ASTORIA, N.Y. – The Petros G. Patridis Cultural Center of the Greek-American community of St. Demetrios of Astoria was flooded with parents, teachers, parishioners who defied the weather forecast and came with joy to celebrate the graduation of 32 students from the only Greek high school in America.
The June 7th ceremony for the school that has graduated multitude of students who benefited from instruction in math, science, economics, and arts and culture, included presentations by its high-achieving graduates such as New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas. She said she will never forget her school and the Astoria community in which she grew up.
Outside, thunder and lightning dominated the night and it was raining buckets, but a real springtime prevailed inside the cultural center, where the sunshine was provided by smiles of the graduates.
The Dean of St. Demetrios Cathedral, the Very Rev. Nektarios Papazafiropoulos, congratulated the graduates and their parents and emphasized the role of the community and especially the school in their lives.
The principal, Anastasios Koularmanis, applauded the achievements and highlighted the school’s pioneering programs. The school’s Assistant Principal, Helen Karagiorgos, who was responsible for the co-ordination of the ceremony, cited the academic performance of the graduates and stressed with special pride they are headed for some of the best colleges and universities in America.
Unlike previous years, the ceremony didn’t feature a keynote speaker, but speeches by past graduates. Konstantinos Belesis, who was the salutatorian in 2003, described himself as Odysseus returning home to his own Ithaca, and Evangelia Podaras, the valedictorian in 2006, a law student at Fordham University came back too.
Christina Tsangouri, in her valedictory address, was emotional when she said, “It is really is difficult for someone to believe that the years can pass by so quickly. If feels like it was yesterday, but it was eight years ago when I opened this wonderful chapter in my life at the school of St. Katherine. Having arrived from Greece when I was nine years old and entered the
St. Demetrios school system (the two sanctuaries form one parish and share school facilities) the teachers and principals stood by me contributed to my successes down to today. With deep gratitude I thank all of you because you were with me whenever I needed help, because of the excellent education I received about my Greek roots, and which you helped me to maintain.”
Calliope Prassinos, who celebrated her name day the following day, said, “This is the school where I learned Greek language, and the history and religion of Greece. I gained understanding of the religious and historical holidays.” She added that she likes math, and thanked her teachers because they not only taught her to love math, but inspired her to continue her studies in that field.
The President of the Parish Council, Gary Sideris, the Chairman of the
School Board Nick Andriotis – one of the prime movers who made the school a reality – and City Councilman Peter F. Vallone, Jr. addressed the guests and there were greetings from the Consuls General of Greece and Cyprus respectively, George Iliopoulos and Koula Sophianou.
The President of the Hellenic Medical Society in New York, Dr. Nicholas Mezitis, presented a check in support of the school’s science programs. Maria Makedon, the Director of the Direct Archdiocesan District Office of Education, congratulated the children and parents.
New York State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas told the graduates: “Be proud to be Greek and reach for the stars. Take Evangelia Podaras’ example: achieve greatness and give back to your community.” She said to the parents that, “As a new mom, I see your children, who have excelled, and I admire them.”