CHARLOTTE, NC – Students at Socrates Academy, a National Blue Ribbon public charter school where children from all backgrounds study Greek language and culture, filled their gymnasium with traditional Greek songs and dance to celebrate Greek Letters and International Greek Language Day.
At the celebration, 25 Socrates scholars were presented with internationally recognized Certificates of Attainment in Modern Greek for their achievements on the 2019 official Ellinomatheia Exam, authorized by the Greek Ministry of Education. The successful students will receive college credits for their achievements.
Greek is a living language, currently spoken by more than 10 million people in mainland Greece and several million Greeks spread throughout the world. A celebration of this order shows how the Greek language and culture provides an unbroken link between modern-day Greeks and their ancestors. “The purpose of this day,” said Matthaios Stamoulis, the Director of Greek Studies at Socrates, “is to express our eternal gratitude to all who elevated the study of our Hellenic letters, culture and language.” It also serves as a reminder of the continuity of our Greek culture throughout the centuries, Stamoulis said.
Pupils in 5th through 8th grade, as well as teachers, parents, friends and esteemed community members, came together to express the timeless wisdom and values embodied by the Greeks, using music and arts to deliver their message. The pupils performed the dances and presented poems and songs in both English and Greek.
At Socrates, it was the highlight of National School Choice Week, which recognizes the myriad educational choices parents have for their children. This week offered the perfect chance to show pride in the unique opportunities that Socrates offers its 740 students. Socrates Academy is a partial immersion Greek language school where particular emphasis is placed on developing proficiency in reading, writing, and mathematics both in English and Greek through the use of the Socratic Method. Scholars in every grade spend one hour each day learning Greek language and one-hour learning math in Greek.
The students who received the certificates of Attainment in Modern Greek included Socrates alumni from the class of 2019 as well as current 7th and 8th graders. They were honored by the Socrates Board president Larry Peroulas, the Leadership Team, their teachers and school benefactors, among them the keynote speaker Jim Tasios, a local businessman and a great supporter of Socrates Academy. Tasios also presented each of the scholars with a 760-page book by Matina Psyhogeos titled English Words Deriving from the Greek Language, as well as the book Hellenic Civilization. In addition, Tasios presented the Socrates Board with a $20,000 check to sponsor the current 7th graders on their two-week educational trip to Greece this summer, in partnership with Dr. Ilias Tomazos, a professor of Archeology and president of the Hellenic Society ‘Paideia’ at UCann. This marks the third consecutive year that the philanthropist Jim Tasios has sponsored this once-in-a-lifetime trip for Socrates scholars.
The recognized scholars’ achievements in Greek Language are the culmination of their education at Socrates. The mission of Socrates Academy is to work in partnership with parents and community to encourage students to develop critical thinking skills and become self-confident in a high achieving, multicultural, disciplined environment.
This level of educational attainment is certainly something special for such young students, and it is all made possible by the dedication of their teachers. The principal of Socrates Academy, Sandra Brighton, said in her opening remarks that Greek Letters Day honors “the contributions of the Greek language to our world and celebrates the creation of art through this language.” But it’s not just words on a page. At Socrates, she said, “we understand that language is an experience and our teachers create a multidimensional reality…Our teachers ensure that our scholars see Greek not just as the language, but as an experience that is alive.”
And come alive it did. Anyone who watched the students lock arms and dance in unified circles, with their Vans, Adidas, and Converse shoes tapping the ground to a time-honored rhythm, couldn’t help but be delighted. An intriguing line from one of the Greek songs (I Have a Secret, by Manos Hatzidakis), hints at the intangible quality that makes Socrates so extraordinary: “I have a secret that has changed my entire life, but I am never going to tell you what it is.”
The secret is simply this: being at Socrates is like being part of a family, with an unbreakable bond of community that will travel with the scholars even after they graduate. It is with much happiness that the Socrates Academy Board of Directors and the entire school community announces that a 9th grade will be added, beginning in fall 2021. Each year thereafter, another high school grade will be added, and Socrates Academy will become a K-12 school by the year 2024.