An award-winning filmmaker, director and author has honored her Greek-born grandfather by establishing a social justice scholarship in his name in the same North Carolina town where he owned a restaurant for more than 40 years.
Jenna Maria Constantine was inspired by the years she spent with her grandparents in the town of Wilson and made a donation — along with a pledge to donate annually — in her late grandfather’s memory to the Charles H. Darden High School Alumni Association for student scholarships.
Born on the island of Samos, Constantine’s grandfather Konstantinos Demetrios Gliarmis owned the Star Cafe on Barnes Street between Goldsboro and Tarboro streets in downtown Wilson.
Constantine, founder and owner of KaplaniKid Productions based in New York City, wrote a letter to Donna Pulley, the alumni association’s executive director, telling her that she sent a $1,000 check to create The “Mr. Gus” D. Gliarmis Social Justice Memorial Scholarship and another $300 to the association for unrestricted discretionary use.
The North Carolina native asked the association to award the scholarship to a rising senior high school student demonstrating interest in pursuing an education that will lead to “advancing social justice efforts and initiatives.”
One of the things her grandfather taught her, she told The Wilson Times, was “when you grow up … reject discrimination … don’t turn your back on injustice … and never forget … the soul doesn’t have a color. …”
Constantine told The Times she is writing a book about the years spent with her grandparents, her days at her grandfather’s restaurant and the times he took her to Carolina Beach.
“A few may remember a child sitting near him on the countertop next to the case register,” she said. “Some would come in, pretending not to know me, and ask, ‘Is that your grandchild, Mr. Gus?’ They were the happiest years of my life.”
Constantine received her doctorate and master’s degree from Northwestern University and her bachelor’s of arts from North Central College where she was made an Honorary Member of the Black Student Association.
Selected as the Outstanding Young Woman of Illinois for her civic contributions to the State of Illinois, she appeared on local and national media commenting on urban, cultural and social issues.
Constantine’s pioneer book researching child abuse and domestic violence has been translated in eight languages and she served on Democratic Senator Phil Rock’s original committee to establish laws mandating reporting of child abuse and neglect in Illinois.
For more information about Constantine and her work, visit her company’s website.
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