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General News

St. Demetrios Begins the New Academic Year

September 8, 2022

ASTORIA – The St. Demetrios School welcomed back high school students on September 7 in Astoria at a brief assembly before officially starting the academic year on September 8. The assembly was held at the Patrides Cultural Center at St. Demetrios, where the students reunited with their classmates, met their teachers, and went over ground rules and changes.

Helen Karagiorgos, Assistant Principal of the school, spoke to TNH regarding the new academic year and the values of St. Demetrios.

“Philhellenism is very important to our school. The family environment, Hellenic pride, and hospitality is what we try to teach our students,” Karagiorgos stated.

9th grade students during the assembly at St. Demetrios. Photo by Stephanie Makri

She added, “we have our largest freshmen class this year, which shows that the parents want their children to continue from elementary school into high school. A lot of parents were disappointed by the public school system this year. Due to the lottery system the public schools have, many students that were excelling in junior high school didn’t get accepted to their top choices, so the parents decided that they needed another option, so they chose us. Our tuition comparatively speaking to other private schools is much lower and with a quality education.”

The school continues to grow and expand academically with new subjects that will engage students in Technology, History, and the Arts, with the addition of new teaching staff and instructional materials, while also enhancing their existing curricula.

In terms of athletics, Karagiorgos said, “unfortunately we were lacking in this area, however now we have a new athletics director who has a lot of great ideas about basketball, soccer, and even volleyball.”

12th grade students with their teachers Apostolos Mavrommatis and Argeta Benis-Komninos.
Photo by Stephanie Makri

There are multiple events and celebrations that will take place throughout the year such as the annual ‘Agiasmos’, by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, as well as the celebration for October 28.

The Greek department at St. Demetrios is a significant part of the school, as students have the opportunity to expand their knowledge on the Greek language. Philologist, Rita Syntilas, who has been working at St. Demetrios for over 40 years, spoke about the changes that have taken place in the school throughout her experience. “When I initially began teaching here, the students were the children of first-generation Greek immigrants. Today, our students come from third-generation Greeks, therefore our motive is greater to teach them the authentic, Greek culture and language,” Syntilas said.

Greek teacher, Angeliki Tsementzi, added that sketches and poems play a big role in the learning process of the Greek language as it is easier for the students to acquire it.

Nicholas Chronis, Dean of Students also spoke to TNH about the importance of the relationship the students have with the faculty, and why it is crucial to build a base of comfort and discussion amongst each other.

7th and 8th grade students during the welcoming assembly at St. Demetrios school. Photo by Stephanie Makri

“Being present and making yourself available for the students is where it all begins. We are working on student data, meaning that if there is a problem with a student, we should try to figure out where they’re coming from and understand them before it becomes a greater issue,” he mentioned.

School counsellor, Spiros Tsoumpariotis, noted that fear and anxiety have been overwhelming students since the initiation of the pandemic. “Social gatherings and the ambiguity of masks or no masks have become an issue for students. There is confusion as they may be hearing contradictory messages between their friends and their parents, so there is a lot of conflict, and the school tries to moderate this.” He added, “we try to find a middle ground and most importantly understand the setback the student is facing… Parents tend to become overwhelmed with their own work, finances, stresses, and the children are picking that up. Just like us, the children are sponges. They absorb not what we tell them, but the way we communicate what we want to say to them.”

St. Demetrios’ school library. Photo by Stephanie Makri

In terms of advice, Tsoumpariotis said that his main goal as school counsellor is for him to lead the students in coming up with their own solutions, therefore guidance in this case is key.

High school students, Valentina Costopoulos and Despina Theodorou, from 9th grade, spoke about what they’re mostly excited about for the new school year and their goals for the near future.

“I’m excited to meet my new teachers, see my friends again, and learn new things,” Valentina told TNH. “My aim is to reach higher grades and participate more in class.”

Her classmate, Despina Theodorou added, “I’m happy to be back in school to learn and get better grades.”

The elementary school at both campuses (St. Demetrios and St. Catherine’s) will also begin on September 8, as teachers are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the youngest Greek-American children of the community.

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