Thousands following competition across the country; Leaders hail initiative, encourage service and philanthropy.
Washington, DC.- The Finals of the Next Generation Initiative‘s 2012 Greeks Give Back Challenge National Student Competition are being held this weekend at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
The five top student teams in the Competition — from Georgetown University, Harvard University, New York University, the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of Virginia — will go head to head on Saturday, October 27th, when they present their proposals for community service projects to a panel of independent judges.
Following the student presentations, Paul Glastris, editor of The Washington Monthly will lead a Conversation on “The Next Generation of Giving Back” with special guests Ted Leonsis, high-tech entrepreneur, philanthropist and owner of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, currently president of the Walmart Foundation and previously the president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Rep. John Sarbanes, U.S. Congressman from Maryland’s Third District.
On hand to judge this final stage of the 2012 Competition is a panel of distinguished individuals with experience in education, community service, business and the non-profit world: Margo Anderson, innovator in education and arts grants, Michael Kosmas, Special Counsel, Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, Dean Aristotle Phillips, President of Aristotle, Inc., Barbara Spyridon Pope, former Assistant Secretary of State, Jennifer Poulakides, Vice President of the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and Savvas Savopoulos, entrepreneur and angel investor.
According to Leon Stavrou, Executive Director of the Next Generation Initiative, this is the first competition of its type in the Greek American community.
“To my knowledge,” Stavrou says, “no one in our community has ever done anything like this.”
Stavrou has been impressed by the response from Greek American students across the county.
“It’s amazing! We had no idea it was going to get so big,” says Stavrou. “Student teams from 18 campuses, competing to give back to their communities. The response has been terrific.”
As part of the National Competition, each student team followed a set of guidelines to develop a detailed proposal and budget for a community service project they will undertake during the 2012-2013 academic year.
Working with a faculty advisor from their campus, and at least one outside mentor they connected with through the Next Generation Initiative, student teams began competing in the spring of 2012 to develop community service projects that have a concrete, positive social impact upon others, in ways that serves their needs.
“These students are remarkable,” says Stavrou. “It’s wonderful to see what they’ve come up with.”
According to Stavrou, the teams will be doing everything from helping to build a school in Haiti, and mentoring inner city schoolchildren in DC and Boston, to working with senior citizens in Chicago, at-risk youth in North Carolina –and raising funds for an orphanage in Crete.
The projects have been generating great interest and excitement among the peers of the students in the Competition.
The student leader of the Princeton team says, “It’s because of this competition that the Princeton Hellenic club got the spark to become more active last semester.”
“We look forward to seeing the final product of our planning, and we are already excited with how the local community is responding to our event,” says Nikitas Tampakis.
“There was so much interest from students all over the country, we thought we should give them a chance to vote for their own favorite project,” says Stavrou. “In the past few days alone, almost 10,000 students have voted online for their favorite project.”
In fact, the numbers of students voting online grew so quickly that it overwhelmed the server at www.hellenext.org/vote for a period of time at the beginning of the week.
“These teams are definitely showing the world that Greeks give back,” says Stavrou.
The enthusiasm and commitment demonstrated by the students in the Competition has impressed many leaders in the Greek American community. Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine says the Greeks Give Back Challenge is a “noble endeavor.”
Sen. Snowe says the students competing to give back have “placed the highest of premiums on service above self — and that is the very reason why I feel a tremendous and abiding sense of hope for our future, just in knowing that there are exceptionally dedicated young Americans who have seized upon their remarkable ingenuity to devise and implement community service projects that will benefit others for years to come.”
The students in the Competition, says Sen. Snowe, “represent the very best of our rising generations.”
The Greek American student teams competing in the 2012 Greeks Give Back Challenge have been organizing their projects on the campuses of Boston College, Columbia University, DePaul University, Drexel University, Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Loyola University Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), New York University (NYU), Northeastern University, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Stanford University, the University of Chicago, the University of Illinois-Chicago, and the University of Virginia.
Leading organizations from the Greek American community have offered grants to the student teams who have developed community service projects that meet the Challenge’s criteria and have advanced to the Semi-Final stage of the Competition, including the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), the Alpha Omega Council, the American Hellenic Institute, the Hellenic American Bankers Association, the Hellenic American Women’s Council, the Hellenic Lawyers Association of New York, the Hellenic Society Prometheas, the Ladies Philoptochos Society/Greek Orthodox Church of St. George in Bethesda, MD, and the Pancretan Association of America.
Individual sponsors from the Greek American community include Dr. Andrew Economos, George & Daphne Hatsopoulos, Jim & Ted Pedas, John Patzakis and William & Constance Vlahoulis.
The Next Generation National Student Competition is an outcome of the Next Generation Initiative’s Got Greek? National Student Research Study, and is made possible by a grant from the Zapis Charitable Foundation, along with additional support from the Maliotis Charitable Foundation and the Gerondelis Foundation.
To take part in the next stage of the Competition, teams were required to submit a proposal in April of 2012 that follows the Competition requirements and fulfills certain selection criteria. The most competitive proposals were selected as semi-finalists and became eligible for small grants towards funding their proposed projects. The top finalists in the Competition were invited to present their project proposals before an independent panel of judges. The top finalists will receive monetary grants to implement their projects during the 2012-2013 academic year.
The Greeks Give Back Challenge was inspired by Greek American students and Hellenic student associations already involved in service to their campuses and communities.
“We learned from our Got Greek? National Student Research Study that there are some great examples of what students are doing on and off their campuses to give back to their communities. We want to get those stories out there, so people can see what young people are already doing,” said Stavrou.
By organizing the competition, and offering support to teams with viable proposals, the Next Generation Initiative hopes to recognize and and reward students who reach out to help others. By encouraging students to work with outside groups and mentors, the Initiative hopes the competition will encourage more students get involved with each other and their local communities, challenging them to get “outside the baklava box,” as Stavrou puts it.
“Giving back is the hallmark of a leader — and the sign of a strong community. The students who make an effort to lead and learn through community service and teamwork today, are the young men and women who will be our leaders in the future,” says Stavrou.
“We aim to encourage all young Greek Americans to give back,” says Stavrou.
Rep. John Sarbanes, the Greek-American Congressman whose focus on Hellenism in the Public Service has resonated throughout the Greek-American community, says the Greeks Give Back Challenge “recognizes the aspirations of younger Greek-Americans to vigorously engage in the broader society by giving back in ways that make for a stronger and more just world.”
“When I first began to think about Hellenism in the Public Service, I was confident that we would discover many able and energetic Greek-Americans giving back to the broader society,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “The Next Generation Initiative recognizes the aspirations of younger Greek-Americans to vigorously engage in the broader society by giving back in ways that make for a stronger and more just world in which we live.”
The Greeks Give Back Challenge is a “thoughtful and inspiring way to help young Greek-Americans harness the power of their imagination and ideas,” says Congressman Sarbanes. “By challenging students with competitive grants for the creation of innovative concepts that will broadly impact society, the Competition empowers young Greek-Americans with the tools needed to make their dreams a reality.”
The Next Generation Initiative is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit educational foundation that helps students gain the experience and skills their careers will demand — through internships, fellowships, Master Classes and other opportunities that introduce students to leaders and mentors in a wide range of fields and professions — and strengthen their capacity to excel, innovate, collaborate, and serve as effective leaders in their communities. You can learn more about the Next Generation Initiative at www.hellenext.org