Carolina Mellekas, Northeast Student Leader
Why I Applied: After continually hearing about this team of Orthodox Christians who 1) genuinely invested their unique selves into all that OCF offers 2) bore witness to living Orthodoxy in college, and 3) stood steadfast in a mission that aspired to served me— some student who they didn’t even know— I finally ran out of reasons why not to be like them and apply.
These servant leaders contribute their God-given talents and training into something greater than us all, for us all. Applying was an opportunity to use the gifts, strengths, and even weaknesses I have towards OCFs enhancement. How could I miss an opportunity to serve at the forefront of a ministry that transformed my reality?
Favorite Moment: On one of the nights of the Summer Leadership Institute everyone took a walk in St. Iakovos Retreat Center’s woods. We visited the various shrines scattered throughout the paths while chanting, praying, and hearing stories about each saint commemorated. Although powerful in its own experience, what particularly made this my favorite was how we got from saint to saint. We walked in what was seemingly total darkness and mud— something that as much as I love the outdoors, would have definitely not wanted to do alone—in fact, there’s no way I would even know where to walk. In walking with everyone, however, my steps never felt surer. We walked towards the saints collectively as one body, despite that many of us were strangers just days before and some of us even having yet to individually meet each other. We came from all across North America with different majors, jurisdictions, cultures; with different positions of OCF leadership and different stories; yet unconditionally united in our Orthodoxy. This above any other moment of SLI showed me who leaders of OCF are at their core, those walking together through the darkness and uncertainly—when things are challenging and sometimes scary—but nonetheless, yearning towards Christ as “the true Light Who enlightens and sanctifies” us and all our steps.
Biggest Takeaway: Each and every member of the team’s solidarity: we come to Christ first and put any jurisdiction second. The SLB is the most progressive way an emerging young adult can witness, collaborate, and develop opportunities for and with the maximum audience to carry pan-Orthodoxy in North America. In just a few months of teamwork, I experienced the unmatched potential of pan-Orthodox leadership over the limits of solely functioning through an inter-community network. The SLB proved that the reality of our Orthodox Christian strength rests in unity now more than ever.
Why Apply: Only the SLB utilizes the most effective means to combine who we are today as college students with the vocational foundation of our tomorrow as that future parishioner, spouse, and parent God wills for us. If you feel affected by this mission and called to carry it through offering your own gifts, then this is what’s next for you.
Mark Sultani, College Conference East Student Leader
Why I Applied: I wanted to serve my fellow college students to help bring their faith into their lives at school.
Favorite Moment: College Conference East banquet
Biggest Takeaway: Sometimes you’ve got to make it up as you go. It’s honestly more fun that way.
Why Apply: To serve Christ and His flock during an important time in their lives alongside other Orthodox Christian peers and leaders. Gain experiences leading events and meetings, coordinating with priests and bishops, speakers, participants, and hosts.
Amelia Barron, Midwest Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied because I felt like there was a strong OCF community in my region, and I knew that there were a lot of people that could come together. Also, I am acquainted with a lot of priests and I thought that they all would want to get involved.
Favorite Moment: This passed Midwest spring retreat. Definitely. I met all new people, and it was incredible fellowship. I loved sitting around and hanging out with everyone. We played mafia until really late at night, and I genuinely felt that everyone was getting to know each other.
Biggest Takeaway: Orthodoxy is out there in the college community. Students care, it’s not just a select few. You just have to reach out to them.
Why Apply? Apply if you really want to make a difference, and if you have some ideas about OCF and want to change some aspects of it. You’d be surprised how your ideas, speaker choices, and retreats that are implemented can really help other students. It just gives them a place of comfort.
Michael Hostetler, Great Lakes Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the OCF Student Leadership Board to expand my understanding of Orthodoxy in North America. Through attending Summer Leadership Institute, participating in board meetings, and planning my own retreats, I have a more complete understanding of what the future of Orthodoxy is going to be on our continent. The future of the Church is in our hands and from what I have seen, OCF has been an integral role in preparing me and thousands of Orthodox students alike to answer that call.
