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The "E" Takes Center Stage at AHEPA’s Orlando National Convention

The National Herald Archive

Nicholas Nikas, founder of AHEPA's Hellenic History Tournament. Photo: Courtesy of James Zafiros

The “E” in AHEPA (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association) takes center stage at the organization’s Orlando National Convention, July 19-26, with the Hellenic History Tournament, an AHEPA-sponsored project involving kids in grades 8-12, who compete in teams for educational and tournament honors.

The Tournament was founded by Nicholas Nikas, a former IBM executive and a distinguished Past Supreme Governor of AHEPA from Old Greenwich, CT. It was his dream to encourage Greek-American youth to know the history of their ancestors while providing a great, stimulating day for bonding with other kids. His strong desire to preserve a bit of Hellenic consciousness in our youth for as long in the future as possible is an idea with huge potential.

The Tournament reminds us of our great Hellenic Heritage and is a credit to Hellenism. "Beyond extraordinary" are two words Ahepans use to describe the remarkable success the Hellenic History Tournament has achieved since its inception in 2009 as a Yankee District 7 project (Connecticut and Rhode Island). Since then, three other local tournaments have joined in the fun: District 12 (Greater Chicago), District 5 (New Jersey and Delaware) and District 23 (Greater Toronto). This led AHEPA to hold a National Hellenic History Tournament, where the best come together for a championship round at the Supreme Convention.

The National Herald Archive

Participants in a previous Hellenic History Tournament with members of AHEPA. Photo: Courtesy of James Zafiros

Success begins with creating an environment for learning at an early age for the kids. It's based on three unwavering principles: 1. Desire to learn, 2. Team Competition and 3. Respect for each other.

It is a knowledge competition for secondary school students about the 3500-year-long history of the Hellenes. At the local level, it is open to students in grades 8-12 at competition time. Participants have an opportunity to win a share of the $4,500 in prizes. Contestants must form their own 3-member teams, elect a team captain, and find an AHEPA Chapter to sponsor them. They each fill out their personal registration form and mail it along with a $25 registration fee. In return, each contestant receives a copy of Hellenika, Heritage and History by T. Peter Limber, the book used as a basis for most of the competition questions. Contestants have the summer to study the book.

A local tournament takes place during a single Saturday. The District 7 event takes place in November. It starts at 11:30 AM with lunch, followed by a group photo and an explanation of the tournament mechanics. All contestants who physically make it to the tournament venue receive a certificate of participation. The first round of matches then begins. During a match, each question and four multiple choice answers are projected unto a screen from the computer monitor. Questions are read and answers recorded by adult moderators. The computer keeps a running log of the teams' scores. The visual projection of questions, answers and scores simulates an exciting TV quiz show environment and keeps the audience aware and involved. The team that answers most of the 24 questions correctly is the winner of the match. Teams compete in simultaneous matches in successive rounds.

Interest and enthusiasm are building. Will the winners be from the Northeast, Chicago, Mid-Atlantic or Toronto? Family and   friends and AHEPA delegates will journey to Orlando to support their children’s teams as they battle each other for the grand prize, the National Title – a once in a lifetime moment for all.

The Tournament inspires a Hellenic brand of education and encourages more young people and their families to participate.

Nikas’ dream for a true global championship in which the regional winners to come together in a grand Super Educational Bowl type tournament is well on its way to being realized. It’s center stage for these kids, education, and Hellenism.

Today, Nikas guides the tournament as it expands nationwide. It is also important to understand that the history of Western Civilization is shrinking in curricula, and the National Hellenic Tournament is a way to keep history and Hellenism alive.

James B. Zafiros is Vice Chairman, AHEPA Chapter 405, New Rochelle, NY.