The National Hellenic Student Association of North America (NHSA) held its first virtual convention November 14, reaching more than 150 students and young leaders worldwide with a theme of “Embracing Change and Innovation.”
Event participants included public figures such as Greek Orthodox Archbishop Elpidophoros of America; Greek government officials Haris Theoharis, Minister of Tourism, Adonis Georgiadis, Minister of Development & Investment and Kostas Bakoyannis, Mayor of Athens and Ambassador of Cyprus to the United States, Marios Lyssiotis.
Archbishop Elpidophoros delivered a video message in which he reminded viewers to remain connected with their heritage while supporting each other.
Ambassador Lyssiotis discussed the current political and military situation in the Eastern Mediterranean as tensions have increased between Greece and Turkey in recent months.
Ministers Theoharis and Georgiadis and Mayor Bakoyannis discussed the challenges and triumphs of the Greek tourism industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic, how cities are adapting to be more “people-centered” and what programs can strengthen start-up initiatives to mitigate Greece’s exodus of young professionals often called the “brain drain.”
“It’s about working bottom-up, being as close to society as possible,” Bakoyannis said. “At the end of the day, in our line of work, pavements have no ideology and streets have no color. It’s about getting to real solutions to real problems. It’s about getting things done.”
During the convention, the Chicago-based non-profit Ariston Foundation and the NHSA presented their joint 2020 scholarships to Michael Evangelopoulos, a doctoral student in the biomedical engineering field at Northwestern University, and Kostapanos Miliaresis, a master’s student at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business.
Evangelopoulos and Miliaresis each received a merit-based scholarship of $1,000.
In addition to the aforementioned public figures, various business leaders participated in the convention, including CEO of Earth Friendly Products, Kelly Vlahakis-Hanks.
Vlahakis-Hanks offered leadership advice and spoke about her company’s success as a completely sustainable brand which uses clean energy and reduces waste while creating a healthy and inclusive corporate culture.
Endy Zemenides, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Hellenic American Leadership Council, spoke about the current political dynamics in the Eastern Mediterranean involving Greece, Turkey the United States and European Union.
“You are on the front lines of history,” Zemenides told students. “Do not discount what you can do; First there is student activism — you all have a voice.”
Vasileios Nasis, CEO of Netronix Group, discussed the “Internet of Things” and its impact on society while sharing the story of his own entrepreneurial journey.
Anthe Mitrakos, journalist and editor of Portes Magazine, and Yanni Metaxas, an alumnus of Boston University, emceed the 2020 NHSA Convention.
“This initiative is a great example of Hellenic diaspora organizations run by students and young professionals giving back in a direct and meaningful way to promising individuals in the Hellenic community,” Mitrakos said.
NHSA remains active in North America and Greece with initiatives such as an annual summer beach clean up in Athens, as well as a partnership with Greek Week which will provide a week-long sailing trip near Athens beginning on July 7, 2021.
The organization has also entered a partnership with the Sons of Pericles to commemorate the upcoming 200-year anniversary of Greece’s independence by creating educational and cultural programs. In 2021, the committee aims to break ground on a monument in Athens honoring the Greek genocide.
For more information about NHSA, visit the organization’s website.
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