Favorite Moment: Summer Leadership Institute 2017! It was my first experience with Orthodox students from around the country, and it opened my eyes to the beauty that comes with pan-Orthodoxy.
Biggest Takeaway: Being on the SLB gave me amazing experiences that changed how I approach my spiritual life.
Why Apply? It is an opportunity to help shape the college experience of thousands of students around the continent while simultaneously strengthening your own college experiences and relationships.
Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader
Why I Applied: I fell in love with College Conference West from my first time attending, and I applied to the SLB because God kept knocking, and knocking, and knocking…I couldn’t help but open the door and see what He was calling me to.
Favorite Moment: During College Conference West 2015, my first year as chairman, we prayed a Paraklesis service one evening, and on my committee, I had two liturgics committee members – an Antiochian male and a Greek woman, both extremely talented and proficient in their musical gifts for God. The man lead the men in a men’s choir (anyone who wanted to chant) in Antiochian style responses while the woman did the same with the women’s choir.
The first notably impressionable aspect of this specific service was that there were more people chanting in the choirs than there were sitting in the pews. None of us could know how beautifully the service would be, and by God’s grace through the leadership and confidence of each liturgics leader, we did an entire Paraklesis in a full, perfectly-synced mesh of Antiochian and Greek chanting styles/translations—so seamlessly, that one would not know how difficult something like that actually is! We all bore witness to a true “hymn” of pan-Orthodoxy, such pureness and love for God that was manifested through unity in worship by brothers and sisters in Christ.
Biggest Takeaway: My life has been transformed forever, especially from the lasting friendships and leadership experience I have gained through OCF. These humans were put in my life for my salvation, and are the most inspiring people I have met in my life—I did not know that so many like-minded, God loving, motivated people existed that are my age. My biggest takeaway is the Hope that OCF has given me for the present and future of Orthodox Christians in the Western world. This hope has inspired me to carry on that Love into everything I do, and to give to others what Christ has given me through OCF.
Why Apply?: “Inspiration is from the Holy Spirit.” As an SLB member, you have an opportunity and calling to contribute to the planning and activities that effect college students/anyone involved with OCF across the U.S. and Canada. You will meet incredible people, benefit from the experience of others, and learn TRUE leadership skills centered around Christ (that also benefit you in your future professional careers). Most importantly, you will have a network of people praying for you and people you can pray for as well. You are never, ever alone, are provided with the support you need as an OCF Leader, and the spiritual benefits are soul-saving.
Peter Savas, College Conference Midwest Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB because I saw it as a great opportunity to further develop my ministry by learning from amazing people whom I look up to, and by having real first hand experience while also having support to help me grow.
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment is when I re-met Mark Sultani.
Biggest Takeaway: The people around you are the people who make you who you are.
Why Apply: Apply to the SLB because it is a unique opportunity to harvest your leadership, problem-solving, promoting, and delegating skills in and for an Orthodox environment. It is one of the most humbling experiences, and also the most enlightening. Through your interactions with the SLB, with OCF, and with your faith, you will no longer just be a passive observer, but rather an active servant. And there is nothing more powerful than that.
Nicole Petrow, Student Leadership Board Chairwoman
Why I Applied: I don’t have a strong OCF chapter on my campus, and my freshman year was spiritually lonely. After attending College Conference in 2014, my eyes were opened to the wide world of OCF, and the many other opportunities I had to get involved and make a community for myself.
Favorite Moment: Definitely the Midwest Regional Retreat last spring. After working as Midwest RSL for two years, I planned this retreat and was absolutely blown away by the students that attended. Our registration reached capacity, we had incredible speakers, and I was able to see so clearly how the Holy Spirit works through this ministry.
Biggest Takeaway: My experience on the SLB has given me incredible leadership experience and given me the opportunity to connect with other Orthodox college students. Most importantly, the SLB has been fundamental in forming my faith as an adult, and given me meaningful friendships that will last beyond the four years of undergrad.
Why Apply: To find some of your best friends, grow in your faith, and become a servant leader for this important ministry.
