New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
“Our mission is not only to encourage women, especially the younger ones, to succeed in their professions, but to help them develop the skills they need to become leaders in the community,” said Olga Alexakos, president and founder of A.G.AP.W. (Association of Greek American Professional Women) at the presentation, on March 26, of the organization’s 2013 Greek American Woman of the Year Award and 2013 Excellence Tuition Scholarship in the penthouse of Dr. Virginia Davis, a member of the organization’s Advisory Council, where the burgeoning organization held its first meeting a scant three years ago.
The Greek American Woman of the Year Award, embodied as a crystal flame, was presented to New York State Assemblymember by Ms. Alexakos the Hon. Aravella Simotas, Esq., and the Excellence Tuition Scholarship, a 3,000 dollar grant, awarded to Vaia Trittas, NYU sophomore, was presented by Dr. Helen Liana Theodoratou, Director of the A.S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at NYU, in the presence of the Hon. Georgios Iliopoulos, Consul General of Greece and the Hon. Koula Sophianou, Consul General of Cyprus.
The evening was a warm, upbeat celebration of the life and work of Ms. Simotas, who is a beloved and charismatic young leader representing Greek American women’s contributions to country and community, and a strong vote of confidence for Ms.Trittas’ bright future.
Ms. Alexandra Kavouras of Queens College, CUNY, recipient of A.G.AP.W.’s 2012 Excellence Tuition Scholarship Award (the 2011 recipient was Nayia Moysidis) presented in honor of Mrs. Penelope Tsilas, who was A.G.A.P.W.’s 2012 Greek American Woman of the Year, was Master of Ceremonies.
Dr. Aphrodite Navab, A.G.AP.W.’s Vice-President/Community Liaison and board member, presented a talk, “The Significance of Women’s History Month”, and vocalist Flora Kirou moved the audience with her renditions of songs by Theodorakis, Hatzidakis, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.
“I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be recognized for doing my job,” said Ms. Simotas, accepting the award, “I’m usually the person who’s handing out the awards, so to be the recipient of such a significant honor is very moving and humbling to me. First, I’d like to thank A.G.A.P.W. and Olga, and everybody associated with this wonderful organization. Three years ago, when A.G.A.P.W. kicked off their initial event I was here at Virginia’s apartment admiring the view, admiring the good taste in food and design, I was thinking to myself how wonderful it is to have an organization that promotes women. And not just any women, Greek women. It was long overdue and something that I believe is a wonderful asset to this community, so I’d like to thank them for this distinction tonight. I’d also like to thank my family. Without their support and their love and their guidance I wouldn’t be who I am today,” she said, explaining that her mother was behind her desire to contribute to society as a champion of women’s rights and the environment, beyond her career in law, and her father, who, she said, was very supportive, but like any “good Greek dad, was concerned, about the salary cut!”
Ms. Simotas, who has a seven-month old daughter, advised women who fear their superiors’ reactions to their decisions to have families or to expand their career horizons, to seek advice in how to handle the circumstances. Regarding the importance of supporting, guiding, and mentoring young Greek Americans, women in particular, she stated, “Our mission is not only to encourage women, especially the younger ones, to succeed in their professions, but to help them develop the skills they need to become leaders in the community,” Ms. Simotas went on to thank some key individuals who gave her guidance and support: Judge Nicholas Tsoucalas (she was his clerk); New York State Senator Michael Gianaris, her predecessor in her assembly seat; the managing partner of the law firm where she was employed when she decided to run for the Assembly; and her husband, John Katsanos, who was present at the celebration.
Paying tribute to Judge Tsoucalas, who has promoted the community’s interests and helped countless young Hellenes throughout his career, Ms. Simotas stressed that the community should elect public officials who will promote the community’s issues at the local, state, and federal levels.
“I just feel very blessed to have such a great family to support me, and to win this award. I’m so excited,” Ms.Trittas told the GN as her mother, Angeliki, and brother, Yanni, surrounded her proudly. “This is a very happy moment,” said Mrs.Trittas, who came to America to raise her children after the early passing of Mr. Trittas, “but it has two sides… it is also sad, because her father is not here to celebrate with us.” Mrs. Trittas is from Alexandroupolis and Mr. Trittas from Larnaca, Cyprus.
The buoyant Ms. Alexakos characterized the evening most succinctly, observing that “There was wonderful energy… everybody was so nice!” In a 2011 interview, Ms. Alexakos, told the GN: “I hope and pray that AGAPW will grow roots and branches in the community in a way that unites all of us–each one of us–as an individual, and all of us as a community.” Her hopes are becoming reality: A.G.AP.W. is sending down roots and growing branches steadily, creating a networking community positively charged with good will, mutual respect, and purpose.
Mezedes were provided by Zenon Taverna, and wines by Ωmega Wines.
Justin Bozonelis / LivEthnic featured the event on their website and broadcasted it to their contact list.
For further information, please visit: