FLUSHING, N.Y. – The graduation ceremony of The William Spyropoulos Greek-American School of the Church of St. Nicholas on June 7 sent optimistic messages out to the community about the future of Greek-American education and culture. The next day, the parish’s Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School held its graduation.
The day school’s graduates included 14 girls and 29 boys who were honored for their academic performance and for having been accepted at one of the finest public and private high schools in New York City.
As is previous years, the event was held in the Church sanctuary and led by pastor, Paul Palesty. The keynote speaker was Dean Skelos, the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate and the state’s top Republican. He spoke of the important roles their Greek heritage and the community’s schools play in the lives of the graduates and urged them to aim high, to work hard, and excel. He told them that wherever they go in life, to remember the school and community of St. Nicholas.
Eleni Papageorgiou, the PTA President, congratulated the graduates and stressed the role of the parents in the education of their children. Mary Tzallas, the Assistant Principal, who teaches English Literature pointed out that the two graduating classes are the best ever.
She said that “Graduation is the end of one era and the beginning of a new one,” for the students.
Elaine Mallios, who participated in her first graduation as School Board Chairman, and urged the students to seize the opportunities that are opening up before them.
The Consul General in New York of Cyprus, Koula Sophianou, told the graduates they arrived on that day “with pride, with dignity, with confidence, respect and love,” and urged them to continue their march forward and always pursue excellence, and not neglect their Greek language and religion.
The 2nd Vice President of the Parish Council, James Rosvoglou, conveyed the greetings of its President, Nicholas Karacostas, who was unable to attend and shared that it will be the last ceremony he will attend as the parent of one of the graduate.
Maria Makedon, the Director of the Archdiocesan District Office of Education said the joy shining from the graduates permeated everything that day. She then addressed the parents and said: “We share in your joy because your children are our children and you made the best choice by sending them to the William Spyropoulos School.”
Father Palesty presented plaques to five parents and the Pastor’s Award for excellence to Art Teacher Antigone Vlachoyiannis, who said, “I am deeply moved, she said, adding that “Through art we are trying to teach our culture children and convey timely messages.”
Nicholas Tzallas, who graduated in 2009 from the same school, declared that the school has a special place in his heart.
Valedictorian Nikolas Ziozis, thrilled the audience with his flawless presentation in Greek and thoughts about virtue and science. Salutatorian George Moustakos shared some memories of his 10 years spent at the school.
The principal, Athena Kromidas, in a touching speech to the graduates, said, “Today you spread your wings in pursuit of new horizons. We pray for you to fight for your personal good, and that of your family and community. Remember that the school will always be her for you. We are waiting for you,” she added before presenting the awards and diplomas.
GREEK AFTERNOON SCHOOL STUDENTS SHINE TOO
On Saturday morning, June 8, Fr. Palesty led the afternoon school graduation which featured moving presentations by the school’s benefactor Stephen Cherpelis, Philoptochos PGloria Sfiroudis and past valedictorians Eraklis A. Diamataris and Constantine Koutoumbis, who attended his first class 35 years ago. George B. Kanellopoulos, the school’s principal, also addressed the audience
Cherpelis said told the story of how a handful of immigrants from Evrytania, Greece established the parish and its first schools in 1955 and noted with pride that its thousands of students through the years have excelled in all fields of endeavor, citing as examples two brothers, George Tenet, the former Director of the CIA, and distinguished cardiologist William Tenet.
Haralambos Georgiou and Kimon Balais were this year’s co-valedictorians and Theodora Papantoniou was the salutatorian.
The graduates were offered perspective on their future by Diamataris, who just completed his first year of college at the American University in Washington, DC. He declared that “I now understand how important it is to be a Hellene and to feel one’s Hellenism. For me, Hellenism is a grand idea, something great.”
(Additional reporting by Eleni Kalogeras)