Valerie Hanna, South Student Leader
Why I Applied: OCF isn’t just another school organization. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it a thousand times over. The opportunities provided by OCF are ones that teach, guide, encourage, and engage in ways I have never experienced in any other organization. There are things you learn in OCF that can be integrated into every aspect of your life. Having been challenged through so many different aspects of my faith alongside some of the best friends became one of the many reasons I applied to be on the SLB. I applied because I knew this would be one of the greatest decisions I would ever make (this has been proven true). In applying, I would be given one of the greatest opportunities in helping create events specifically catered to my OCF region. I knew OCF would always hold such a special place in my heart and now that I’ve had the blessing of serving on the SLB it’s more than integrated into everything I will ever do. To serve on this board has been one of my favorite adventures.
Favorite Moment: SLI, getting to help with College Conference, meeting new people at every event I’ve attended, and ultimately, gaining one of my best friends off of the SLB + so many more.
Biggest Takeaway: God’s love, grace, and kindness that radiates through the amazing people OCF has brought me whom I’ll be carrying with me through life.
Why Apply? Why not apply?
Anna Sobchak, Real Break Student Leader
Why I Applied: I really wanted to experience more of OCF at the national level because my favorite parts of OCF had been their national programs, most notably Real Break, as my current role may imply. Plus, as a senior I felt like it was my time to give back to this organization.
Favorite Moment: My favorite part of the SLB has definitely been SLI (the Summer Leadership Institute). It’s rare that you find a group of strangers from all over the continent that you instantly click with, and yet within mere days, I was absolutely in love.
Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway…serving on the SLB has added depth to my faith. I joined the SLB because I felt like it was time for me to give back to the organization that had given so much to me already, but being a part of this ministry has taught me to be more intentional about my faith, to refocus and prioritize my life, and to appreciate just how rewarding serving in this ministry is.
Why Apply? Apply to the SLB because its just simply awesome.
Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Student Leader
Why’d I Applied: I initially applied with some prodding and encouragement from the RSL before me. I figured it would be a cool opportunity, and just went for it, and here I am 3 years later!
Favorite Moment: In all 3 years I’ve had lots of favorite moments. But one of them has to be a rather humbling one. I planned a retreat and somehow on the day of, nobody showed up except me and the priest. I was pretty upset at first, and wanted to cancel it when I got the last text from a registrant saying they couldn’t come. But the priest told me we had to have the retreat, so when people asked, we could tell them how great it was. It was such a wonderful afternoon exploring my faith practically one-on-one with a priest. I learned so much about myself that day and it truly reinforced to me to always trust in God’s plan.
Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from OCF has been that this program truly changes you. Before I joined OCF, I was good about going to church and chanting and it was really nice. But that was it, just nice. Joining OCF has changed my attitude from feeling obliged to going to church to actually wanting to go to church. I read Orthodox books because I want to. I participate in and lead retreats and discussions not because I feel like I know the most about the Faith or the Church Fathers’ sayings, but because I want to learn from others and be that person who brings everyone together.
Why Apply: READ ABOVE ANSWER! Let yourself be open to having these experiences. If you’re on the fence, apply anyway because you truly will not know the difference that OCF will have on your life until you’re thrown into this position. You don’t have to be champion of Bible Bowl or chanter extraordinaire. Just be you. You’ll come out of this with a heightened sense of yourself as a college student, yourself as a leader, and yourself as an Orthodox Christian.
Quinn Marquardt, Mountain Student Leader
Why I Applied: I wanted to grow my region, grow my own chapter, and be able to make a difference on the lives of others.
Favorite Memory: I would say my favorite moment would just be SLI. Meeting the 17-18 board and opening it up to everyone was amazing. I met so many new people and made new lifelong friends.
Biggest Takeaway: I think my biggest takeaway would be that everyone is different. When I first joined the board, I was so shy and didn’t know what I would be doing. After being on the board, I have learned that everyone is different and when you reach out to someone, that can make all the difference.
Why Apply: Being on the board has changed my life for the better. I have made so many new friends, met new people, been able to get chapters up and running, and have had so many amazing experiences. If you apply, I know all of these will happen to you and hopefully even more. The SLB is such a wonderful thing and I know from experience, it will have a large impact on your life.
Spyridoula Fotinis, Public Relations Student Leader
Why I Applied: I re-applied because I just love the ministry of OCF so much and could not imagine transferring to a new school without a strong presence of OCF and the support of my fellow SLBers and well as all wonderful OCF peeps around North America.
Favorite Moment: Photo ops at SLI – We are totally weird and it’s great. Weird Orthodox SLBers.
Biggest Takeaway: Christ is Everything, and we need a strong community of peers to remind us of this and help us in our ministry to Christ in OCF and just in general, being strengthened by the wonderful people I serve with in all moments of life. They’re always only a phone call away.
Why Apply? There’s never a better time to serve Christ and His Church and your peers across North American than RIGHT NOW!! This present moment is incredibly important! It will be such a blessing in everything you do, and it’s always awesome how each new person brings so much to OCF. Just apply and trust in God! It’s gonna be great 🙂
Anastasia Lysack, Podcast Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied because I wanted to serve the people who served me. I would not be the person I am today without my experiences in OCF, and I felt it was time to give back. Also, I had been involved with OCF for a while and loved the leadership position I already had in my chapter, so I felt that joining the SLB was the next logical step in my OCF involvement.
Favorite Moment: It’s so hard to pick one! That being said, one moment that is really sticking out to me as I write this happened last summer at the Summer Leadership Institute. The SLB had just spent an amazing two days getting to know one another and preparing for the upcoming school year, and now it was time for the other SLI participants to join us for the next several days. As many smiling faces trickled into the St. Iakovos Retreat Center, I was so impressed, not only by how joy-filled this group was, but how incomplete SLI was with only the Student Leadership Board present. Each member of OCF that I meet, whether they’re in a leadership position or not, inspires me in so many ways. It was then that I suddenly remembered that this was the reason I decided to apply for the SLB in the first place, and it helped me to see the rest of the Summer Leadership Institute in a different light than I did when I arrived there.
Biggest Takeaway: It’s true that OCF needs students to help run its regional retreats, Real Break, College Conference, public relations, podcast, blog, and social media accounts (this isn’t even everything the SLB does!), but I don’t think I realized when I first sent out my application how much I needed the SLB. College is a time when we are encouraged to focus on our personal goals, and while there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it is all too easy to put your own needs before anything else (and yes, you can be doing this while still going to church on a weekly basis and never missing an OCF meeting). Being on the SLB taught me that, if I can take several hours out of my already busy week to serve the Church during college, then I honestly have no excuse not to dedicate that same amount of time to the Church once I’ve graduated. After all, the ultimate goal of OCF isn’t to create students that are really great OCF students — it is to encourage students in their walk with God and their service to the Church. While it’s completely true that there are many ways to serve the Church (different people are called on different paths — and that’s perfectly okay), I would encourage you to get in contact with an SLB member if you’re interested in applying. We would be more than happy to answer your questions.
Why Apply? Make new friends! Gain experiences that your college isn’t going to give you! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to serve the Church!
Fevronia Koufogazos, Southeast Student Leader
Why I applied: I saw the impact that the SLB had on OCF when I went to my first regional retreat and that was definitely something I wanted to be a part of. As much as I loved being just a member of OCF, I knew there was so much more that I could do to contribute to helping other college students grow in their faith.
Favorite moment: Reading Ben’s notes after each conference call (yes? no? maybe?). SLI for sure. Spending a week at the St. Iakovos Retreat Center with an awesome bunch of people was the best way to end summer break.
Biggest takeaway: I’ve always wanted to serve our faith and our Church in some way and being a part of the SLB has definitely allowed me to accomplish that. This experience will prepare me for after college graduation when I want to continue my involvement in church ministries.
Why apply: Be a part of something bigger than yourself!! It is our job as Orthodox Christians to bring others closer to Christ, and being on the SLB is a perfect way to do that. Also, automatically having a group of 18 friends is pretty cool too.
Mark Saber, Media Student Leader
Why I Applied: Shoutout to Christina Andresen and Kathrine Sackllah for encouraging me to apply. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I had friends who were on the leadership board, and it seemed fun.
Favorite Moment: My favorite moments were definitely all of leadership training and college conference — since I got to meet some of the coolest people EVER.
Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from the SLB has been the friendships I’ve formed with people I’ve met through OCF.
Why Apply? Ya got nothing to lose my friend. If you like meeting awesome people, being in charge of stuff, and going to OCF events, then go! Apply like the wind! Still undecided? Please refer to this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXsQAXx_ao0
David Munkres, Northwest Student Leader
Why I Applied: I wanted to be able to provide the students of the Northwest Region with a space to grow in Christ! OCF has made me own my Orthodox Faith and has been one of the biggest blessings God has bestowed on me. I wanted to share that joy with others!
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment of my two years on the OCF board was attending College Conference (West and Midwest). I had a great time at both conferences meeting people from all over the nation!
Biggest Takeaway: I came away from the SLB is friends from all over the nation who I call brothers and sisters! The people really made the experience!
Why Apply? Apply because you want to have the experience of your life through OCF! OCF will give you what you put into it. Give it your all and OCF will change your life!
The OCF theme of the 2017-2018 school year is “Glory to God for All Things.” This phrase comes from the Akathist of Thanksgiving. Filled with many petitions covering the innumerable things for which we give thanks to God, we asked each SLB member to select their favorite we share the favorite line from the Akathist. Below are their answers.
“Glory to Thee, showing me the beauty of the universe.” – Val
“Blessed are they that will share in the King’s Banquet: but already on earth Thou givest me a foretaste of this blessedness. How many times with Thine own hand hast Thou held out to me Thy Body and Thy Blood, and I, though a miserable sinner, have received this Mystery, and have tasted Thy love, so ineffable, so heavenly.” – Tasya
“Glory to Thee, welcoming the impulse of our heart’s love.” – Caroline
“Glory to Thee for every happening. Every condition Thy providence has put me in.” – Quinn
“Outside is the darkness of the whirlwind, the terror and howling of the storm, but in the heart, in the presence of Christ, there is light and peace, silence: Alleluia!” – Spyri
“Glory to Thee, for what Thou hast hidden from us in Thy Wisdom.” – Anna
“Glory to Thee, making us dissatisfied with earthly things.” – Michael
“Glory to Thee for the joy of living, moving and being able to return Thy love.” – David
“Glory to Thee for calling me into being.” – Amelia
“Glory to Thee, sending us failure and misfortune that we may understand the sorrows of others.” – Nora
“Glory to Thee for the unforgettable moments of life.” – Fev
“Glory to Thee at the hushed hour of nightfall” – Peter
“Glory to Thee for every step of my life’s journey.” – Rachel
“Glory to Thee for the love of parents, for the faithfulness of friends.” – Markayla
“Glory to Thee for Thy mercies, seen and unseen.” – Mark Saber
“Glory to Thee, making Thyself known where man shows mercy on his neighbour.” – Ben
“Glory to Thee, making wonderfully Sweet the keeping of Thy commandments.” – Mark Sultani
“Glory to thee for the depths of thy wisdom, the whole world a living sign of it.” – Nicole
Do you ever have one of those days in which you have so much work to do that you simply sit down and do nothing? Like, because you’re so overwhelmed, instead of chipping away at the work, you just deny that all of it exists?
Welcome to college.
In the worst solution ever contrived by young men and women–and that’s really saying something–we remove the burden of work from shoulders by denying its immediacy. We delay it, pretending as if we have all the time of the world. We crash, watch Netflix, eat a cookie (okay, several cookies), and feel better.
I think we can do the same things with our spiritual life–with our life in general, really.
And it’s understandable, easier to understand I think–because the time period is longer. The comeuppance of our spiritual life comes when we die, and when we arrive at the final judgment. Remembering the stakes of that eventual judgment is what gives us perspective on our daily lives; understanding that what we do today affects where we end up for eternity.
