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Scholarship embodies spirit of late Bayside 6-year-old

Young Christina Tsiboukis works a table where T-shirts of her late sister are being sold to fund a scholarship in her name. Photo courtesy Effie Nicolopoulos
TimesLedger Newspapers

In the years since her 6-year-old daughter’s untimely death, Bayside mother Effie Nicolopoulos said she found solace in keeping the memory alive by giving back to the community.

The nonprofit Ekaterini Tsiboukis Scholarship fund, now entering its fourth year, will go toward as many as five area students in honor of Katerina Tsiboukis, who was killed July 12, 2009, during a car accident in Greece, her mother said.

Nicolopoulos said she and her husband, Eleftherios Tsiboukis, launched the scholarship on their own to keep their daughter’s name alive in Queens for years to come. Her parents remembered little Katerina as a motivated and accomplished child who liked to practice martial arts, dance, swimming, and skiing when she was outside the classroom.

The fund provides full or partial scholarships to students who cannot afford tuition and demonstrate academic excellence, Nicolopoulos said. It was also established in part to provide financial aid to students for dance, swim, and aikido. Qualified students must be New York residents between kindergarten and 12th grade who participate in two or more weekly extracurricular activities and maintain an A average or above, the application said.

Katerina was in the car with Nicolopoulos’ parents and her younger sister Christina, who was 4 years old at the time. Christina Tsiboukis was the only survivor, but kept her late sister close when she transferred from Noah’s Ark School for kindergarten to the same school Katerina once attended at Flushing’s William Spyropoulos Greek American Day School.

In 2010, the school on the Bayside-Flushing border, at 196th Street and Northern Boulevard, dedicated its first playground to Katerina’s memory, fulfilling a dream the young Baysider once held dear. Before the playground was constructed, students at the school had only a brick courtyard to play on.

“I still smile every time I see it,” Nicolopoulos said. “She would always ask my husband for a playground, so he wanted to do that for her.”

The family routinely holds events throughout the year to raise money for the scholarships, Nicolopoulos said. They joined with neighbors in January, as they do every year, to celebrate what would have been Katerina’s 10th birthday at Bayside’s Pizzeria Uno.

“The people of this community were amazing,” Nicolopoulos said. “I don’t like to cry on Katerina’s birthday. I like to celebrate that she was here and who she was.”

Since launching the scholarship and seeing Katerina’s dream playground come to life, the family welcomed in a new life with the June birth of Aggelos Tsiboukis.

“It’s exciting, yet bittersweet,” mother Nicolopoulos said. “Every moment is another memory Katerina should have been here with us.”

An application for this year’s scholarship can be downloaded online at rememberkaterina.org and must be submitted by May 15, Nicolopoulos said.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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