Man, my SLB story.
I was a sophomore having just attended my second College Conference East. OCF had been a major part of my college experience up to that point–through my chapter, College Conference, and Real Break. I left CC East fulfilled and spiritually rejuvenated for the new year, having also made so many new friends from around the US and Canada, across jurisdictions.
I knew that College Conference was a program I loved, and as the Student Leadership Board applications came out, I began to see myself standing up on the stage making announcements about what was going to happen next, planning out different speakers to attend, creating a schedule.
So I applied.
I went through the interview process and finally in April I got a phone call telling me I had been selected to be the College Conference East 2016 Student Leader! Excitement and anxiety immediately came to my mind. I was excited for the opportunity to make important decisions and be the leader of an event which I believe is OCF at its best, but I was also anxious about the immense responsibility before me.
We began work right away in April and we worked throughout the summer, spending hours in conference calls trying to come to a consensus on workshop speakers and topics, recruiting for the CC East Leadership Team. Finally, in August came the Summer Leadership Institute where the Student Leadership Board spent time together in sessions with various speakers on important topics, and in fellowship developing friendships. SLI was a pivotal turning point for my experience on the SLB because I discovered a support system which assuaged the anxiety I had been experiencing over my position.
The SLB has provided me with a friend group that I couldn’t have imagined my junior year of college without. These are my fellow students who care deeply for this ministry and the spiritual lives of all college students. Growing up primarily involved with the Antiochian Church and her ministries, OCF has provided the opportunity to encounter and develop friendships with Orthodox Christians of other jurisdictions, both on the chapter level and on the national level. These are friendships which have been a source of great joy and comfort when trying to balance academic requirements with the work required to plan a conference, and I am so grateful to this group of people.
To every college student reading this, I task you to take a moment and consider applying to the SLB. Try, as I did, to envision yourself doing this work for the glory of God. If you can see yourself being a part of this great ministry on a leadership level, please apply for the SLB, and if you are accepted, I can guarantee you will experience a year of service to the Body of Christ which will transform your heart and give you lifelong friendships.
Mark Sultani is a junior at the University of Michigan — Ann Arbor studying Computer Science. He’s the President of his OCF chapter and served on the SLB as the College Conference East 2016 Student Leader. Some of Mark’s favorite activities include Arabic dancing, procrastinating, and laughing unnecessarily hard at marginally funny things.
When we think of stewardship and giving back to the Church, our mind naturally goes to money. It’s really no secret that as college students we have no money. That’s why we love going home so much: free food and free laundry (and to see dear old Mom and Dad, of course). When I put my sole crumpled dollar bill into the tray on Sunday mornings, I joke that we actually are following the Church’s suggestion donation to tithe 10% of your income. Just because I don’t have a lot of money to donate to the Church doesn’t mean I can’t be an Orthodox steward. I give back to the church in two other ways – with time and talents.
In college, time is almost as precious as money. But it is one thing we can give freely. Being on the SLB is a lot of work – and requires a lot of time. Time spent organizing retreats, writing blogs, recording podcasts, scheduling speakers for College Conference or planning Real Break trips, and calling parishes and youth directors to talk to about OCF. And conference calls, we spend a lot of time on conference calls. But working on my OCF stuff never feels like work. I usually do whatever I have to do for OCF before any other homework, because I can still tell myself I’m being productive.
My schedule is busy; every college student’s schedule is busy. Dedicate some time to give back to the church through working for this awesome ministry. In my time as Publications Student Leader, I’ve written blogs that have reached thousands of people, worked with and met leaders of the Church, and even been interviewed on Ancient Faith Radio. His Grace Bishop Gregory of Nyssa always tells us that we are not the future of the Church, we are the Church. Never have I felt more a part of the Church than I have while serving on the SLB.
As an English major, the Publications Student Leader position made the most sense for me. Publications gave me the chance to take my God-given abilities and strengths and use them to serve Him. Serving on the SLB isn’t just for people with concrete skills like writing, but for people who have a passion for OCF, a drive to improve, new ideas, leadership qualities, and most importantly a love for Christ. And being on the on the Board has helped me harness all of those skills.
As Orthodox Christians, we are called to serve God and our neighbor. Apply to the Student Leadership Board not only to give of your time and talents to God and His Church but to your fellow Orthodox Christian college students. Use what God has blessed you with to strengthen this ministry, to grow as a young leader of the Orthodox Church, and to make incredible lasting friendships. OCF gave me a place of comfort during my first year of college and some of my very best friends (both at my school’s chapter and on this year’s SLB). It’s taught me so much about the faith and myself as person, all while helping me become a better Christian. I can’t wait to spend another year on the SLB working for OCF, the Church, Christ, and young Orthodox Christians everywhere.