Isn’t that terrifying? Like, isn’t that draw-droppingly scary? I enter shutdown mode when I just have a lot of papers and assignments to do; when faced with the Final Judgment there’s no wonder, I think, that I want to curl up in a little ball and hide in the comfort of willing ignorance.
When we forget about that ultimate moment–the moment in which our actions are measured against our purpose; what we did against what we were made to do–we are seemingly freed from the responsibility to align with our purpose. We feel, perhaps a little synthetically, the freedom that we didn’t experience when fulfilling our purpose. Without a sense of finiteness, consequence, actions, decisions–these all exist in a vacuum. They do not matter, because we can inevitably rectify them on the ever-arriving tomorrow.
Lent, I think, helps remind us of our temporality. The Lenten process is a big countdown–among other things, of course–to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. By carving out this chunk of the year to remember the Lord’s entrance into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection, we’re not only reminded of Christ’s sacrifice and what that means for our salvation, but we also encounter an experience of a man–Jesus Christ–understanding his daily actions, choices, and moments all within the context of his death.
We always talk about Lent as a period of preparation, and a key aspect of that period is that we know when it ends: we have work to do; and we know when the work is due and the period ends. We can shirk it like we might our schoolwork at times, but there is an ultimate end, and that finiteness is what motivates us to be the way that we should, and not crumble to our vices in the moment.
It’s important to experience, every day, our end. To know that we do not have unlimited time and unlimited tries. That’s what instills our life with meaning, drives us beyond temptations. Experiencing temporality can be hard and scary, certainly–but it’s important that we do it, else we eternally attempt to avoid who we were meant to become.
OCF is proud to partner with FOCUS on multiple projects and missions, including YES College Days and Real Break trips. As such, it is our pleasure to announce that FOCUS is launching their first annual Servant Leadership Conference (SLC) on Memorial Day Weekend (May 25th – 28th). Open to high school seniors and college students, the SLC represents an opportunity for young people looking to learn more about servant leadership, community work, and their faith. For more information on the SLC and to register, visit FOCUS’s site here
We sat down with Larissa Hatch, a staff member with FOCUS, to learn a little bit more about the conference. You can read our interview with Larissa here:
1. Give us a little background information on the conference–where, when, what are the topics, how much does it cost, why should a student attend?
The conference takes place in the beautiful Phoenix area (a great place if you’ve never seen a cactus!) where Assumption Greek Orthodox Church will be hosting YES! The registration fee is $175, which will cover all meals, housing, and activities; it is also a donation to the program so we can keep serving those we encounter on future YES trips across the country. You should go if you want to continuing growing into your leadership skills. Chances are, you already (definitely) have the stuff it takes to be a leader and this conference will be an opportunity to reveal your real strengths while connecting with some other amazing people in the YES family from all over the country.
2. What was the impetus behind creating the conference? What void in high school/college students’ lives are you hoping to fill?
The best part about all things YES is that the goal is very simple: leave a little more aware and a lot stronger! A lot more happens, and the experience always evolves as we go. Everything happens on God’s time and His agenda.
Young adults don’t always get recognized for the leadership and direction they can provide to their communities. We hear that they are inexperienced, too young to get it, or are just ignored. It is important to honor everyone’s perspective and experience, especially the students as they have more to offer than we’ll ever know.
3. Why should prospective students be excited about the idea of attending the conference? What is special or unique about the conference that students can’t get elsewhere?
We will never tell anyone how they should feel or what should happen for them. THAT is what is unique to YES–we simply exist for the sake of the group and our growth, and God handles the rest. Students are encouraged to show up as they are–you are the introvert, great! you are the life of the crowd, awesome! The beauty of YES is that it isn’t even imposed, it is innate, for everyone to embrace each other and share in this unique experience which reveals a level of vulnerability and love unmatched elsewhere.
Remember, to register or learn more about the conference, follow this link
to FOCUS’s site!