By Joe Morgan
If you’re in Jamesville-DeWitt High School English teacher Joe DeChick’s 10th grade English honors class, you may know sophomore Nick Koulouris as an insightful contributor to class discussions. Many people know Koulouris as the boy who dances at the Greek Fest as well, but what most people don’t know is that Koulouris is also an award-winning speaker.
Koulouris has spent this spring participating in the 2013 St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival, and showing his hidden talent and love for his religion. In the first stage of the festival, Koulouris had to speak and win at the church level against other contestants from his youth group where the youth director at his church, Elizabeth Steinberg, and professors from Le Moyne College judged. In the second stage of the four-stage festival, Koulouris went on to Rochester to compete “in front of the contestants, parents, and judges,” said Koulouris. On May 18, Koulouris went to Detroit to compete in the Middle Eastern U.S. Regionals where he came in third place.
Not only did Koulouris prove himself a strong orator by advancing to Detroit, he also won a scholarship to the Hellenic College in Brookline, Mass. where his brother is attending school now.
For those who don’t know, the St. John Chrysostom Oratorical Festival is an annual festival that the Greek Orthodox Church holds in order to give Greek Orthodox teens an opportunity to speak and write about their faith. The festival provides five topics and the competitors write and rehearse speeches five to six minutes long, to speak in front of an audience. Koulouris chose to speak about the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian and how it relates to today’s world.
The Lenten Prayer of Saint Ephraim is a centuries old prayer and is said during Lent which is 40 days before Easter Sunday. “The prayer acts as a moral checklist. It asks God to cast out the spirit of laziness, idle curiosity, love of power and (cursing God) to be replaced by patience, humility, moderation, and love,” said Koulouris.
To prepare his speech, Koulouris took time to talk with his priest Father David to fully understand the prayer. Koulouris then did a lot of reflecting on society to see how the prayer is seen in today’s light. Koulouris’s speech touched on teen’s social media use, which has lead to idle curiosity and judgmental thinking. “We need to take the Lenten prayer to heart, because I think people today have lost sight of their morals,” said Koulouris.
Koulouris has been competing in the oratorical festival for the past seven years. “My religion has always been very important to me and so I wanted to further explore it,” said Koulouris. His abilities have changed since his days as a rookie to a veteran public speaker. Koulouris says he finds himself less and less nervous while delivering his speeches. Along with his interest in his religion, Koulouris said the youth director at his church, Elizabeth Steinberg, along with, Father David, pushed him to start competing.
Koulouris loves his religion and speaking about his faith, but says he will use his speaking skills elsewhere in his future.