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A real milestone in the history of young professional American Hellenes – Marking the Inaugural SAE U.S.A. Region Youth Network Convention

Chicago, Oct.13 – Demonstrating that Young Greek Americans come together for common causes and goals across the country, The World Council of Hellenes Abroad, SAE U.S.A. Region concluded its two day meetings in Chicago, founding its Youth Network which will be a milestone on the road to success. Young Hellenic Americans will be working together and taking on shared responsibilities to preserve and promote Hellenism in the U.S.A. Congratulations to all the participants for their enthusiasm, visions, aggressiveness and positive energy, in showing leadership and unveiling plans to work systematically together for the promotion and preservation of their Hellenic Roots.

Friday, October 10 – The convention opened with the invocation given by Father Mark Leondis, Youth director of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, who also conveyed a message from His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios. The President of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad SAE U.S.A. Region, Theodore G. Spyropoulos welcomed the participants and gave his heartfelt wishes for a successful and productive convention. Greetings were also made by the Consul General of Greece, Ambassador Anastasios Petrovas, Consul for Education Mr. Nikos Nikolidakis, SAE Canada Youth Coordinator Tom Mastorakos and SAE U.S.A. Regional Coordinating Council members Michael Galanakis (member of the RCC Youth Committee). Fr. Nikolas Kyritses and Dr. Peter Karavites from the Regional Coodinating Council of SAE U.S.A. were also present.

A Convention Presidium committee was elected with Chrysoula Economopoulos as the chair and two secretaries Andreas Koustas (who held minutes in Greek) and Elizabeth Kazakos (who held the minutes in English).

Power Point presentations were made by the AD HOC organizing committee Maurice Gritzalis, Anthony Papadopoulos and Chrysoula Economopoulos, followed by a presentation for the SAE U.S.A. Youth website made by Steven B. Livaditis and Peter Quintas founders of Portokalada.com. Spiros Vaggelatos presented the Greek Language Tutor program “ODYSSEUS”.
Mr. Spyropoulos briefed the participants on the Plant Your Roots in Greece Foundation, which he is also the President. Bylaws were discussed and unanimously approved by the assembly at large.

Saturday, October 11- An elections committee was elected with Bobby Kakoliris as the chair along with Tracey Stefanitsis and Stacy Koumbis.

A five member SAE U.S.A. Region Youth Network Coordinating Council was elected with Maurice Gritzalis, a financial consultant from New York as the Coordinator. Committee members of the board elected were Alice Shukla an attorney from Washington, D.C. as the position of secretary, Anthony Papadopoulos an attorney from New York as the position of treasurer, Sophia Koustas, a pr/events/communications professional from New Hampshire and Stavroula Kotrotsios a university student from Pennsylvania.

Ten delegates, who were also elected with the coordinating council members, will represent the Youth Network at the SAE USA Regional Convention, November 20-22: Penny Hambilomatis (IL), Eleni Hioureas (CA), Jordan Elrod (FL), Eleni Sopasis (NY), Ioannis Tomazos (CT), Chris Sarris (AL), Keke Kyriakopoulos (NY), Lambrini Melegos Papadopoulos (IL), Dimitra Adams (IN), Lazaros Yiannos (MA).

Youth Network Coordinator Maurice Gritzalis emphasized the unity that existed among the youth at the convention, and the excellent organization that helped the delegated participate with ease and complete their work well. “Everything is progressing wonderfully well,” Gritzalis said. “We are thankful to Mr. Spyropoulos for making this convention possible, for his inspiration and for the example he has created. We are now ready to continue with our tasks as are initially being reviewed in detail by the various committees.”

The Youth Network delegates created several committees in order to organize their activities:

Social Committee – “has as its main goal to create a social network throughout the U.S. along the lines of the eight regions of the Greek community,” said Yiannis Koroneos from New York. “We will disseminate information of events on a social calendar that we will create beginning next month.” Lisa Kazakos, of North Carolina, will collect the information and distribute it at the beginning of every month. They will also create events-such as dances-possibly connecting the U.S. youth with SAE youth Networks outside of the U.S. Volunteerism is also one of the committee’s areas of interest. Lisa Kazakos, chairperson, outlined the areas of interest for the Trip to Greece Committee: “Our goal is to educate and enlighten young Greek Americans about Greece’s history. Hopefully, we will meet with members of Greek Parliament and the government. We will also do humanitarian work; support the program “Plant Your Roots in Greece;” visit the Patriarchate in Constantinople; and do sight seeing in various islands and museums in Greece. We are in the process of figuring out how we will make this work.”

Culture Committee “will endeavor to support Hellenic National issues and promote Greek education, language, dance and music for the sole purpose of bringing Greek youth together and preserving Hellenic Culture,” state committee chairman for National Issues and Education Demetrios Varnasidis, of Chicago, and co-chair for dance Jordan Elrod of Florida. “We discussed long and short term goals for each issue such as preserving the name of Macedonia, seeking recognition of the Pontian Genocide, promoting the Odysseus Greek Language Tutorial and hosting dancing workshops.

Communications Committee chair, Steven Livaditis of Chicago said “it is the main portal for creating awareness, providing information and keeping our members connected. Our first focus is the creation of a new website. Our goal is to get the initial network member input completed by the end of October. Project manager is IT executive Demetrios Tzortzis of Colorado.

