Arakelian, Sousa make up for lost memories

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Johnston residents Giavanna Arakelian and Helio Sousa may never again witness the extraordinary acts of generosity and kindness they saw while celebrating their 2020 high school graduations and prom.

The teenage couple has been dating for the past two years since meeting at a football game. Arakelian recently graduated from La Salle Academy in Providence while Sousa received his diploma from rival Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick, where he starred in football and basketball and, like his sweetheart, was an honor student during their undergraduate days.

Likewise, their mighty moms – Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian and Carmen Sousa – have formed a special bond that led to a unique prom.

As was the case for all parents of students from the class of 2020 throughout the state, the two Johnston women realized that their daughter and son were denied countless highlights during what was supposed to be the best year of their young lives due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

“We tried to create a heartfelt and love-filled prom for Giavanna and Helio,” Sabitoni-Arakelian told the Sun Rise. “Carmen arranged for a professional photographer to take pictures of Giavanna and Helio at various locations in downtown Providence, and we bought special flowers and I agreed to take care of the dinner.”

Sabitoni-Arakelian, who is the administrative assistant for the RI Laborers District Council/RI Judicial Professional and Technical Employees Local Union 808, searched for the “perfect venue for their prom” and decided on Café Nuovo, which is located on famed downtown Riverwalk that is home to Waterfire Providence.

“It was a beautiful day and we settled the kids in their reservation,” Sabitoni-Arakelian said. “Giavanna told me how her feet were hurt and I told her you should have listened to me and brought flip flops or flat shoes; but you know teenagers … sometimes they don’t listen to their mamas.”

Luckily, Helio’s mom had a pair of sandals Giavanna could wear and, Sabitoni-Arakelian said, “The [older] couple sitting across from our children said, ‘Nothing like motherly love, you are making me cry.’ Little did I know that this same woman – who we obviously did not know – would later bring tears to my eyes.”

Thus, the two students enjoyed a wonderful dinner, and at the end of the evening when it was time for the check, the waitress handed Giavanna a hand-written note that read: “In such challenging times it warmed our hearts to see you celebrating your prom and graduations. It is our sincere joy to treat you to dinner this evening. Please consider it a neighborly gesture to celebrate the next steps in your lives. This world needs thriving voices for a flourishing future. Good luck with the love of each other and your families.”

Like the surprised grads, their parents were especially stunned when they learned about the older couple picking up the dinner check.

“Thank you so much to this [older] couple for their generous act of kindness and making Giavanna and Helio’s special day even more memorable,” their moms said. “We are proud of all their accomplishments and wish them all the success in their futures.”

For Giavanna, who is the daughter of George and Gina Sabitoni-Arakelian, it’s off to the Community College of Rhode Island where she’ll begin studying radiology before finishing her Bachelor’s Degree in health science at Johnson & Wales University via a scholarship.

At La Salle Academy, she was an honors student while also serving as a page in the Rhode Island State Senate. She placed fourth runner-up in the Miss Teen USA 2020 Pageant and won numerous awards during a highly successful 14-year career in the world of Competitive Dance.

For Helio, who is the son of Helio and Carmen Sousa, he’ll enroll at Stonehill College and study mechanical engineering for three years before moving on to the University of Notre Dame to obtain an engineering degree through the partnership program between the two sisters institutions.

At Bishop Hendricken, Helio starred in basketball and football and this spring received the prestigious Lou D’Abrosca Memorial Award that’s presented annually to a senior athlete that has been the unsung hero of his Hawk teams. The late D’Abrosca had a strong passion for sports, specifically baseball, and he helped pioneer the Warwick Continental Little League’s famed Jimmy Fund Tournament.

He was as receiver on the football team and point guard in basketball and was part of four state title teams in two sports while serving as team captain of the 2020 state basketball champions. He was known for his toughness, tenacity and had work ethic compiled a 3.6 PGA and making the President’s List during his entire tenure at Bishop Hendricken. He also attained membership in the prestigious National Honor Society and Spanish Honor Society. 

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