School Project Connects (Greek-American) Students With Their Heritage

Socrates Day School 5th grader Angelina Kalamaris with her grandmother Angeline Beladakis following Angelina's heritage presentation.

"The following article is reprinted with permission from The Greek Star" -


Last month fifth grade students at the Socrates Day School at the Hellenic American Academy (HAA) delivered "A Celebration of Life,: the culmination of a month-long project in which students learned about their heritage through original research while developing valuable written, visual and spoken communication skills.

Immigration stories were the most common theme among the presentations.  "Many of our students' families have overcome great adversity to arrive where they are today," said fifth grade teacher Mary Giannetos, "but families do not always find the forum to share these stories with their children and grandchildren.  The Hellenic American Academy believes it is important for our students to appreciate their heritage and the sacrifices of their ancestors.  School presentations on family history provide a valuable opportunity for students to make these connections."

Student presentations included visual, written and oral histories based on interviews conducted with living relatives.  As part of the project, each student learned to create interactive PowerPoint presentations covering a family member's early life, teenage years, education, work experience, adult life, and lifetime aspirations.  Collectively, the presentations provided a snapshot of HAA students' dynamic and accomplished family heritage, which includes military officers, Hall of Fame athletes, entrepreneurs, college professors, polio survivors, war survivors, artists, tennis players, artists, homemakers, restaurant owners, and chefs.  "I was amazed to discover that m grandmother survived polio," said student Angelina Kalamaris, whose grandmother Angeline Beladakis attended the presentation.  "I'm so glad this project gave me with the opportunity to celebrate her life."

Audience members were impressed with both the process and the end result.  "I feel closer to each of these families," said parent Kyle Kinzy.  "What's more, my daughter is closer to her grandfather.  Until she worked on this project, she had no idea her very existence had been in jeopardy years ago when Nazis threw her infant grandfather out a second story window.  Now she's looking at her grandfather and history itself with a new perspective."

For Kyle's daughter, Stephanie Kinzy, that perspective also included imagining her grandparents as young, romantic adults:  "I was so surprised to learn that my grandmother ran away with my grandfather because her parents didn't approve of the marriage," she remarked.