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Community

Drake Behrakis Speaks to TNH about the Community – Especially the Young Generation

November 23, 2022

BOSTON – Drake Behrakis is a young emerging leader of the Greek-American Community of New England and the United States who cares very deeply about the Church, the Hellenic Heritage, the issues of the Greek-American community, and Greece. In quiet and nondescript manner, he makes valuable educational and philanthropic contributions of various kinds. He is an accomplished businessman who serves as chairman of the Committee of the Maliotis Cultural Center and president of The National Hellenic Society – an association of Greek American leaders, visionaries, and philanthropists who perpetuate and celebrate their rich Hellenic heritage.

Behrakis engaged in a wide ranging interview with The National Herald.

The National Herald: Let us start with the National Hellenic Society, which you lead as its president. How is the organization doing?

Drake Behrakis: The organization continues to do well nationally. Our signature program, Heritage Greece, is a birthright immersion program that has now sent over 600 college students to Greece. The program has not only grown annually in numbers but also in locations. We are now in Thessaloniki as well as Athens. We continue to look for ways to collaborate with other organizations to offer immersive and transformational experiences to those disconnected from their heritage and faith.

Drake Behrakis, the emerging leader of the new generation of the Greek-American Community of New England and the United States.
(Photo Provided by Drake Behrakis)

TNH: How do you manage to gather all those young professionals from across the country?

Drake Behrakis: Studies have shown that the best way to learn a culture and a language is to immerse oneself in that country. There is strong demand within our community to send students, not only those that are 100% of Hellenic descent but those that never were connected. The impact is transformational and we ensure that they remain engaged and empowered after returning. Attending our national or regional events is an excellent opportunity for them to meet like-minded individuals for networking, career advice, internships, and mentoring.

TNH: Please talk to us a little about the most recent gathering you had. What are some of the highlights?

Drake Behrakis: Our recent conference was very well attended by people of all ages. I think we do an excellent job of mixing business with pleasure and certainly, the social events are the highlight of our conference. This year we held top notch and informative panels on Democracy in the 21st Century as well a series of TedTalks on a variety of topics. We had the pleasure of some great evening entertainment including Giorgio Tsalikis.

Drake Behrakis speaks to young professionals at the Maliotis Center. (Photo: Maliotis Cultural Center)

TNH: What are the issues that the young Greek-Americans are concerned about?

Drake Behrakis: Indeed, the challenge of maintaining your ethnic identity and staying together and united as a community. But more so this generation is even more committed to social and global issues; more passionate than any past generation. As a national organization, we need to be open-minded and inclusive while maintaining our mission to protect preserve and perpetuate our rich heritage.

TNH: Where are we going as a Church and as a Community of the United States today?

Drake Behrakis:  Each generation that passes becomes more integrated in American society therefore it is more challenging to maintain our ethnic identity. Individuals, families, and organizations both nonsecular and secular face these challenges on a daily basis. We need to be collaborative, open-minded, and united. It’s reached a crisis point and people are finally taking notice and acting upon it.

TNH: Can you please name five things that should be addressed in the Church and Community?

Drake Behrakis: Empowering young professionals. More often than not our Community organizations are too static and outdated. There is no reason why you cannot maintain your mission and vision but at the same time be open and engaged to all ages.

[There must be] more collaboration amongst our national organizations. Our Achilles heel is our individualism. We need to come together when it matters most. [And to]

balance short-term goals with your long term vision. Too many groups focus exclusively on what to do this year and do not develop a longer-term plan to ensure sustainability.

Inclusivity, not exclusivity [is important]. Some of our greatest assets and advocates are converts and Philhellenes. We need to embrace them not turn them away.

[We need] positivity. We live in a world that embraces negativity. Why do we accept that? My favorite quote from the band U2 is “you can’t change the world but you can change the world in you.” We need to be positive.

Drake Behrakis with his wife Maria.
(Photo Provided by Drake Behrakis)

TNH: Why did you resign from the Board of Trustees of Hellenic College – Holy Cross School of Theology and retain only the chairmanship of the Maliotis Cultural Center?

Drake Behrakis: The chair of the Maliotis Cultural Center is automatically a board member of Hellenic College Holy Cross. On an interim basis, I was asked to serve as Treasurer until they could find a replacement. That’s the position I am leaving.

TNH: What do you think should be done to attract students to both Hellenic College and Holy Cross?

Drake Behrakis: I believe the college has all the right tools and resources to attract and recruit new students. For the first time, there is a formal outreach program with all parishes across this country, which includes making local visits but also bringing prospective students to campus, like the Crossroads program. At the same time, we know Boston is a very competitive landscape for prospective college students. You need to provide unique and attractive offerings that set yourself apart. Trust and credibility does not happen overnight. It takes a long time to rebuild a damaged reputation.

TNH: How can we say we have a college with only 44 students in total in its student body?

Drake Behrakis: It’s an issue that everyone fully understands and it’s not satisfactory. For the first time in a long time, the school has a comprehensive strategic, academic, and financial plan. So far, they are on their way to achieving their goals but we all agree enrollment is the most critical aspect for success.

Drake Behrakis with young professionals who came from Greece through the Mindspace program. (Photo: Maliotis Cultural Center)

TNH: How is the Maliotis Center doing?

Drake Behrakis: Our expectations were to slowly build back an open, respected, and trusted cultural center for our entire community. We’ve not only achieved that goal but have surpassed it. The administrative team led by Chrysoula Kourkounti has done a remarkable job. The focus is now on financial sustainability and independence.

TNH: What does Hellenism mean to you?

Drake Behrakis: Hellenism is not just another word found in the dictionary. It’s a state of being. It’s been instilled in us since we were born and it’s perpetuity is embedded in everything we do in our lives.

TNH: What do you treasure most from Hellenism?

Drake Behrakis: It’s richness and depth. It’s stood the test of time for thousands of years and even in this century is still very relevant, and a guiding principle.

TNH: How much have you been influenced by your father to work towards the perpetuation and advancement of Hellenism?

Drake Behrakis: There have been no better role models or examples in my life than my parents, and as an extension of my grandparents it’s a legacy we are committed to preserving and perpetuating. This a common bond for all immigrants of Hellenic descent. Although each of us has a unique story to tell we are guided by these shared values and beliefs.

TNH: Can you please name three things that matter most in your life?

Drake Behrakis: Family, Health, Happiness

 

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