The Hellenic Initiative’s most valuable resources are its people – Diaspora Greeks who not only support our work, but are sources of inspiration with their energy, ideas – and vision.
This month, we share the extraordinary story of the Archimedean Schools in Miami, Florida.
The Archimedean Schools began with the vision of John Haralambides, a Diaspora Greek whose family immigrated from Asia Minor. Haralambides had a vision to establish a school in the United States that would preserve the Greek language at the highest levels of learning by employing teachers from Greece. Students would not only be required to take Greek but would take other subjects of the core curriculum in the Greek language. In 2000, Haralambides and his son Aleco, an attorney in Miami, met Dr. George Kafkoulis.
Dr. Kafkoulis immigrated to the United States in 1984 from Athens. He received a PhD in Pure Mathematics from CalTech and became a professor of math at Florida International University. Dr. Kafkoulis stated “John and I were the leaders in establishing the school. He wanted to establish a Greek school and I brought the idea of a conservatory of mathematics, and the two ideas came together.” Together, Haralambides and his son, Aleco, Dr. Kafkoulis, and Harry Katsoufis and his son Lambros, founded the first Archimedean Academy in 2012. John Haralambides sadly passed away several months after the school opened, but saw the vision he had held for over 20 years become a reality.
Dr. Kafkoulis continues to serve as the President and Chairperson of the Archimedean Schools’ Board and Acting Superintendent, and Aleco Haralambides is the Vice President, Legal Counsel and Founding Board Member.
Dr. Kafkoulis said that the idea behind the Academy sprung from the founders’ desire to “create a ‘conservatory of mathematics and the Greek language’ and take it into mainstream American public education. Our mission is to initiate young minds into the art of thinking through the Greek language and mathematics in a setting of a conservatory of math – that is, a place that is dedicated to mathematics and which also uses the Greek language as a linguistic vehicle for bringing the student the benefits of bilingual education.”
Now in its 21st year of operation, there are four Archimedean schools in South Florida, with a total student body of 1,350 in grades Pre K-12. Three of the four schools are charter schools funded by the state of Florida and are completely free to their students. The schools’ model has proven so successful that only 5-6% of its students are of Greek descent, with a long waitlist for admission.
Dr. Kafkoulis is most proud of the institution’s math education achievements. “In one sense, whoever comes to Archimedean is already selecting a school that is heavy on STEM – we were a conservatory of math even before that terminology became widespread. All of our students, starting in Pre-K, receive two hours a day of math, one hour in Greek and one hour in English.” They also have another hour of Greek language per day in addition to their core studies. In support of the school’s model, the Greek government sends two teachers per year to instruct at the Archimedean schools.
The school has produced excellent results in both Greek language study and in its overall academics. 150-160 Archimedean students per year participate in the Ellinomatheia Greek Language Proficiency Test, representing 4% of the total students worldwide who take the test. In addition, Archimedean students have been accepted to the world’s most competitive institutions of higher learning, including MIT, CalTech, Stanford, and Princeton.
Dr. Kafkoulis said that Archimedean model can be applied “anywhere in the U.S. or the world that can support a publicly funded educational institution like ours, in any neighborhood, regardless of whether they are Greeks or non-Greeks.” The Schools are planning to expand to other communities, continuing the founders’ vision of excellence in mathematics and the preservation of the Greek language for a new generation.