By: Catherine Tsounis, Contributor

“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.” ~Rudolph Giuliani

The grandparent-grandchild relationship can have lasting positive effects in promoting the Greek language, culture and Greek Orthodox religion. Efforts to help your kids know grandparents help them learn their Greek heritage that remains with them for the rest of their lives.

The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America and Hellenic PAIDEA of America held an education event to honor grandparents and parents of the Greek Day and Afternoon Schools on  Thursday evening May 31st, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. at the Stathakion Cultural Center (22-51 29th Street, Ditmars Boulevard and 23rd Avenue in Astoria). Over 200 persons attended. A reception followed. The event was organized by Mrs. Stella  Kokolis, the  President  of  the Federation of  Hellenic-American Educators and Cultural Associations of America, Vasiliki Filiotis, President of Hellenic Paideia of America and Adriana Filiotis, Chairlady organized the event. President Demosthenes Triantafillou, President of the Greek Teachers Association Prometheus, donated $1,000 to The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America, cementing harmony and cooperation between all Greek educators Associations. State Senator Giannaris, State Assemblywoman Simotas and City Councilman Constantinides send citations to honorees. Plaques by The Federation of Hellenic-American Educators & Cultural Associations of America and Hellenic PAIDEA of America were presented to all honored persons.

The Program included: M.C.: Dimitris Philippides, Reporter HELLAS FM; NATIONAL ANTHEMS: of Greece and USA; INVOCATION; GREETINGS OF HONOR GUESTS, General Consuls of Greece and Cyprus; Mr. Petros Galatoulas, President of the Hellenic Societies of Greater NY; REMARKS, Dr. Ioannis Efthimopoulos, Director of the Hellenic Education of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; KEYNOTE SPEAKER: Dr. George  Tsioulias, Address keynote: “The role of the Greek-American parents towards the Greek education of children of the second and third generation”; Presentation of a small program by students of our Greek schools; PRESENTATION OF THE AWARDS ΤΟ THE HONOREES BY: Dr. Ioannis Efthimiopoulos, Principals of the schools, Mrs. Stella Kokolis, Mrs. Vasiliki Filiotis.

The grandparents and parents honored were the following persons: Stella and Lukas Agrapidis; Effie and John Sergentakis; Athina and Leo Giakoumis; Helen and Steve Verveniotis;  Priscilla and Nikos Panteleakis; Lenia and Elias Batas; Maria and Dr. Spyros Kokolis; Steve and Sylvia Raptis; John and Michelle Lambrakis; Panagiotis and Aikaterini Papazaharias;Kleoniki and Theodoros Batsilas; Chrysoula Douroudakis Demiris; Kaliroe Diolitsis; Demetrios Diolitsis; Mrs. Marianthi Raptis; Mr. Michael Vitellas & Mrs. Elli Vitellas; Ms. Vasilios Michas; Mrs Alexia Iasonas; Mr. John Pyrovolakis & Mrs Panayiota Pyrovolakis; Mr. Kostis Sophokleous & Mrs. Gretchen Sophokleous; Basil Latousakis and Mrs. Stella Latousakis; Mrs. Nektaria Trikounakis; Dr. and Mrs. George Tsioulias; Dr. and Mrs. Spryo Mezitis; Mr. John and Mrs. Ekaterini Barou; and Mr. Michael and Mrs. Maria Hartofilis.

Keynote speaker Dr. Tsioulis said. “We must 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. Grandparents, 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.”

Mrs. Kleoniki  and Mr. Theodore Batsilas are Greek grandparents from Kastoria who speak Greek to their children and grandchildren. They have instilled a love for Greek civilization in the daughter Joanna Batsilas Kapsalis, PharmD, and Tom Batsilas an accountant who attended the Arete and Stephen Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School of St. Nicholas Church Flushing. They continue instilling the Greek language and tradition in their children who attend Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Hicksville and St. Nicholas Church of Flushing, NY. ”We help in raising our grandchildren, speaking Greek and instilling a love for the Greek culture,” said Mrs. Batsilas.

“I was Vice President of the PTA of the Stephen and Areti Cherpelis Greek Afternoon School,” said Chrysoula Douroudakis Demiris, a NYC educational teacher’s assistant. “Greek is spoken to my sons, Vasilis and Nikolaos. They are proud of their Cretan heritage, with a strong relationship with their grandparents. Dina and Nikolaos Douroudakis. We are all proud of the sacrifice of our family who fought in two wars: “the Asia Minor Campaign from 1919 to 1922 and the Battle of Crete, a period of six years. In our home hangs the “Certificate and the National Resistance Hero Medal”  given by Minister Stilianos Koundouros, Department of Defense of the Hellenic Republic on June 2, 1962, to my grandfather Sifis Douroudakis. The proud Cretan ethic of fighting for Greece, Greek language and culture was instilled in us and the grandchildren.”

International Greek-American-Epirotan artist Marianthi Raptis family traveled four hours round trip to see her honored. “We came to honor our Mother,” said Peggy Baurkot, a Greek-American attorney. “Our daughter Juliana minored in Greek at Rutgers University, touring Greece with her program.” Marianthi Raptis of Whitestone, New York international art exhibits have been part of the exhibitions of the Greek Artists Guild at the Stathakion Cultural Center, 22-51 29th St., Queens, NY, 11105. “I have drawn my ancestral home and village church in Epirus,” the artist explained. “I enjoy drawing scenes of nature. I have participated in three Art Exhibitions of   Greek Artists Guild (https://www.facebook.com/GreekArtistsGuild).” Artist Raptis has donated her art work to non-profit organizations such as Prometheus Greek Teachers Association and the Heritage Museum of Epirus in Astoria.

Mrs. Stella Kokolis, an organizer of this exceptional event is a great at compromising, negotiating and settling education disagreements. Her generosity is legendary. When someone needs funding for a project or a scholarship for a student, Mrs. Kokolis gives money from her own pocket. The educator is one of the giants of our time in the field of bilingual education. In 2009, the educator was named “Greek Teacher of the Year 2009” by The National Herald newspaper in New York. The 25th Anniversary Celebration of  the Hellenic News of America honored on October 14th, 2012  at the at the Concordville Inn-Best Western Hotel & Conference Center in Concordville, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Kokolis has united us in keeping our Greek heritage alive in America. . “Let us reflect on the admirable work that the teachers have devoted to their students through the decades,” she said. “With courage and perseverance, let us continue to kindle the light of Hellenic education.”

The Hellenic Paideia of America Organization played an active role through the leadership of President Vasiliki Filiotis, Adriana Filiotis and Georgia Filiotis who works behind the scenes. The Filiotis family is well known in Astoria, New York for their community activist services. “Greek is important to the languages and cultures of the world. Greek recorded ancient philosophy and is the basis of languages. Every language contains Greek words. The language spread Christianity. We support Modern Greek language studies and urge all youth to enroll. The Hellenic Paideia Organization’s goal is to encourage Greek-Americans and their friends to speak Greek. We must leave an inheritance to the next generation. European culture and civilization, of which our own country is a part, are rooted in ancient Greece.

The Program M.C. Dimitris Filipidis and Petro Galatoulas, President of the Federation of Greek Societies are genuine Greek patriots. They are fighting for the name Macedonia to prevent a future Slavic ambition of acquiring Thessaloniki and Greek Macedonia. “The holy soil of Macedonia is Greece and Greece is Macedonia,” they both believe. Both leaders are voicing opposition to Turkish military boats that are cruising illegally in the Greek Aegean. A rich awards program in honor of grandparents and parents reinforced the support of the Greek language and culture.