Applications due back April 6th.
Yianni Gagianas, Chairman
Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB to help serve the Church, experience church leadership, and meet more Orthodox Christians my age.
Favorite Moment: Going to SLI in August and training with the SLB.
Biggest Takeaway: Learning better teamwork
Why Apply? Because you will gain much more than you give.
Anna Valliant, College Conference East Student Leader
Why I Applied: I had been involved in OCF throughout my 4 years of college and decided I wanted to continue my love for OCF a step further. My favorite part of the year is College Conference, so I knew that being a student leader to coordinate CCEast was exactly what I wanted to do before graduating! I was blessed to have so many amazing experiences during my first 3 College Conferences that I wanted to share my love for this conference with other students and give them the same faith-filled and joyous experience that I had!
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment of OCF this year was sharing the faith with over 300 students at College Conference East at the Paraklesis service. We were blessed to be in the presence of the myrrh-streaming icon, the Kardiotissa. There is something so pure and beautiful about 300 students singing to the Mother of God. As the voices filled St. Ignatius Chapel, I was overcome with joy and peace, knowing that all of us were there to deepen our love for Christ.
Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway is how many new friends in Christ I made by being on the SLB. Even though some of us have only been together twice, we became so close because of our shared love for Christ! You never know how much of an impact a small group of people can have on your life, and I am so blessed to have had this opportunity!
Why Apply? If you have ideas about how to improve and promote OCF across the country, apply to be a student leader! As Orthodox Christians in college, so many of our friends are leaving the faith, so challenge yourself to bring those friends and others back into the faith!
Alexandra Abboud, Real Break Student Leader
Why I Applied: Real Break changed my life, and I wanted to share the light of Real Break with everyone I could.
Favorite Moment: Summer Leadership Institute in New York City. The stress and following laughter that ensued from trying to get 16 people on the same subway train is something I will remember forever.
Biggest Takeaway: I learned so much about myself as a leader as well as what it takes to successfully work with others.
Why Apply? The SLB is an opportunity to become a leader in the Orthodox Church and create unforgettable friendships that will quickly will become unbreakable.
Andrea Tsatalis, Great Lakes Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the OCF Student Leadership Board to serve Christ and His Church in what I believed would be an enriching and challenging way to respond to Christ’s ongoing call for me to grow (and help others grow) as an Orthodox Christian.
Favorite Moment: As the Great Lakes Student Leader I planned a fall retreat in Toledo, Ohio where OCF college students prepared, donated, and shared meals with the city’s impoverished. Being able to speak with this community, actively see Christ in our neighbors, and spread His love by reflecting the call in Matthew 25:35-40 to give drink to the thirsty, see strangers and invite them in, look after the sick, etc. was a unique blessing and re-orientation of my spiritual compass.
Biggest Takeaway: Aside from the financial (budgeting, fundraising) and managerial (planning events, coordinating officers) skills I learned from serving on SLB, my interactions with OCF members and my fellow SLB members changed me as an Orthodox Christian. Witnessing their faith, hearing their opinions on current events through an Orthodox lens, or simply communing with them in prayer has elevated my understanding of theology and supported me through the admitted struggles of “keeping the faith” in our secular world.
Why Apply? As a 20-something, it seems as though I am expected to “literally, can’t even” when it comes to social responsibility. It is easy, and perhaps the presumption, for our generation to rely on parents, grandparents, and the elderly to lead the Orthodox Church. Our predecessors have immigrated to this country, built our churches, fundraised our community centers, and maintained the Orthodox Faith through world wars and economic depressions. We must act ardently and urgently to personally preserve, protect, and strengthen our Faith so that it may comfort and guide our and future generations. Apply to the OCF Student Leadership Board. Take a step closer to Christ and prepare yourself to lead a community that increasingly needs your leadership, foresight, and faith to propel it forward.
Katherine Konstans, Public Relations Student Leader
Why I Applied: I decided to apply because I wanted to help give every incoming college freshman the experience that I have had through OCF.
Favorite Moment: Meeting fellow Orthodox college students from different jurisdictions and different parts of the country.
Biggest Takeaway: While we have accomplished so much, there is still so much more to be done, and it is important that the board continue on in its work so that we can continue to grow.
Why Apply? Don’t get discouraged when people don’t call/email you back or sign up for things because in the end, when just a few people do reach back out to you, it makes it that much more meaningful.
Markayla Stroubakis, Southwest Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: After seeing numerous Facebook promotions and posts for the Why Apply campaign, I decided to talk to the RSL of my region at the time to see if applying was something I wanted to do. He really pushed me to apply (and even got the deadline extended for me–thanks Patrick!). After considering his incredible experiences being on the Board and the impact that I would be able to have on Orthodox college students in my state and beyond, I decided that I wanted to have the opportunity to make that difference and change lives.