Environmental Committee Through a statement given by chairman Michael Kasseris of Massachusetts and committee member Maria Kakakios of New York said: As Greek Americans we must understand the importance nature and the environment have in our culture and our identity. As the issues facing the environment become increasingly evident in our everyday lives, we, as leaders of the Greek American community, must focus our attention and do our share to protect our planet. The environment committee of SAE will move to research these issues, outline key partnerships and create relevant educational material to mobilize all communities to make real changes and bring awareness to environmental problems facing our beautiful homeland and the world.”

The Career Committee “has as a mission to foster an atmosphere of mentoring and guidance in the context of Hellenic identity in order to address the issues of Greek Americans entering today’s job market and starting their professional career,” said chairman Bobby Kakoliris of Illinois. “Its goal is leadership and personal development through mentoring programs, networking through the website, scholarship fundraising and opportunity discovery through connecting the members.”

The Finance Committee, whose chairman will be announced, has a mission to establish and verify the financial viability and equity of all financing requests of efforts within SAE youth. The committee, in collaborating with SAE, will also oversee, initiate and manage fundraising efforts originated with SAE Youth. The committee will set standards for monetary requests by any individuals or SAE Youth committees and assure their propriety.”

SAE USA Coordinator Mr. Theodore G. Spyropoulos, in his closing remarks at the convention, thanked the committees for the work they have undertaken and pledged his support “in every way possible.” He also urged the Youth Network to investigate opportunities to establish relationships with youths in other SAE regions such as Europe, Middle East/Africa, Oceania, Russia and the Newly Independent States, Canada and Latin America.

“How great it would be if some of you visited a Hellene family somewhere in the world and were in a position to help rebuild their home that had been damaged by fired or war or poverty,” Mr. Spyropoulos said.

The SAE USA Youth Network also pledged its support for drawing public attention on national issues and unanimously voted acceptance of a resolution presented by Penny Hambilomatis on behalf of the Pan-Macedonian Association of USA, and a resolution on the Pontian Genocide presented by Demetrios Varnasidis on behalf of the Pan-Pontian Federation of USA & Canada.

A sustained wave of cheers and a standing ovation from the participants greeted the SAE USA Region President Mr. Theodore G. Spyropoulos at the closing ceremonies banquet, in which he stated, “We are confident the youth will take the baton and continue Hellenism through ages.” He also emphasized on the importance in speaking the Greek language at the conventions and the meetings. The inaugural banquet also included greetings from the Consulate of Greece in Chicago, Vice Consul Mrs. Vasiliki Grivitsopoulo-Lemou and Mr. Nikos Nikolidakis, Consul for Education, Tom Mastorakos, SAE Canada Youth Coordinator and Maurice Gritzalis, SAE USA Youth Coordinator.

Special guest appearances were made by comedian/actor “Angelo Tsarouchas” and from Fame Story “Margarita Bezaitis”, whom we thank for their outstanding performances that kept the guests entertained.

The following are the delegates and observers that participated in the 1st SAE USA Youth Convention and founded the SAE USA Region Youth Network:

Adams, Dimitra IN Delegate
Agoris, Jennifer IN Delegate
Agouridis, John MD Delegate
Anastasopoulos, Kyriakos IL Observer
Augustus, Angie CA Delegate
Avramopoulos, Chris IL Delegate
Bakopoulos, Bill IL Observer
Caro, Spiros IL Observer
Demetracopulos, Katerina IL Delegate
Dritsas, Anna NJ Delegate
Economopoulos, Chrysoula DC Delegate
Elrod, Jordan FL Delegate
Flevaris, Constantine IL Observer
George, Andrew MT Delegate
George, Stephen UT Delegate
Georgitsos, Steve IL Delegate
Giouzelis, Catherine CA Delegate
Giouzelis, Eugenia CA Delegate
Gritzalis, Maurice NY Delegate
Hambilomatis, Penny IL Delegate
Hioureas, Eleni CA Delegate
Hnaris, George NY Delegate
Kakakios, Maria NY Delegate
Kakoliris, Bobby IL Delegate
Kalogeridis, Sophia CT Delegate
Kasseris, Michael MA Delegate
Katsaros, Angela NY Observer
Kazakos, Lisa NC Delegate
Kiagias, Maria IL Delegate
Koroneos, Yiannis NY Delegate
Kotrotsios, Stavroula PA Delegate
Koumbis, Stacy IL Delegate
Koustas, Andreas NH Delegate
Koustas, Sophia NH Delegate
Kyriakopoulos, Ageliki NY Delegate
Leondis, Fr. Mark NY Delegate
Likouris, Pete VA Delegate
Livaditis, Steven IL Delegate
Maheras, William WI Observer
Marangoudakis, Constantine NY Delegate
Panagakis, Alexandra IL Observer
Panagoulias, Alex IL Delegate
Papadopoulos, Lambrini IL Delegate
Papadopoulos, Anthony NY Delegate
Papantoniou, Petros IL Delegate
Pilarinos, Dionysios NY Delegate
Pilidis, Efstathios PA Delegate
Quintas, Peter IL Observer
Ritzakis, Nector MA Delegate
Sarris, Chris AL Delegate
Sarris, George AL Delegate
Shukla, Alice MD Delegate
Simeakis, Anastasia IL Delegate
Sioris, Jimmy MN Delegate
Sokolov, Stratos FL Delegate
Sopasis, Eleni NY Delegate
Soukas, Pete VA Delegate
Stefanitsis, Eliana NY Delegate
Stefanitsis, Tracey NY Delegate
Tomazos, Ioannis CT Delegate
Tzortzis, Demetrios CO Delegate
Vangelatos, Spiros NY Delegate
Varnasidis, Demetrios IL Delegate
Yiannos, Lazaros MA Delegate

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