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General News

Students Shine on Annual AHIF Trip to Greece and Cyprus

ATHENS – Judging from the presentations made by the ten participants in this year’s College Student Foreign Policy Study Trip to Greece and Cyprus of the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF), the future is bright. AHI’s President and CEO Nicholas Larigakis praised the group to the guests at the special farewell dinner – including Greece’s top national security officials – as probably the best ever.

The students from across the United States first gathered for briefings in Washington, DC from June 14 to 16. The 17-day program concluded July 1 in Athens.

It was clear to all present in the ballroom of the Grande Bretagne hotel on June 30 that notwithstanding that not all of the students had two Greek parents – “like in the old days” as some said – their passion for Hellenism and their commitment to ‘the national issues’ was impressive and moving.

Larigakis warmly welcomed and thanked the guests, which included leading military and government officials who came to honor the students and express their appreciation for the work of AHI and for the support of the Greek-American community. Among the dignitaries, which included high ranking military and political officials, was General Konstantinos Floros, Chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, who was delighted to present the program’s inaugural ‘Most Valuable Players award. Larigakis explained the honor was for “the most engaging, the one who stood out a little bit more than the others.” The winner for 2022 was Natasia Mariah Raphtis.

Larigakis made sure that despite their well-deserved praise that night, the students would be judged long term according to their success conveying what they learned to their fellow Greek-Americans, as well as to public officials and the media in the United States.

The participants included Melina Christodoulou, Drew University, majoring in political science with a minor in communications – and the university’s Female Athlete of The Year; Maria Fusca, George Washington University, BA in International Affairs and two minors in Sociocultural Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Communication; Morgan Lilly, University of Georgia, double major in Political Science and International Affairs; Zoe Logas, University of Michigan, majoring in Public Policy with a concentration in defense policy and foreign policy and minoring in History; Brendan C. O’Connor, American University, majoring in International Studies with a minor in the Russian language; Eleni Piliotis, recently graduated from UC Davis with a Bachelor’s in Political Science with an emphasis in International Relations; Andreas Poulis, American University, studying International Relations, Anastasia Staurulakis, Tulane University, pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance and a Master’s Degree in Accounting; and Christopher Zrazik, George Washington University, majoring in International Affairs.

All the students began by thanking Larigakis, AHI staff and members, the Greek and Cypriot officials who hosted guided them, and AHI Member Maria Willis, their beloved chaperone, and they then shared their experiences, perspectives, and insights.

AHI President and CEO Nicholas Larigakis.


On June 14, the students visited the Embassy of Greece to receive a briefing from Ambassador Alexandra Papadopoulou before enjoying an evening reception at Hellenic House – AHI’s headquarters building near the White House. On June 15, the students visited Capitol Hill and gained insight on foreign policy trends and the innerworkings of policy formulation from Washington insider John Sitilides, principal, Trilogy Advisors; Doug Bandow, senior fellow, Cato Institute; and Gregory Graves, a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at George Washington University.

On their last full day in Washington they visited the Embassy of Cyprus to receive a briefing from Ambassador Marios Lysiotis. Afterward, they visited the U.S. Department of State and received briefings. Prior to lunch, the students also received a presentation from Andrew Novo, associate professor of Strategic Studies at the National Defense University.

In Greece and Cyprus there were meetings or briefings at the American embassies and with officials from various ministries. The students also visited the Naval Support Activity (NSA) facility in Souda Bay, Crete, as well as Salamis Naval Base, where they received briefings.

There were special thanks for the sponsors from Larigakis, who noted, “this program could not happen without sponsors. It costs a lot of money…” He also thanked all the Greek and Cypriot officials who arranged the special meetings and tours, including Giannis Chrysoulakis, the General Secretary for Greek Abroad and Public Diplomacy. Leon Andris, AHIF President, also greeted the guests, congratulated the students, and thanked all involved.

Larigakis congratulated the new President of the Athens chapter, Ret. Rear Admiral Vassileios Kyriazis, and acknowledged the contributions of AHI and AHIF Board members and officers,  including long-time General Manager, now retired, of the Grande Bretagne, Timothy Ananiadis, and Past-President of AHI Athens Chapter, George Economou. Also thanked were AHI staff, especially Sylvia Gavalla in Athens.



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