It’s the Bronx’s oldest Greek school, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
More than 600 parents, teachers and former students, as well as prominent members of the local community gathered at a special gala in New Rochelle to celebrate the special birthday of the Greek American Institute.
Established by a group of Greek immigrants, the Pelham Bay school was formally recognized by the state of New York in May of 1912.
“From what I’ve read and notes that I have found, there were many immigrants coming here at the time and legend has it that a bunch of them got together and were talking about a boy in the area who could speak and write Greek very well,” said Anne Prokop, principal of the school since 2002. “They wanted to preserve the history and the culture, so they decided to build a school.”
But what started out as a school exclusively for Greek children, has now become a parochial/private school with a mixed enrollment.
“I would say right now we are about a 60/40 ratio – 60% Greek, 40% non-Greek,” Prokop said. “The school is owned under the Greek Orthodox church, but we are more of a private school now.”
While the Greek American Institute continues its century-old tradition of educating children (from kindergarten to eighth grade) in the Greek language and traditions, as well as the Greek Orthodox faith, it also offers a full curriculum of other classes.
Prokop said she has seen a lot of families keep with the tradition of sending their children to the school.
“About 20% of my teachers were students here, and I see it especially now with a lot of the younger students, many of their parents went here and their’s before,” she said.
“We have small class sizes and all of our teachers know all of our students. It is a very family-oriented, very nurturing environment,” Prokop continuted.
“Students that graduate and leave always come back. There is something unique about it, I can’t even define it, it’s intangible. Parents come from Westchester and Queens to bring their kids here.”
The Greek American Institute is housed in the former Jewish convalescent home at 3573 Bruckner Boulevard. It has a current enrollment of 181 students.
The anniversary was held at the Green Tree Country Club in New Rochelle on October 6.
“It was very nice, it was a whole weekend event,” Prokop said.
“There was a Friday cocktail party, a large gala on Saturday and church service and brunch followed by a performance by the student chorus.”
Prokop said although she has been asked many time to add a high school, she doesn’t think the school will be expanding any time soon.
Kirsten Sanchez can be reach via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (718) 742-3394