MATTHEWS – Students at Socrates Academy, a National Blue Ribbon charter school where children from all backgrounds study Greek language and culture, brought their education roaring to life on Jan. 30 as they filled their gymnasium with traditional song and dance to celebrate Greek Letters and International Greek Language Day.
At the celebration, 18 Socrates scholars were honored with internationally recognized Certificates of Attainment in Modern Greek for their achievements on the 2019 official Ellinomatheia Exam, authorized by the Greek Ministry of Education. The students, as well as other non-Socrates scholars who were successful on the exam, will receive college credits for their achievements.
Greek is living language, currently spoken by more than 11 million people in mainland Greece and several million Greeks spread throughout the world. A celebration of this order shows how the Greek language and culture provides an unbroken link between modern-day Greeks and their ancestors.
“The purpose of this day,” said Matthaios Stamoulis, director of Greek studies at Socrates, “is to express our eternal gratitude to all who elevated the study of our Hellenic letters, culture and language.”
It also serves as a reminder of the continuity of our Greek culture throughout the centuries, he added.
Scholars in fifth through eighth grades, as well as teachers, parents, friends and community members, came together to express the knowledge and values embodied by the Greeks, using music and arts to deliver their message. The scholars performed the dances and presented poems and songs in both English and Greek.
At Socrates, it was the highlight of National School Choice Week, which recognizes the myriad educational choices parents have for their children. The week offered the chance to show pride in the unique opportunities that Socrates offers its 740 scholars.
Socrates Academy is a partial immersion Greek language school where particular emphasis is placed on developing proficiency in reading, writing and mathematics both in English and Greek through the use of the Socratic Method. Scholars in every grade spend one hour each day learning Greek language and one hour learning math in Greek.
The students who received the certificates of Attainment in Modern Greek included Socrates alumni from the class of 2019 as well as current seventh- and eighth-graders. They were honored by the Socrates Academy Board President Larry Peroulas, the leadership team, their teachers and school benefactors, among them keynote speaker Jim Tasios, a local businessman and supporter of Socrates Academy.
Tasios also presented each of the scholars with a 760-page book by Matina Psyhogeos titled “English Words Deriving from the Greek Language,” as well as the book “Hellenic Civilization.” In addition, Tasios presented the Socrates Board of Directors with a $20,000 check to sponsor the current seventh-graders on their two-week educational trip to Greece this summer. His sponsorship is in partnership with Ilias Tomazos, a professor of archeology and president of the Hellenic Society, “Paideia” at the University of Connecticut. This marks the third consecutive year that Tasios, a philanthropist, has sponsored the trip for Socrates scholars.
The recognized scholars’ achievements in Greek Language are the culmination of their education at Socrates. The academy’s mission is to work in partnership with parents and community to encourage students to develop critical-thinking skills and become self-confident in a high achieving, multicultural, disciplined environment.
Sandra Brighton, principal of Socrates Academy, said in her opening remarks Greek Letters Day honors “the contributions of the Greek language to our world and celebrates the creation of art through this language.”
But it’s not just words on a page.
“At Socrates, we understand that language is an experience and our teachers create a multidimensional reality,” she said. “Our teachers ensure that our scholars see Greek not just as the language, but as an experience that is alive.”
And come alive it did.
Students locked arms and danced in unified circles, with their Vans, Adidas and Converse shoes tapping the ground to a time-honored rhythm. An intriguing line from one of the Greek songs (“I Have a Secret,” by Manos Hatzidakis), hinted at the intangible quality that makes Socrates so extraordinary:
“I have a secret that has changed my entire life, but I am never going to tell you what it is.”
Families say the secret is that Socrates feels like a family, with an unbreakable bond of community that will travel with scholars even after they graduate.
Academy is growing
The Socrates Academy board of directors announced that ninth grade will be added, beginning in fall 2021. Each year thereafter, another high school grade will be added. Socrates Academy will become a K-12 school by the year 2024.
Socrates Scholars honored for achievements on 2019 official Ellinomatheia exam:
Anjali Grace Pal
Eva Anastasia Vila
Brianna Hope Fulton