culture you are a part of.”

Highlighting some of the characteristic qualities of Greek Americans, Mrs. Stathatos commented that “it’s been said that the culture we belong to and the legacies passed down by our forbearers shape the patterns of our achievement. Our Hellenic culture is predicated on hard work and perseverance and that is why, as a society, the Greek-Americans are such a successful group.”

She went on to applaud the graduates for their educational accomplishments and for attaining fluency in the Greek language, while calling on them to “follow your dreams, pursue your goals, but always honor your heritage.”

Along with the traditional speeches by the Valedictorian and Salutatorian of the graduating class, William Spyropoulos invited a former alumnus just graduating high school to speak as well. This year’s speaker, Calliope Pantazis, was the Class of 2005 William Spyropoulos Valedictorian. Joined by several of her former classmates, Ms. Pantazis told the Class of ’09 that “the lessons learned here will be crucially important in the years to come.” She also called on them to be true to their roots, “because where you come from will affect where you are going.” Noting that she feels a bond with all the graduates because they are fellow alumni, she encouraged them to remain close to the St. Nicholas Community and Church, “where there will always be a home for you.”

The Director of the Archdiocesan District Office of Education Maria Makedon was on hand representing Archbishop Demetrios of America, and was joined by Education Counselor at the Greek Consulate of New York George Vlikidis, who was representing the Consul General Aghi Balta. The Saint Nicholas Community’s grand benefactor Stephen Cherpelis was also in attendance.

This year’s graduates are Angela Amor, Eleftherios Amperiadis, Julia Anastos, Katerina Apostolopoulos, Emilios Artemiou, Billy Athanasopoulos, Stephanie Athanasopoulos, Alexandros Avlonitis, Dennis Bizios, Maria Figetakis, Gregory Gatanas, Themi Goumakos, Christian Hadjigeorgiou, Virginia Kalapodis, Pelayia Karasavidis, Vasili Katergaris, Antonios Kentrotas, Samantha Koloniaris, Nikolas Koulouris, Despina Leontiadis, Georgia Linaris, Nina Lygeris, George Mavrikis, Labrini Moutopoulos, Maria Moutopoulos, Steven Neocleous, Markos Nionakis, Christos Orfanos, Nicholas Pallis, Simeon Panides, Michael Panos, Demetra Papadopoulos, Chrysie Papagianakis, Nicole Papagiannakis, Alexandra Pappas, Nicole Pierides, Kyriaki Rizos, Markos Rombolakis, Kosta Rosvoglou, Panagiotis Sacoulas, Maria Savvides, Anastasios Stathopoulos, Mario Stefanidis, Alexander Theodosopoulos, Themis Theodosopoulos, Evangelos Tsourapis, Nicholas Napoleon Tzallas, Aphrodite Varellas, Demi Varis, Kyriakos Vontas.