FOCUS Servant Leadership Conference | Exclusive Interview

FOCUS Servant Leadership Conference | Exclusive Interview

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!
Senior Profiles: Gabriella Christy

Senior Profiles: Gabriella Christy

GabriellaName: Gabriella Christy

University/College: North Carolina State University

Major: Psychology

What are your plans for after graduation?

I am attending UNC Charlotte for the Master’s program for Mental Health Counseling.

What’s your favorite OCF memory?

My favorite OCF memory is the North Carolina District Retreat. We had a great turn up and it was a very beautiful display of Orthodoxy in every capacity.

Words of wisdom for the next class of OCFers:

I would advise that you stay involved with your OCF chapter and do not be shy to ask for rides or for a helping hand. Orthodoxy is a universal and loveable faith that can reach out and assist anyone.

Senior Profiles: Konstantinos Cesak

Senior Profiles: Konstantinos Cesak

ConstantineName: Konstantinos Cesak

University/College: George Washington University (but I am a part of Georgetown’s OCF)

Major: International Affairs

Minor: Modern Greek

What are your plans for after graduation?

Find a job, make enough money to survive, get out of D.C.

What’s your favorite OCF memory?

When I was a freshman commuting between George Washington & Georgetown, I would get there early. I was terrible at running my own affairs on my own so I was lacking sleep and getting between the two campuses too early or too late. If I got there too early, I slept in our chapel curled up on top of my backpack under the icon of Christ. I remember falling asleep looking up to Him & a candle lit and waking up refreshed. The OCF was my spiritual refuge and for a couple of months was my physical refuge until I got my life together.

Words of wisdom for the next class of OCFers:

Just as Father Constantine told me that the Church is our home no matter where we go, the OCF in college is no exception. The Georgetown OCF was there for me when my own university wasn’t. I leave a part of myself in Copley Crypt, where we had vespers & celebrated pre-consecrated Divine Liturgy.

What to Expect from College Conference 2015

What to Expect from College Conference 2015

Our two College Conference Student Leaders, Anna Valiant for CC East and Nora Haddad for CC West, reflect on past years and share their expectations and excitement for this year.

For students who’ve never been, what is College Conference? What can be expected?

Anna: College Conference is an event that happens every year over Christmas break for young adults between the ages of 18-25. Every year, students from all different jurisdictions, come together to celebrate their love for the faith and aid each other to grow on their spiritual journeys. You can expect a lot of hugs, love, and warmth from everyone!

Nora:  Various aspects include prayer in the mornings and evenings, incredibly hilarious and fun social events, loving fellowship with other Orthodox Christian college students, a keynote speaker who covers the theme of the given year, and different workshop speakers who address various sub-topics under the main theme. People can undoubtedly expect to witness the presence of the Holy Spirit and to be welcomed with love, as well as to be uplifted in all different manners, to be enlightened tremendously in a short amount of time, and to make friends/build on already existing relationships in a way that may have been unexpected!

Q: Our theme for this year is Modern Martyrs: Witnesses to the Word. What does the theme mean to you? Why is it important?

Nora: The theme is what I am most looking forward to this year. This means the world, quite literally, to me, because as is said by (I believe) St. John Chrysostom, “One soul is worth more than the entire world.” This theme was, no doubt, inspired and decided by the Grace of the Holy Spirit because it could not be more accurate and applicable to us as Orthodox Christians in college for what is happening today in a societal and global level. In Syria and other parts of the world, people are being slaughtered for their faith, and multitudes each day are gaining their crowns of martyrdom; whereas here, in America, we become martyrs in the sense that we must face and deny secular social pressures, temptation from all angles, maintaining pureness of heart amidst evil from social media and other forms of communication – all of which is worsening day by day now, it seems. This topic will give us further tools in order to protect ourselves and fight against the traps of the demons that cause us to become martyrs every day.


College Conference West student with Abbot Tryphon

Q: Why would you encourage students to attend?

Anna:  A college lifestyle usually revolves around burying our heads in our work, drinking copious amounts of coffee, and constantly being on the run. College Conference is a chance for students to take a break from their hectic schedules and learn about the faith. A chance for students to grow in their faith and return or start to improve their praying habits. A chance to learn from other Orthodox students who are struggling with similar obstacles. College Conference gives us a chance to re-center our lives on Christ and meet other students who want to help us succeed!


College Conference East students enjoying the banquet

Q: What have been some of your favorite memories from College Conference?

Anna: Every year, my favorite part is the late night chanting in the SS. Peter and Paul Chapel. Each night, students come together and join each other in prayer and song. There is something about it that I truly can’t explain. My first College Conference, I stayed in the chapel the final night until 3am listening and signing along with the hymns I knew. Name another time that you can find a large group of college students gathered together singing and praying to God. You can’t! Come to College Conference and experience my favorite memory for yourself!

