Heritage Greece Program – Changing Lives
The National Hellenic Society (NHS) is a newcomer on the Greek American scene and despite rumblings about NHS being a country club of the Greek American elite the characterization is inaccurate. NHS is indeed selective of about membership not as a barometer of social standing–to the contrary, NHS members share a profound appreciation of this bond of heritage and appreciation of the sacrifices of members’ forbears. The values they passed on were critical to the success achieved. Being Greek is about giving back to family, community and society.
Passing on this legacy of heritage to future generations in a world competing for time and attention is as challenging. The next two generations will see remarkable changes that require bold strategies. Studies show that study abroad experience can be important in forging positive perceptions. Though there is nothing novel about study abroad programs–designing a program specifically tailored to Greek American college aged students with the goal of specifically helping them connect to their Hellenic heritage and roots is quite different.
The NHS’ “Heritage Greece Program” is a two-week cultural and educational immersion for college students of Greek American descent. Students with sound academic credentials and desire to explore their Hellenic roots and identity are hosted by the American College of Greece (ACG), Europe’s oldest and largest American styled university, located on a plush 65 acre campus on an Athens suburb hillside. The Greek American students are paired with a group of Greek student peers from the ACG. The students explore their Greek identity together, learning from one another and the professors, staff and professionals that serve as guides through this odyssey of self-discovery.
Learning is non-traditional with the classroom setting in the Plaka, Agora, Acropolis, Benaki and Naufplio museums and other noteworthy locations. In addition to Greek language classes, subjects also include cooking and dance classes, tours to wineries to learn of Greece’s wine heritage–to ancient sites and a sailing regatta to the Saronic Isles.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation provided 10 students with Stavros Niarchos Heritage Greece scholarships. The students met with Stavros Niarchos Foundation officials in Athens and were led on a tour of the incredible new StavrosNiarchosFoundationCulturalCenter in Kallithea currently under construction. The Center will house Greece’s National Library and Greek National Opera. The grant underscores the Niarchos Foundation’s Commitment to youth, education and in building bridges. The NHS received additional grant funding from the Elios Charitable Foundation in San Francisco for 3 Elios Charitable Foundation sponsored students. These collaborative relationships are a step in the right direction and a paradigm for other organizations to follow in working together.
Heritage Greece students were visited on ACG’s campus by two special guests, Bill Antholis, Managing Director of the Brookings Institution, and Despina Anastasiou, Dow Chemical General Manager of Greece & Cyprus who imparted inspiring messages about the important role that heritage will play in their lives.
For Heritage Greece students their journey transitions to the Heritage Greece Alumni Network that will convene a reunion in tandem with the NHS’ annual event, Heritage Weekend and Classic held in early October. Heritage Greece Alum from all previous sessions gather together with NHS members that continue to play a role in mentoring and advising the students–tomorrow’s ambassadors of Hellenic heritage. In turn, the students participate in NHS at the local level augmenting NHS local programs.
Heritage Greece is a “win-win” for scores of students, their families and the community. The value of “giving back” is NHS’ resolve and way to continue to preserve and pass on the legacy of Hellenic heritage. For further information about the 2015 Heritage Greece Program their website is hellenicsociety.org/programs.
[sws_blue_box box_size=”620″] I never in a million years thought that I would get the chance to experience Greece in the way I was blessed to through Heritage Greece, let alone with other Greek students like myself. I’ve been asked more times than I can count “How was Greece?” The only words I can find to answer this are “life changing.” This program gave me an opportunity to experience amazing things-to better understand my culture, and connect with other students like myself. Heritage Greece was a once in a lifetime experience, and I couldn’t possibly be more thankful to have been able to be a part of it. The first thing that I did when I got home was rearrange my schedule for the fall so that I could take Modern Greek. I am now officially enrolled in the introductory course. Without this program, I don’t know that I ever would’ve taken the initiative to learn Greek. I don’t know how I could repay NHS for this incredible gift- a gift of culture, experience, adventure, and most importantly, lifelong friendships. Allie Weber, Indiana University [/sws_blue_box]