2008 Scholarship Recipient

Angelica Garcia

Angelica is the first recipient of the 

Anastasia Conomos Condas Scholarship.

My Family’s History on Kythera

     My mother’s side of the family is from the small island of Kythera, sometimes referred to as Aphrodite’s other island. Known for its breathtaking blue waters and Mediterranean climate, Kythera resides on the tip of the Peloponnesos peninsula, and is home to approximately 3,000 people. My Great Grandmother, Penelope Vernardos was born and raised in Kythera. Though Yiayia had a wonderful upbringing and enjoys her memories of the island, it was her personal struggles in Kythera that greatly changed her attitude and values, and spurred Yiayia to exhibit a life long commitment to encourage and promote the importance of education to her family and friends.

Born on March 25th, 1912, Yiayia was the youngest of 4 children. Education in Kythera began no earlier than the age of 7. In those days there were no ways of automotive transportation, only mules. Yiayia would eagerly walk 4 miles to school and back with her siblings rain or shine. Yiayia attended school from age 7 to 11. At age 11 she stopped going to school in order to help support her family by working long arduous hours on a farm.

Unfortunately, since women were not considered an asset for scholarly endeavors, women were not admitted or supported to pursue an education. All aspirations were entrusted to the men who were permitted and encouraged to advance in academics. Since, Yiayia was both a female and not of great wealth she was never able to return to school, having only acquired a mere 4 years of schooling under her belt. Yiayia’s lack of education would later motivate her to become a great advocator for education, a characteristic she etched into each of her children.

At the ripe age of 17, matrimony was arranged. She married John Megaloeconomou, a Greek-American citizen and veteran of the Balkan war. At the age of 20, they made their way to the United States for more opportunities and a better way of life. Upon arriving in the states, Ellis Island officials abbreviated their surname to Conomos and they settled in New Kensington, Pennsylvania. Yiayia bore 3 children: Chrysanthy, Anastasia, and Anastasios. Soon after, they made a permanent move to the West Coast, making California their home. Her husband passed away unexpectedly at 65 from a heart attack. She continued to raise her 3 children with a great emphasis on education, something she herself was denied.

As each of her children became of college age, she sacrificed to make sure her children were able to advance in school and excel in their studies. Her eldest daughter, Chrysanthy, took on a full time job to help meet her sibling’s financial obligations. Anastasia attained her Bachelors in English, and later earned a graduate degree in Education. Yiayia’s youngest, Anastasios, earned his doctorate in oceanography. Yiayia was and still is very proud of her children’s achievements. 

 Even though Yiayia was never able to return to school she made it a priority to educate her self through reading and writing. In all of her children she instilled a great sense of the importance on personal betterment through education. As a result of Yiayia’s experience in her hometown of Kythera, her middle child, Anastasia, devoted much time and money focused on improving Kythera’s education and encouraging extracurricular activities through funds, scholarships, and donations to the Kytherian society, as well as many visits to the island.  

Just as Yiayia’s children made her immensely proud, I hope to achieve academic success by attaining my Bachelors degree in English at Cal State East Bay. Yiayia never forgot where she came from, and I will never take for granted what she was never permitted to do. Kythera has forever changed my thoughts and priorities in life.

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 Su   © KSOCA 2012