Nora: At CC last year, the girls and guys split up and did their own “group chats.” Us girls as an entire group talked, opened up to one another, expressed and loved each other fully, and it was an uplifting, amazing, and life-changing experience. However, the general stereotype for women versus men is that women speak more. Right? Wrong. The most heart-warming thing was that, not only did us ladies finish our talk before the men BUT their talk went on for over an hour longer. This bond is so powerful that “man chat” has continued on into even today – these guys are still amazingly frequently in contact. The most unforgettable memory for me at College Conference 2014, we concluded the last evening with a talent show. When the dance off started to seem to die down, one boy began playing an Arabic beat, so another girl and I started dancing to the Arabic music. Then, more people started coming up and we started a dabke (Arabic line dance). Subsequently, most everyone was up in spontaneous dancing together – the joy was unfathomable! Greeks, Indians, all of the Middle East, Caucasians, Russians, Romanians, Latin Americans, Egyptians…. no differences between any of us existed. We were and are one Orthodoxy, one mankind. Words could not describe this moment, and it is an evening that I will never, ever forget.


Fall 2015 Midwest Regional Retreat Preview

Fall 2015 Midwest Regional Retreat Preview

Midwest OCFs, you’ve got a retreat! Your Regional Student Leader, Nicole Petrow, is here to tell you all about this exciting event in Omaha, Nebraska from September 25th – 26th.

Q: What can students expect to happen at the retreat?

Meet and socialize with other OCF students from the Midwest, hear from speakers on being an Orthodox college student, participate in a scavenger hunt in downtown Omaha and much more! Come and experience Christ’s love through fellow Orthodox students and take a break from college life to reflect on one’s faith.

Q: Why should someone come to this retreat?

Anyone looking for a sense of community, renewal of faith, or some delicious free food should mark their calendars.

Q: How can students get to the retreat?

Primarily by driving. Contact me at or post in the event Facebook page if you’re looking for a ride!

Q: What are you most looking forward to about the retreat?

I’m looking forward to meeting people from around the Midwest, expanding my OCF family, and further developing my relationship with Christ and His Church.


Midwest-2-2REGISTER for this free and fun event today!

Fall 2015 Southwest Regional Retreat Preview

Fall 2015 Southwest Regional Retreat Preview

Calling all Southwest OCFers! You’ve also got a retreat coming up – September 25 – 26 in Phoenix, AZ. Take a look at what your Southwest Student Leader, Markayla Stroubakis, had to say about this fun and free event.

Q: What can students expect to happen at the retreat?

At the retreat, students can expect to meet other OCFers from the state of Arizona and participate in a discussion led by Rev. Fr. Apostolos Hill. Also, students will be making bagged lunches and handing them out to the Phoenix homeless.

Q: Why should someone come to the retreat?

Students should come to the retreat because it is important to experience the message of the faith with others, especially college students that live close to us.  This way we can make friends we will have for a lifetime, whose foundation is rooted in the faith and love for God.

Q: How can students get to the retreat?

Students are encouraged to carpool with their friends and fellow OCFers to the location, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  If you are an Arizona State student, luckily for you, the retreat is just around the corner. Get pumped!!

Q: What are you most looking forward to about the retreat?

Although I am unable to make the retreat myself, I’m looking forward to what everyone else has to say about it.  I’ve heard Father Apostolos is an incredible speaker and can’t wait to hear his sermon/discussion.


REGISTER for this exciting event today!


Fall 2015 Mid-Atlantic Retreat Student Preview

Fall 2015 Mid-Atlantic Retreat Student Preview

10419432_805495809473725_1115522371870011094_n-2As you might have noticed, your Regional Student Leaders are (rightfully) super excited for the regional retreats coming up. But so are the students! Hear from Rachel Howanetz, a sophomore at Millersville University, who attended the Mid-Atlantic Regional Retreat last year.

Q: Describe your experience at last year’s retreat. What stood out to you? 

Attending the retreat last year was the first large OCF event I attended. I had no clue what to expect and did not really know anyone other than those who also attended from my OCF. From the moment I walked into St. George I felt an immediate connection to those around me, and a sense of community that I have only ever felt before with my teen SOYO and my Antiochian Village camp friends. I was amazed to see so many people reuniting with friends from other colleges and universities and only hoped that as just a meek freshman I would make similar friendships with other Orthodox college students.

Q: What was your favorite part of last year’s retreat?

By far, my favorite part of last year’s retreat was the Paraklesis service that we sang to the Panagia. It was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. The icon of the Kardiotissa was present, and along with the strong, and sweet aroma of the icon’s myrhh, the students’ love-filled voices filled the church and it was as if we had truly been transported from earth to heaven.

