BRONX, NY – A program rich in emotions and memories was presented during the ceremony of awarding rings to students of the 8th grade in the Greek-American Institute (GAI), who are also the future graduates of 2022, at Zoodohos Peghe Greek Orthodox Church in the Bronx on December 23.
The program included the entrance of the students, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthems of the U.S. and Greece, welcoming remarks by 7th grade student and member of the student council Theodora Pavlounis, the lighting of candles, prayers and a “collage” of memories from the 7th grade, the blessing of the rings and inspirational speech by presiding priest of the community Rev. Economos Vasilios Louros, the presentation of the rings, and a thoughtful speech by Principal John Attanas. It should be noted that the program of the ceremony was organized and presented by Assistant Principal and PKA Coordinator Cynthia Dafnis.
Fr. Louros spoke to The National Herald about the importance of the ceremony: “It is a happy day for the children of the 8th grade, the graduating class of our school. It is a reminder of their years here, when they started their first foundation, their first friendships, their first letters… This ring is to remind them of this destination. Just as Pharaoh gave the ring to Joseph, so the children have this legacy from the Greek-American Institute, that is, they always belong here and are part of this school history.”
Principal John Attanas told TNH that in the context of the ring ceremony, which is held for 8th grade students every year in December, there are feelings of joy and happiness and parents see their children in a moving moment. At the same time, he shared his best wishes for the future graduates: “I wish them to live a good life and to understand that a large part of their lives is under their control… We have some very good students and I think they will do well.”
Cynthia Dafnis told TNH that Ring Day is a commemorative ceremony, very important for the 8th grade students, as she pointed out, when they look at the ring, they will remember their experience at school. She also wished the students “he best of luck, especially now with the COVID-19 pandemic, to stay strong” and “to move forward.” Dafnis added: “Our students always go to the best high schools and receive scholarships over $100,000.”
During the ceremony, which followed all the protection measures against the pandemic, the music and the thoughts of the students resounded.
The families of the 8th grade students were invited to present their children’s ring, while the students spoke about what the ring symbolizes for each of them: For Manolis Diakakis, it symbolizes the time and the memories at GAI. For Irene Pappas, it symbolizes – among other things – the reasons why her childhood is memorable. For Konstantinos Papastefanou, it symbolizes the safe environment at GAI that prepared him and his brothers for a successful future. For Marina Abend, it symbolizes the years of hard work and effort to get to this point. For Rocco Ardizonne, it symbolizes friendships and his love for the school which became his second home. For Bianca Fiore, it symbolizes all the good moments, memories with friends and knowledge acquired at GAI. For Pierce Brogan, it symbolizes a cycle of happy memories that will continue. For Nia Stoeva, it symbolizes good times with friends and teachers. For Lia Salerno, it symbolizes all the good memories at GAI. For Dionysios Lourdas, it symbolizes a collection of experiences and unforgettable, pleasant moments. For Angela Koco, it symbolizes a major part of her life. For Kaitlyn Connoly, it symbolizes the memories and happy moments at GAI.
During her speech, Theodora Pavlounis urged the future graduates to follow their dreams: “Believe in yourself, because you hold the key to a bright and successful future. Your education will be an important factor in your success later in life. Do not abandon that. Do not just wish, work for what you want.”
As was noted, the ceremony was sponsored by the 7th grade of the school and the Greek-American Institute is set to celebrate its 110th anniversary in 2022. It was founded in 1912 and is the oldest continuously-run Greek Orthodox School in the United States.