WESTBOROUGH, MA – The Panepirotic Federation of America on Jan. 6 awarded prizes to the winners of an essay contest it sponsored last year about how young people with family ties to Epiros feel about their ancestral region. Two $2,500 scholarships were awarded, one each for the two regions of Epiros, half of which lies within the borders of Albania and half in Greece.
The two winners are Olga Fotos, who is studying for a master’s in psychology at Assumption College in Worcester, and Othon Pagounes, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, majoring in biomedical engineering. Fotos is from the village of Selleio in Northern Epiros and Pagounes’ parents are from Aristi in free Epiros and Himara in Northern Epiros.
The checks for the awards were presented to the two winners at the offices of the Panepirotic Federation by its president, renowned author Nicholas Gage, who congratulated the two winners for their devotion to Epiros and wished them both successful careers in their chosen fields.
The essay contest is part of a broad program the Federation has initiated, hoping to raise the interest in Epiros for young people who may not feel the ties to their ancestral region that their parents and grandparents did, according to Gage.
He said that another program the organization sponsors is a one-month intensive study program every July at the University of Ioannina, where American-born students are given the opportunity to improve their knowledge of Greek and to learn more about the history and culture of Epiros. More than 60 young people between the ages of 18 and 28 have participated in the program, which the Federation sponsors jointly with the World Council of Epirotes Abroad, headed by business executive Chris Dimou.
All expenses for the Ioannina program except for air fare are covered by the Federation, Gage said. Young Americans in the program live in university dorms along with youths from many European and Balkan countries and study in the school’s state-of-the-art language laboratory financed by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
“Such programs have helped us not only to raise interest in Epiros among our young people, but also to move them to join the Federation,” Gage said. “In fact, the majority of our officers and board members are America-born Epirotes.”