By Catherine Tsounis
“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well,” said Alexander the Great. On Sunday, June 5th, an elegant, free Luncheon was held at the Cultural Center of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, 337 East 74 St, New York. The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators and the Greek Teachers Association “Prometheus” honored the Greek Teacher at the Prometheus 35th Anniversary. Outstanding students were honored by their teachers. A raffle was held. Donations for the event were from the Greek-American business and professional community. An outstanding Journal book was published, showing the role of the Modern Greek Teacher in America. The Luncheon Committee, who organized this unique event, comprised the following persons: Stella Kokolis; Vasiliki Filiotis; Dr. George Melikokis; Adriana Fiolitis, Timoleon Kokkinos; Georgia Papadopoulou; Demosthenis Triantafillou, Dr. John and Emily Antonopoulos; Dr. John Siolas, Past President of Prometheus; Cathy Koutsoupakis and Georgia Filiotis.
The Invocation was delivered by Very Rev. Robert Stephanopoulos, Dean Emeritus Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, New York. The Introduction of the Dais guests was presented by Mrs. Nancy Biska. The National Anthems and musical presentation were performed by the students of St. Demetrios School, Jamaica. The Program consisted of the following: Welcome, Mrs. Stella Kokolis, President of the Federation of Hellenic-American Educators and Mrs. Vasiliki Filiotis, President of the Greek Teachers Association Prometheus; Proclamations and Citations, Congresswoman Caroline Maloney, NY State Senator Michael Giannaris, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis; Greetings, Consul Evangelos Kyriakopoulos, representative of the Honorable Agi Balta, Consul General of Greece in New York, the Honorable Koula Sofianou, Consul General of Cyprus to New York, Dr. Ioannis Efthymiopoulos, National Director of Greek Education, G.O.A. of America, Mrs. Maria Makedon, Director, District Office of Education, G.O.A. of America; Speech, Dr. Rothamanthos Kokolis; Presentation of Awards and Responses from Teachers and Honorees; Closing Remarks, President Vasiliki Filiotis, Georgia Papadopoulos and Dr. John Antonopoulos.
The Honorees included: Effie Albans, M.D.; Rev. Fr. George Anastasia; Alex Antonopoulos, Pharmacist; George Christofis, M.D.; Stella Douro’s, M.D.; Georgia Galiatsatos Kaparos, Pharmacist; Hon. Peter Georgalos, Judge; Hon. Michael Giannaris, NY State Senator; Olga Hellas, Professor of Pharmacology; Spiros Hiotis, M.D./Ph.D.; George Kalogerakis, Deputy Editor, NY Times; Dimitrios Kalamaras, Esq.; Irene Kampos, Esq.; John Kapsalis, Esq.; Demetrios Kokotas, Ahepa’s Gov. District 6; Afentoula Lambadaridis, Professor; Athena Lolis, M.D.; Margarita Lolis, MD/Ph.D.; Hon Nicole Malliotakis, Assemblywoman; Christos Paras, M.D.; Joy Petratos, Professor; Roda Plakoyiannis, Pharmacist; Hon Aravela Simotas, Assemblywoman; Mamie Stathatos-Fulgier, Esq.; Suzy Tomopoulos, MD/Ph.D. and Peter Zougras.
President Mrs. Stella Kokolis of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators, whose Honorary President is Theodore Spyropoulos, is an international scholar/educator/philantrhropist. “Greek American teachers do an incalculable amount of good,” she said. “They have been a dynamic force in the education process in this country. They are charged with the responsibility of helping to shape the destiny of our country by training and guiding our children and youth.”
“The work of an educator is a ministry, “explained President Filiotis. “The Greek educator gives his soul to his students. He/she tries to instill a love of Greece, the Greek heritage and the virtues of our ancient Greek philosophers. For this purpose, the educator needs the Greek-American community to stand by him/ her. Our organization has been in existence for 35 years. The purpose is to have the mission of the Greek educator and Greek Orthodox education recognized.”
A unique Journal book was created by the Luncheon Committee. “I drove all over New York City,” said President Filiotis. “My sister, Georgia, was calling everyone in my car as Georgia Papadopoulos would go out to get the ads.” Ms. Filiotis holds a Ph.D. in Political Science, Master of Science in Education and Political Science, with a Master of Arts degree in Philosophy from CUNY Graduate Center. “I never use my Ph.D.,” she said. “Do not call me doctor. I enjoy working in the schools of St. Irene. The Greek communities pay millions for Greek Studies in universities. Our children should take advantage of this opportunity. We support Modern Greek language studies and urge all youth to enroll.” Ms. Filiotis is a humble, low key person who works behind the scenes of St. Irene’s Greek School. Ms. Vasiliki Filiotis was honored April 5th, 2009 at the Tropicana Hotel of the Hermes Expo International by SAE (Council of Greeks Abroad), and the Federation of Hellenic Educators and Cultural Associations.
Ms. Georgia Papadopoulos, a young, vivacious educator with a Greek and American education background, represents the new wave of Greek educator emerging in the 21st century. Her enthusiasm to promote “Prometheus” is contagious. One enjoys listening to her optimism for the future. “Our organization is a lantern lighting the way so the Greek heritage will not be lost in our global economy,” she said. “We are perpetuating Language, Religion, History and Civilization. We are honoring outstanding students who have used this unique legacy to advance in careers. They are the examples for the upcoming generations.”
Three generations attended to see Peter Zougras of St. Demetrios Church of Astoria honored. “My parents, Dionisios and Vasilike Zougras are from the island of Zakynthos,” he said. “I gained my Master’s Degree in Divinity at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Boston, Massachusetts. ……..I am the Youth Director of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Astoria, where I work under the V. Rev. Fr. Apostolos Koufallakis. I have submitted my paperwork to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, requesting the honor of becoming ordained into the Holy Priesthood. Mrs. Emily Antonopoulos inspired me and changed my life.” His brother, Demetrios, a Construction Manager in federal projects, sends his children to D. and G. Kaloidis” Parochial School of Holy Cross Church, Brooklyn, N.Y. His in-laws, Demetra and Petros Xanthakos, immigrants from Sparta, Laconia, an area that helped create Modern Greece, said “we are honored today to be at the Prometheus Luncheon to see our in-laws son, Peter Zougras honored. We are from a farming community that appreciates education. Our dream of education was realized when our daughter, Alexandra Zougras, became a New York City public school teacher.” Three generations united in perpetuating Hellenism! These are the families that back the work of “Prometheus.”
George Kitsios, former President of the Greek American Homeowners Association (GAHOA) in Astoria, explained “we are giving 14 scholarships to seven schools of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese system on Wednesday, June 8th, in our Astoria center.” George Alexiou, 2011 President of GAHOA, said “the dedication of the Greek language teacher is exceptional. A teacher affects the future. One can never tell where his/her influence stops. The best teachers teach from the heart.” Elpida Alexiou recalls that “my Father, Ioannis Paledogos of the horio Pagos, Syros (an Aegean island) was a farmer. He sacrificed himself to give me a convent education. I learned French that I still use to this day.” These are the inspiring human interest stories from the backbone of Greek-America.