Q: Why did you decide to go to this year’s retreat again?

I made the decision to go again this year because I want to be able to feel that sense of love and community again. Often times, especially as a young college student, it can be hard to find that on your college campus. I want to be able to feel the sense of peace I had being in the presence of the Kardiotissa again, and I want to be able to take a step back from my busy college life and reflect on all of the blessings in my life.

Q: What are you most looking forward to about this year’s retreat?

I am most looking forward to seeing some of my friends from other colleges and universities and spending the two days in worship and service with them.

Q: Why is it important for students to go to their regional retreats? What words of encouragement do you have for them?

Take the leap of faith and go. You will not regret it. Especially if you are a freshman this year, you might be a little hesitant about going—I know I was last year, but just go. As important as it is to focus on your school work, focusing on your spiritual life, especially in college, is essential to maintaining a healthy mind, body, and soul. Attending the regional retreat will be like getting a breath of fresh air and you will feel renewed and ready to go back to accomplish great things on your college campus.


REGISTER for this year’s retreat today!

OCF PicRachel Howanetz is a sophomore at Millersville University, where she is majoring in Early Childhood Education. She enjoys dancing, singing, photography, crafting, and traveling. This past summer, Rachel served as a counselor at the Antiochian Village. During the school year, Rachel loves being involved in many education related organizations on her university’s campus, and at the same time, has a passion for growing in her faith and being involved in OCF.



Fall 2015 Mid-Atlantic Regional Retreat Preview

Fall 2015 Mid-Atlantic Regional Retreat Preview

Hey Mid-Atlantic OCFers! You also have a retreat is coming up soon – September 18th to September 19th in Taylor, PA.  To give you a better idea of what to expect, here are some thoughts from your Mid-Atlantic Student Leader, Karma Khoury.

Q: What can students expect to happen at the retreat?

See and learn all about the Kardiotissa icon at St. George’s Church, fun activities with the nuns of the Holy Protection Monastery, confession, a service project

Q: Why should someone come to the retreat?

It is an amazing experience to witness the miracle of the icon and the miracle of friendship through the faith.

Q: How can students get to the retreat?

Driving, talk in the event page to car pool from your schools. Contact Karma at

Q: What are you most looking forward to about the retreat?

Getting to see you all have a wonderful time, making friends, and experiencing the miracle of the myrrh-streaming icon.


Mid-Atlantic-2-2REGISTER for this exciting event today!

Fall 2015 Northeast Regional Retreat Preview

Fall 2015 Northeast Regional Retreat Preview

Hey Northeastern OCFers! In case you didn’t know, you have a Regional Retreat coming up in a few short weeks from September 18th to September 19th in Boston. To give you a better idea of what to expect, I asked your Northeast Student Leader, Alex Kuvshinoff, a couple of questions.

Q: What can students expect to happen at the retreat?

Students attending the Northeast Regional Retreat can expect to have a full day of service projects. As is written in 1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” Many students struggle to find time to give back to the community around them, and with the Northeast Regional Retreat, college students can come together in a peer setting and serve others.

Q: Why should someone come to the retreat?

Students should come to the retreat because it is a rare opportunity that they can only seize now, while in school. Academic institutions are full of many different views and life styles. But the Northeast Retreat allows students to spend time with like minded individuals that share the same Orthodox Christian values, while working synergistically to help others. Additionally, the retreat is a good break from the typical college weekends that are more than plentiful throughout the year. Finally, students will have an opportunity to explore the amazing city of Boston!

Q: How can students get to the retreat?

Students have a multitude of ways to get to the retreat. It will be located in Boston at Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church. Students are encouraged to car pool with members of their OCF. However, if no other students are going from your school, students can contact me (Alex) at, and I can link you up with other students traveling from schools nearby. Lastly, students can use trains or buses. Both run frequently to Boston from most cities in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and surrounding states.

Q:  What are you most looking forward to about the retreat?

I am most looking forward to sleeping over in the church. There is something peaceful about waking up and walking down the hall to service. It is truly the best way to start the day. Also, I am excited to serve someone else in need. It is easy to forget about others when we are in college because we are so focused on ourselves and piecing together our futures. But, the retreat will give students an opportunity to step out of the bubble and help those truly in need.

Register for this exciting retreat today! 

Alex would also like to add that for students in Upstate New York and Toronto Canada area that are far removed from Boston and can’t make it, we have good news! On Saturday, September 26th from 11-1pm, The well renowned Metropolitan Kallistos Ware will be speaking to college students at the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation in Buffalo.  You can register for that event here. We look forward to seeing you in Boston and Buffalo in September!