By Catherine Tsounis
The year 2024 began on a positive note with a heartwarming celebration of excellence in education and culture. The ‘2024 Annual Cutting of the Vasilopita’ event, organized by President Stella Kokolis of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, along with President Vasiliki Filiotis of Hellenic Paideia of America and member Georgia Filiotis, brought together Greek Americans from Connecticut, New York City, and Long Island. This festive gathering took place on the evening of Friday, January 12th, at the Hellenic Cultural Center located on 27-09 Crescent Street, Astoria.
Panagiotis Theologitis, an esteemed scholar from St. Demetrios High School in Astoria, was honored during the event. President Kokolis generously provided a Mediterranean buffet dinner, creating an enjoyable atmosphere for all attendees. It was an evening filled with camaraderie and meaningful conversations about the progress of Greek churches and schools in our community.
The program featured an array of distinguished speakers who shared their insights:
1. Rev. Father Gregory Stamkopoulos, Assistant Director, Department of Greek Education Database Administrator, Department of Information Technology.
2. Rev. Gerasimos Ballas, Sts. Constantine and Helen Church, Jackson Heights, NY.
3. Ms. Giota Pechlivanidi, Acting Education Counselor at the Consulate General of Greece in New York.
4. President Demi Savopoulos of the Hellenic American Educators Association/UFT.
5. Eleni Pylarinou, Council of St. Basil’s Academy graduates, Garrison, NY.
Prominent figures in attendance included Dr. George Melikokis, Vice President of the Federation of Hellenic American Educators and Cultural Associations of America; Dr. John G. Siolas from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America High Council for Greek Education in the U.S.; and Ms. Pandora Spelios, along with Maria Carvellas, representing the community of St. Irene Chrysovalantou in Astoria.
Mrs. Rita Syntillas, an educator at St. Demetrios High School and Sts. Catherine and George School in Astoria, also graced the event with her presence. Ms. Amalia Bournias, an architect and education community advocate, joined the gathering, along with Mr. Bournias and other notable individuals.
President Kokolis shared her dedication to promoting Greek language and culture, highlighting the legacy left by previous archbishops, including His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos. She also praised Archbishop Elpidophoros for his love of children and commitment to preserving Greek culture.
Pandora Spelios, a regular participant in cultural events, expressed her joy in reconnecting with old friends and educators. Honored educator Eleni Pylarinos emphasized the importance of supporting teacher organizations, underlining the need for collective efforts in preserving our heritage.
Dr. George Melikokis, who has served as a principal in several Greek parochial schools in New York City, conveyed his unwavering dedication to keeping the Greek language and culture alive for future generations.
Ms. Giota Pechlivanidi, Acting Education Counselor at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, acknowledged the vital role played by the Greek Consulate in providing excellent teachers and praised the pioneering efforts of previous generations.
President Demi Savopoulos of the Hellenic American Educators Association/UFT expressed her commitment to passing on the torch of Hellenism to the next generation, emphasizing the exceptional dedication of those involved in promoting Hellenic principles and ideals.
Rev. Father Gregory Stamkopoulos highlighted the Education Fund supported by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, which aims to enhance Greek education’s vitality in the national community.
President Amalia Bournias, a member of the School Board of the Cathedral School in NYC and President of Sts. Constantine and Helen Church in Jackson Heights, discussed the comprehensive education children receive in Greek Orthodox religion, language, culture, and history, emphasizing the growth of Greek education in our schools.
Mrs. Rita Syntilas, an educator with over 45 years of teaching experience at St. Demetrios High School, was celebrated for her legendary contributions. She continues to inspire Greek-American youth while actively participating in community events and networking.
**In Summary**, the ‘2024 Annual Cutting of the Vasilopita’ celebrated educational excellence and cultural preservation within the Greek-American community. It was an evening filled with heartfelt conversations, honoring scholars, and recognizing the dedicated individuals who work tirelessly to promote Greek education and heritage. The event marked a positive beginning for the year 2024, demonstrating the unwavering commitment of the community to pass on the torch of Hellenism to future generations.
*For more information and a complete list of attendees, please visit [Stella Kokolis’s Facebook page](https://www.facebook.com/stella.kokolis.7).*