NEW YORK - The National Hellenic Student Association (NHSA) of North America hosted its 20th Convention October 12-14th in New York City, bringing together university students, young professionals, mentors and industry experts for a weekend of speeches, networking and socializing. The convention’s theme “Tomorrow is Now,” focused on current events, professional development, leadership, and community engagement.
The event kicked off on Friday, October 12th at the Grand Hyatt New York in Manhattan, followed by a networking reception held at Liberty Court Penthouse Lounge in Battery Park City. The Saturday conference was hosted at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in Times Square, with over 100 people in attendance.
Dynamic duo Anthe Mitrakos and Yanni Metaxas served as mistress and master of ceremonies, welcoming the crowd and introducing the speakers. NHSA President Alexander Thomopulos and Consul General of Greece in New York, Konstantinos Koutras made opening remarks.
John Metaxas, News Anchor and Reporter for WCBS, moderated a current events Q&A session with the CEO of American Network Solutions, Philip Christopher, who shared the story of his Cypriot roots and touched on the importance of being involved in the Greek/Cypriot-American community.
“Turkey should behave,” Christopher said. “It’s not in our best interest to have animosity between Cyprus and Greece...we want a friendly neighbor, and if they want to be part of the European Union they need to behave as a civilized country, remove their troops from Cyprus and stop acting aggressively against Greece.”
Featured speakers included Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, who spoke about the universal values that define Hellenism and how they can be applied in everyday life in a Q&A session with Vasiliki Mitrakos.
“Feeling that your heritage, your culture, your roots are embedded in this set of values will give you the opportunity to take advantage of that and use it in every walk of life,” Tsilas said. “Moving ahead as young people in society and the professional world, you are not the owners, but certainly you are the descendents of a great heritage that will help you...” he said.
Following the Q&A sessions was Dr. Dimitris Skokos, Associate Director of Immunity & Inflammation at Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. As he illustrated his work in drug discovery and development, he reflected on the significance of collaboration.
“One of the most important tasks in science is cross-functional interaction. Collecting brilliant minds to work together. It is a simple formula. We all work together, or we all fail together,” he said.
Representatives of various Hellenic associations including the Hellenic American Chamber of Commerce and the National Hellenic Society had the opportunity to introduce heir organizations, and called for attendees can get involved.
Nikolas Smyrlakis of Roots Spirits and Yannis Varellas Ouzounopoulos of Olyra Foods then took the stage to speak about their experience in taking their family businesses to the next level by taking innovative approaches to product design in the food and beverage industry.
In addition to hearing the inspirational stories of guest speakers, attendees had the opportunity to network with each other and with professionals in their industries during an interactive ice-breaker activity led by NHSA board members Tamika Tompoulidis and Vasiliki Mitrakos. A mentorship luncheon followed, where participants met and learned from over 20 mentors representing various fields. In between sessions, attendees enjoyed snacks provided by Olyra Foods.
The conference concluded with a speech by Alexander Thomopulos as he concluded his tenure as NHSA President. His message not only thanked everyone who supported him during his years at NHSA, but also urged attendees to follow their passions and take action.
“When you leave today, having learned, been inspired, or enabled, don’t worry about how big you’ll make it, how high you’ll reach, or how far you’ll go. Find out what it is you’re passionate about and do it. When you do, no matter what you’ve studied or practiced or worked on, what country you were born in or move to, don’t forget to be compassionate, curious, and courageous,” Thomopoulos said.
A Greek Night was hosted later that evening at Kellari Taverna featuring DJ Serafim and speciality drinks provided by Roots Premium Spirits. Sunday morning, participants had the chance to engage with the NHSA Executive Board in a town hall meeting. The weekend ended with a tour and group photo at New York’s famous Central Park.
The National Hellenic Student Association of North America serves as an umbrella for Hellenic student organizations of universities throughout the United States and Canada. NHSA is the largest Hellenic student and young professional organization in North America, with over 50 member-chapters, which promotes Hellenism, education, mentorship, and overall unity of the Hellenic community.