Hellenic Birthright Students Meet His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I; Reflect on Their Weekend in Turkey

Since its inception in 2012, Hellenic Birthright promised to be an unforgettable journey for Greek American college students who had never been to Greece. A unique blend of academics, history and art-the cultural enrichment and educational program was tailored to give participants a 360° look into Greek life and culture. With the American College of Thessaloniki as our partner, sponsored students gained a better understanding of their ancestral homeland, along with transferable college credits and memories to last a lifetime.


This past weekend, the twenty sponsored students selected by the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation took their last field trip with the program-and what was probably the most memorable trip of their lives thus far. The young Greek American undergraduates-who had never before been to Greece-were given the opportunity of a lifetime when they met His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome. The meeting was arranged through the help of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago and His Grace Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos. It was a great honor not only for the Foundation, but for all of the 2013 Hellenic Birthright participants and their families.

“It is imperative that we understand the significance of this trip. The Patriarchal visit and the warm reception of our students by His All Holiness, together with His paternal remarks confirm that Hellenism and Orthodoxy are deeply rooted in our nature as Hellenes and will forever remain inseparable” said Chris Tomaras, Chairman of the PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation.

Hellenic Birthright Participants Surrounding His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

Hellenic Birthright Participants Surrounding His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew

Chloé Loutos, a Senior at the University of Central Florida proclaimed that “The biggest honor was bestowed upon us following the service, and that honor was that we had the opportunity to be privately received by the Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew. I cannot even fully put into words how amazing it was to be in the same room with such an exalted and inspirational figure. He spoke to us and His words touched me in a special way; they further inspired me to not only continue studying my heritage, but also share my heritage and the contributions of the Greek people and Orthodox Church with others.”

Melpomeni Arianas, a Sophomore at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said “Words cannot describe how incredible an experience this past weekend has been. Crossing the border between Greece and Turkey, we explored our ancestral roots while visiting Troia, Aghia Sophia, the city of Constantinople, and the Basilica Cistern. We were very fortunate to meet His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I. We were welcomed to St. George Church with open arms and received blessings from His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew I. Visiting Aghia Sophia…(read more).

Carlyn Loutos, a Sophomore at the University of Central Florida who was fortunate enough to experience Hellenic Birthright with her sister Chloé, expressed that “Meeting His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew was an experience I will never forget. It was so humbling being able to stand in his presence-what an absolutely incredible and inspiring human being. It made me so grateful for the religion and culture that I am blessed to have and know…(read more).

 Mark Bristol, a Sophomore at Emerson College, has been deeply affected by this trip, and said “I have learned so much about myself through my Hellenic Birthright, and the experiences I have had here have changed me forever. It has been an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything else in the world.”

To read the complete blog entries of our Hellenic Birthright sponsored students, please click here.



For more information on how you can help a Greek American college student see Greece for the very first time, consider becoming a Founding Sponsor today. Explore other levels of Donor Opportunities and become part of the movement that allows even more students to exercise their birth-given right. You can make a secure donation online, or make a check payable to “PanHellenic Scholarship Foundation.”