Imagining Beyond What is Possible

Imagining Beyond What is Possible

By Kathy Marinakos, Former STS Faculty and Parent

“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
– Pericles

If Apostoli, or “Ap” as his friends called him – knew we would create an award in his name – there would be a part of him that would hate the idea. The spotlight was never where he sought to be; in a way, he avoided it. He wasn’t the type of person who worried about being the most outstanding or the award winner – despite his great intellect and capacity – yet in a humble, quiet way, he achieved and excelled at everything he was passionate about. He was authentically driven to understand and question, all the while lifting those around him with an incredible generosity of spirit and heart. Truly, Apostoli enjoyed learning for the sake of learning and carried that love through in everything he did.

What would bring a smile to his face (after he got over the initial discomfort of now being in the spotlight) is the type of student who would be considered for this award. It wouldn’t necessarily be the ones who simply ‘checked all the boxes’ – had the best grade, filled out their reflections on time or made every deadline. Apostoli’s award celebrates those students with a spark and a drive to ask questions and find solutions, even when the odds are against them. And, at the heart of it all, acting on their desire to impact the world positively.

Genuine, unyielding curiosity, skill and determination, paired with achieving what seemed impossible, characterized Apostoli’s own MYP Personal Project – the inspiration behind establishing this award. After joining the Jazz Band in Junior High, he developed a particular affinity with the bass guitar. What he loved most was that it was not the highlight of the combo; it didn’t stand out or demand to be acknowledged. It was the backbone, the steady strength or heart;" without it, nothing worked, and the song would fall apart.

In his endeavour to make his own bass – he consulted a local guitar shop in downtown Calgary. The experts there discouraged Apostoli from attempting this feat, telling him of multiple failed attempts from other aspiring guitar makers, trying to do something innovative and new, with the sentiment that it might “look good, but would never sound good.” These words of warning only motivated Apostoli further – and he had the parts ordered anyway (using his funds from summer jobs). Seeing Apostoli was not deterred in the slightest; the owner asked to see the guitar when it was finished as his curiosity of the “impossible” was sufficiently piqued.

In the weeks and months that followed, and through Apostoli’s takeover of the basement into his workshop – the dream became a reality. It’s worth noting that he never asked for help from us during the process, simply providing status updates along the way. Only when he needed access to higher-level tools – a lathe, to be exact – were we summoned to assist by driving him to the machine shop he had located and convinced him to let a 15-year-old operate a lathe! Recently, when looking at the bass, someone asked what tools he used to cut the acrylic precisely and perfectly. I really don’t know; he just found a way. Apostoli threw himself wholeheartedly into the process with relentless joy and determination through every problem he encountered.

When the bass was finished, I joined Apostoli back at the same guitar shop that had tried to steer him away from the project. To the joy and shock of the owner, it not only looked incredible, but it also played beautifully, with a deep, clear resonance of the highest quality. He offered Apostoli $10,000 on the spot for the bass – which any teen would find an overwhelmingly tempting offer. Without missing a beat, Apostoli smiled and told him, “Thank you, but it’s not for sale.” It would never be about the money or proving someone wrong – it was about finding solutions despite the “impossible.”

“There is a term in engineering called “skunkworks” – projects made by engineers fuelled entirely by their passions, using what they have around them. Ap embodied this so much, and it showed in his ingenuity. The bass was never going to be Ap’s best project. It was just the start. It really was a representation of how math, science and art combined in harmony…”
– Nilin Chougule ’18

Truthfully, the more time that goes on, the harder life seems to be without Apostoli. He was and is the heart and soul of our family, the bass of our band. I share this story of how the bass came to be not only to encompass his spirit, which we miss more than words can describe but to inspire the next generation of students who come face-to-face with the impossible and find a way regardless.

This award reflects both our gratitude and a promise to him. Thank you, our precious Apostoli, for teaching everyone you met how to inspire, achieve, laugh, dream, and, most of all, love. We promise you, Apostoli, that your gifts and time with us will always be remembered.

We hope the entire STS community, past and present, knows how much it means for us and our family to have something that will carry Apostoli’s legacy today, tomorrow, and forever.

Apostoli Marinakos ’18, a Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School (STS) “lifer” and 4th-year Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Waterloo, passed away in January 2022.

Published in the 2023 edition of Optimum Magazine