By Catherine Tsounis
The decline of Greek education in America is a serious problem. The dropout rate of the first, second and third generation Greeks is significant. An issue argued by many is that primary and secondary Greek education of students in America lack educators who understand them. These were some of the topics discussed at the historic Prometheus Greek Teachers Association and Federation of Hellenic-American Educators workshop on Saturday, March 31st, at the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“We are honored to participate in the 2012 Hermes Expo International,” said Vasiliki Filiotis, President of Prometheus. “Greek educators and supporters of Greek language and culture were honored at the evening’s gala. They were Laris Peroula, Alekos Haralambidis, the late Anthony Skoutelas and Maria Gougouliatis. We want the community clos to us, thinking positive. Prometheus must not die and our schools close. We need support for our national symposiums. We welcome all to join us. For more information call, 718 844-0902.”
Mrs. Stella Kokolis, workshop moderator and President of the Federation of Hellenic American Teachers and the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE) Education Committee for the US region, said “we must be united to solidy Greek education. The President of Prometheus in Washington, D.C. is organizing a conference to establish programs for 2nd and 3rd generation Greek-Americans. We are happy with the support of teachers from different states.”
Many argue the dropout rate from Greek schools is due to the decline of Greek immigrants, smaller families and parental apathy. Children refuse to attend Greek schools for various reasons. A thought expressed is that to teach, reach and motivate Greek American children, one needs to understand their environment, the school systems they attend, their own culture, traditions and habits. Teachers of the Greek language must integrate modern technology, such as the internet in their classroom, as well as use the language of the students for motivation. Parents and families must play a significant role in inspiring the students to learn Greek language and culture. Culture activities such as theater, dance, music and visits to Greece can help curb the dropout rate of Greek students from the Greek schools.
Another thought raised was that the Hellenic Studies programs, which are in a decline on the university level, must be redesigned. University programs are closing because of low enrollment while there is a need for teachers to instruct younger children. Hellenic studies programs should create curriculum strong in modern education and technology, creating new teachers for our future Greek schools. Mrs. Emily Antonopoulos, an acclaimed national educator, said “if the economy is not solved, education will not prosper. No one will enter the profession of Greek education for low wages.”
Sotiroula Alexopoulos believes “it is important that new charter schools for the Modern Greek language are formed not on the parent’s expense. Our Greek identity has a future.” Some charter schools include: Hellenic Classical Charter School, Brooklyn; Socrates Academy of Charlotte, North Carolina; Odyssey School in Wilmington, Delaware; Athenian Academy, Clearwater, Florida and others.
Dr. Dimitri Pallas, a founding member of the American Hellenic Congress and Founder and President of the Foundation for Modern Greek Studies (FMGS) said “we formed the Foundation for Modern Greek Studies at the University of Michigan (U of M) in 1997. Our mission is to promote the study of Modern Greek language and culture by supporting educational institutions as well as other efforts serving these fields. Seven years ago, U of M received a major gift from FMGS that made possible the establishment of the endowed C.P. Cavafy Chair in Modern Greek Language and Literature.” His ideas added to the workshop along with Dr. Dean Lomis, international scholar.
A native of the Peloponnese, Dr. Pallas studied at the University of Athens and did graduate work in the United States. Dinos Avlonitis, a member of the Prometheus delegation is part of the Hellenic Relief Foundation. “We must gather funds and send a representative from the United States to purchase food from local merchants to help the local community,” he explained. “There is a real humanitarian crisis in Greece. We must uplift the image of Greece in a positive manner.” For more information, visit http://www.hellenicrelief.org/en/ or call 347 201-1821.
Ms. Filiotis expressed special appreciation to “former Prometheus President John Markopoulos, Pan Gregorian leaders Andreas Tsangarides, George Siamboulis and Anastasios Manessis for their continuous support of Modern Greek Studies and the members of Prometheus Greek Teachers Association and Federation of Hellenic-American Educators. Mr. Peter Stathatos, Vice-President of the Greek American Homeowners Association (GAHOA) attended our meeting, representing GAHOA President George Alexiou. The Greek-American Homeowners Association perpetuates the Hellenic language and culture among our grade school and college students through scholarships.”
The Prometheus Greek Teachers Association and Federation of Hellenic-American Educator group included parents, community leaders and activists. They are the following persons: Eleni Karageorgiou, Education Councelor of the Greek Consulate, New York; Vasiliki Filiotis, President of Prometheus; Stella Kokolis, President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators; Dr. John and Emily Antonopoulos; Demi Savopoulos, Dr. Despina Siolas; Sotiroula Alexopoulos; Michael Christodoulou; Eleni Koumas; Potoula Lempesis; Georgia Babulas; Georgia Filiotis; Angie Yanas; Dr. Dimitris Pallas; Dr. James G. Faller; Dr. Dean Lomis; Maria Chatziioannidou; Dr. George Melikokis; Timoleon Kokkinos; Maria Carvelas; Vicki Palma; Pandora Spelios, Konstantinos Kontos; Dinos Avlonitis and others.