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Norman Kostelidis '87
A Generation Comes Full Circle
For one St. Dom’s alum, time has come full circle.
In 1987, Norman Kostelidis ‘88 took a life-changing step, though he didn’t know it then. The student from Germany followed in the footsteps of many a German student who elected to take a year abroad as a foreign exchange student in another country. Norman chose the United States, or ‘the States,’ as our country is more commonly known overseas, for two reasons: to learn the culture and the English language and to make lifelong friends.
When Norman arrived in the United States, he was enrolled at Lewiston High School. Even though the Lewiston High School building was almost new and very modern when he started school that fall, he felt something was missing. As he wasn’t happy with his host family, he asked everyone he knew so far for another host family. A good friend, Eric Douglas, introduced him to Dr. John and Kathy Pitman. After discussions with the Pitmans, he joined their family for the rest of the school year and transferred to St. Dominic Regional High School to continue his senior year.
And Norman flourished. Although the school wasn’t as expected, other changes made up for it. “Yes, I was disappointed that the building was old, much older than the new Lewiston High School, but people were the priority there, and I was very happy.” The Pitmans’ children had attended St. Dom’s, and the family knew everyone in the school. They helped Norman forge connections with his fellow students; one student in particular, Philip Jean ’88, became his best friend.
For an entire school year, Phil and his classmates included Norman in everything they did. Norman became involved in family theatre and community productions, an extracurricular activity as popular as sports in the late 1980s. They took field trips out of state to see plays in major cities like New York City and spent time together eating and talking. For Norman, his St. Dom’s friends and host family became his second family, and his relationship with Phil became akin to a brother. Because of their relationship with Norman, the Pitmans helped Norman’s father travel to the States to see his son graduate from St. Dom’s. Through the support of Phil, other friends, and the Pitmans, who showed him the possibilities life could offer, Norman also made the life-changing decision to take over the family business of restaurants when he returned home.
Graduation and his return home to Germany did not dampen his relationship with his St. Dom’s family. Instead, it flourished. Though thousands of miles separated the two men, they and their families kept track of each other in the early years through postcards, letters, phone calls, and presents. Norman finished his German high school education and then went to college, majoring in hotel management. Phil graduated from the University of Maine with a BS in Business Administration and Husson College with a Master’s in Business and a concentration in Health Care Administration. Norman’s father sold him parts of the family business, and Norman eventually opened his own chain of restaurants. Phil traveled to Germany occasionally to visit Norman, and when Norman traveled to the States every few years, he and Phil would catch up with each other and other friends. “When I return to the States, it feels like home,” he remarked.
In the last 10 to 20 years, technology and the advent of social media have brought the two families much closer, so much so that Norman’s son Konrad announced last year that he planned to follow in his father’s footsteps and study abroad in the States through the Ayusa student exchange program, Phil immediately offered for the young man to live with him in Scarborough and attend Scarborough High School. “I’ve known Konrad since he was two years old. He’s like a son to me,” Phil remarked.
After a year of applications, a battery of paperwork, and visa clearances, Konrad arrived in America in August and started school at Scarborough High School in September. “I’m doing exactly what my Dad did back when he came to the States, except that I’m living with a family that is already a family to me.” The only two differences are that Konrad, at 15, is enrolled as a 10th grader, and he has enrolled in a martial arts studio close to Phil’s home.
Phil is helping Konrad to acclimate to his new surroundings and playing tour guide, showing the young man the beauty of his home state, including Sebago Lake and Acadia National Park. They also have plans to travel the country over the next year, including San Diego/L.A., Washington, D.C., Florida, and New York City, to name a few. “It will be great traveling the country with Phil and his family,” Konrad mentioned, then grinned. “Phil plans to take me to see Disney and Hollywood!” He will always cherish his time spent with the Jeans. “I am so glad that I made the decision to spend a year in the States like my dad did 35 years ago. I will always remember this amazing year with the Jean family.”
The years have come full circle for Norman, with his son now spending a year with his second family, but the friendships he forged at St. Dom’s will never end. “The Pitmans and Phil are part of my family now and a second home.” St. Dom’s changed his life in a positive manner as he made a lifetime decision there and still has lots of contact with his former classmates. “Our friends and St. Dom’s always come up in our conversations. Our reunion is coming up, and I hope to attend and catch up with my classmates.”