FLUSHING, NY— The William Spyropoulos School Class of 2016 celebrated its graduation at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Shrine Church of Flushing, NY on June 10. The 33rd Commencement ceremony began with a prayer led by Father Paul Palesty who read from St. Paul’s First Letter to Corinthians, Chapter 13, “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” Father Paul then gave the graduating class this blessing, “May the gift of love from God always be with you.” Among the proud parents and family members, Father Aristidis Garinis, Father Ioachim Valasiadis, and alumni from the Class of 2012 also attended the ceremony.
President of the PTA Thalia Misthos spoke about her pride in seeing the students graduating, noting the special bond the students will always share as alumni of the William Spyropoulos School, reminding everyone that life is precious and short, especially when she mentioned Katerina Tsiboukis, who would have graduated this year had she not been tragically killed in a car accident with her grandparents while on vacation in Greece in 2009. Later on in the ceremony, the graduating class sang See You Again, dedicated to Katerina. The moving tribute brought many to tears, and everyone to their feet for a standing ovation.
Assistant Principal Mary Tzallas reminisced about the first day of school, observing how hard it is to say farewell. She mentioned the lessons learned from the classic literature they studied during the school year. Sophocles’ Antigone, William Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird taught the students about faith, humility, and understanding.
School Board Chairman Elaine Mallios gave the students advice on high school, quoting among other notables, A.A. Milne, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” She concluded with best wishes for the Class of 2016 and the exhortation to hold the door open for their parents and grandparents when out shopping together.
Father Paul then presented the Pastor’s Awards to Social Studies teacher Georgia Kakivellis, and to parents with children in the graduating class who were in a sense graduating themselves from the PTA. Father Paul encouraged the parents to continue their involvement with the church and the school even though their children have graduated since a strong school and a strong parish church go together and support each other.
Class of 2012 Valedictorian Alexander Gliagias gave the Alumni Exhortation giving his advice to the students as they embark on their academic journey through high school. Gliagias will be attending New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering in the fall. Among his tips, time management, and trusting in God. He also spoke about friends, and the strange people the students might meet in high school. Gliagias concluded with a quote from Dr. Seuss, “You have to be odd to be number one.” He received an icon of the Panagia Glykofilousa as a gift.
Keynote speaker Nicholas Karacostas, lawyer, Senior Vice President of the Arch Insurance Group, former Supreme President and current Chairman of the Board of Trustees of AHEPA, and President of the Parish Council, noted how the William Spyropoulos School provides the finest education and instruction in the faith. He noted how he and his wife Anna made sure daughters Georgia and Andreana attended the school and excelled because of it. Andreana was also in attendance, as part of the Class of 2012 alumni. Karacostas urged the Class of 2016 to embrace opportunity, thank their teachers and parents, and appreciate the time they spent at the school. He also noted the value of being able to read, write, and speak Greek. Family, church, and education are the keys to success, as Karacostas himself has found. At the conclusion of his speech, he was presented with a gift from the Class of 2016.
The graduation continued with songs, and the Valedictorian George Kontopoulos delivering his speech in Greek and English, noting the importance of Hellenism and Orthodoxy, and pride in our heritage. Salutatorian Alexis Kalapodis thanked her teachers and parents, and encouraged her classmates to make the world a better place. Medals were given to the Valedictorian and Salutatorian. Class of 2016’s talented singer Olga Kontos sang the Greek song Elisso.
Principal Athena Kromidas, the heart and soul of the William Spyropoulos School, as Father Paul described her, remarked on the joy and sadness of the day, knowing that the students are ready for the next step of their education, but sad that she will no longer see them on a daily basis. She encouraged the graduates not to forget their heritage since Hellas means light, joy, majesty, and freedom. Kromidas also noted the importance of keeping the Virgin Mary by their side to protect and guide them, and observed that Katerina Tsiboukis was with them and praying for all from above. The graduates received an icon of Christ the Teacher. Among the high schools they will be attending in the fall, Bronx High School of Science, St. Francis Preparatory School, Cardozo, Archbishop Molloy, and Holy Cross High School