WASHINGTON DC – The nation’s capital this year hosted the National Hellenic Student Association’s Fall 2019 Convention, a weekend of presentations, networking, and socializing.
Held at Georgetown University, the six-hour conference included a breakfast meet and greet, panels, and speeches touching on politics and culture, as well as a mentorship networking lunch. The event commenced with an introduction by co-emcees Anthe Mitrakos and Yanni Metaxas, words from NHSA Chairman Konstantine Ouranitsas, Advisory Council Chairman Alexander Thomopulos, as well as Director of the Modern Greek Program at Georgetown University, Professor Ismini Lamb.
“I have the privilege and the honor of welcoming the future of Hellenism…you, the future ambassadors of Hellenism to the world,” Lamb said. “Our heritage is a great value to the human spirit…it is a gateway to what is true and beautiful…it can be influential, transformative and can have great global impact. Hellenism is only powerful when Greeks share the universal, ecumenical appeal of their heritage,” she said.
The event’s morning Advocacy Panel titled Bridging Community and Government featured President and CEO of the American Hellenic Institute, Nick Larigakis; President of Manatos & Manatos, Mike Manatos; and Global Press Secretary at Airbnb, Nick Papas, where they discussed the role of advocacy on grass-roots and institutional levels, and the interplay of politics and community.
“Hellenism means different things to different people. For some it’s education and the language, for others it’s the Church, for others it’s the issues we are talking about today. Any way you want to look at it however, it falls under what the ancients believed in, in terms of inspiring for truth, beauty, and eternal values,” said Larigakis, who has worked with AHI for 32 years. “But fundamentally…you have to work the grass-roots and be actively involved with members of Congress and your local newspapers, speaking about these issues anywhere you can,” he said.
Manatos then took the stage to speak about leadership, asking the question of why the diaspora community should help Greece, and discussing the various ways next generation Greek-Americans can relate to Hellenism and Hellenic values despite generational gaps, interethnic marriage, and physical distance from Greece.
An International Relations Panel titled Forging Strategic Partnerships then followed, with Ambassador of Cyprus to the U.S., Marios Lysiotis, and Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Haris Lalacos, who spoke about international relations, building and maintaining strategic partnerships, the East Med Act, and the foreign policy of Greece and Cyprus as it relates to Turkey.
The conference concluded with a with a Culture Inspires Panel titled The Hellenic Identity and Philhellenism, featuring Visiting Assistant Professor of Modern Greek at the University of Maryland, Polyvia Parara, and Associate Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University, Harris Mylonas, who discussed national identity in the context of history, the role of nationalism as well as globalism, and also touched on the diaspora as it relates to national identity.
“Our speakers, veterans in speaking engagements, brought new passion and authentic insight into the problems and opportunities from a regional and international, as well as a personal development and engagement perspective for our attendees,” Thomopulos said.
In partnership with Chicago-based Ariston Foundation, the NHSA awarded a total of three academic merit scholarships of $1,000 each to Panayiotis Vandris pursuing a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Biology and a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Comparative Literature at Stanford University; Christiana Metaxas pursuing a Master of Science in Foreign Service at Georgetown University; and Helena Patricia Lysandrou, pursuing a Doctor of Medicine at The Ohio State University.
“I am honored to have been selected as a recipient of the inaugural Ariston-NHSA scholarship and feel grateful to be a part of a Hellenic-American community that values education and civic engagement,” Metaxas said. “These values stood out in conversations around international relations, policy, and cultural identity at the NHSA conference,” she said.
The three scholars are also part of the Ariston Foundation Honor Society, which inducted ten new members this year.
“I am deeply honored to be a recipient of this year’s scholarship, and I am incredibly grateful to both Ariston and NHSA for supporting my college education and career goals,” Vandris said. “I would also like to thank my family, friends, and the broader Greek community for inspiring me every step of the way,” he said.
Supporters of the Fall 2019 NHSA Convention included the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation, Sigma Pharma Laboratories, the American Hellenic Institute, Alfa Pie House, Georgetown Cupcake, and Kellari Seafood Taverna, among others.
Aside from hosting conventions including a weekend conference and several social events twice a year, other NHSA initiatives include the Ariston Foundation-NHSA Academic Merit Scholarships, networking and internship opportunities, and an annual Beach Clean-Up.
“I am proud of NHSA for bringing together students and young professionals from across the U.S. and Canada to our convention,” Ouranitsas said. “Once again, it showed how the next generation is ready to learn, grow, and develop into the future leaders of our community.”