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment of being on the board was during College Conference. We had all gathered in the new chapel at St. Nicholas Ranch to sing a Paraklesis service. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. There were SO many people singing, and so many incredible voices. As a singer, one of the greatest blessings is to be able to lift up my voice to glorify God. But when a community gathers, and we are able to praise Him in song TOGETHER, is an extremely special and humbling experience.
Biggest Takeaway: Although this position isn’t full of emails and people asking questions, you really do impact everyone in your region by establishing OCFs. By what you do now, you’re even impacting people that will attend college in five, ten, twenty years. It’s a great responsibility.
Why Apply? While serving on the Board is a great responsibility, you will have SO much fun doing it. Everybody on the board is an incredible human that I am very lucky and blessed to know. So, why NOT apply? You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Alex Kuvshinoff, Northeast Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: I was inspired to apply after going to College Conference in 2013 and seeing how united the OCF Student Leadership Board appeared. They worked so enthusiastically for one another and for everyone else there, without asking for anything in return. I wanted to be a part of a community working for others in the name of Christ.
Favorite Moment: My favorite part of the SLB is being inspired by my peers. They work tirelessly for me and so many students. As unworthy as I am to serve with such great people, I am honored to have been motivated in my work and faith by their example. My favorite memory was from SLB training in 2014 when we went to a square dancing place in Texas. For a New Yorker, it was quite the a culture shock!
Biggest Takeaway: My biggest takeaway from the OCF SLB is that sometimes things you work for don’t always come into fruition. Hours are spent working, and sometimes it is hard to remember who the hours are going to. In the end, they are going to God. OCF is a great way to use our talents gifted to us by God for others.
Why Apply? I have talked about OCF more in interviews than any of my internships. The magnitude and experience you get are truly unique, and I stand by that after 5 other business field internships. So when it comes to capitalizing on limited time as a student, OCF SLB gives both work experience and experience living out the Gospel simultaneously.
Mary Anna Roden, Southeast Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to SLB because I believe in the potential of OCF to influence people at a very pivotal time in their lives. Because of that, I also believe that a lot of responsibility lies in the hands of our generation. I knew that if I wanted to see Orthodoxy grow in this country, if I wanted changes in the face of typical “campus ministries,” if I wanted a support system and ministry that would encourage Orthodox Christians for years to come, then I couldn’t sit passively by and hope for it to happen spontaneously.
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was the first video conference I had with my 7 district leaders. It was at that point when I realized that the passion to spread our Faith wasn’t just limited to the SLB. They’ve worked so hard to build up OCF here in the Southeast, and it’s been an incredible blessing to work alongside them.
Biggest Takeaway: From the national board to the students, we all want to see changes. I’d even venture to say that those who are not yet Orthodox want changes. It is a powerfully invigorating feeling to realize you’re not alone in your passions, especially when that passion is the Church. The OCF Student Leadership Board is a wonderful medium to share that inspiration with your peers and make REAL changes and REAL progress in your communities.
Why Apply? OCF Student Leadership Board allows you to make connections with Orthodox Christians your own age. You’ll meet welcoming, down-to-earth people who uphold the same values as you. Most importantly though, you’ll have a chance to be a part of something bigger than yourself.
Nicole Petrow, Midwest Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB because OCF had become my favorite part of my college experience, and I was looking for ways to get more involved. I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, and it turned out to be better than I could have imagined.
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment on the board was chanting with other SLB members at College Conference East this winter. After a semester on the SLB, I had come to appreciate the other members of the board as some of my closest Orthodox friends who motivate me every day to strengthen my relationship with God. Being able to chant with them after months of separation was a really special experience.
Biggest Takeaway: Being Orthodox in the Midwest, where the average OCF chapter has 5-10 members, can become disheartening at times. Working on the SLB this year has opened my eyes to the truly powerful presence Orthodoxy has in the US, and strengthened my own relationship with Christ and the Orthodox community at large.
Why Apply? To meet amazing people, give back to the Orthodox community, and grow in your faith.
Matthew Monos, Media Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied to the SLB after an amazing experience at College Conference East 2013. I wanted to give something back to the organization the gave so much to me and help to give other students as special of an experience as I had.
Favorite Moment: One of my favorite personal moments was unveiling the OCF Connect App at College Conference East 2014. It was amazing to see all of our hard work finally unveiled and shared with all of our friends and peers, and to see it responded to so positively.
Biggest Takeaway: When His Grace Bishop Gregory tells us that we aren’t the future of the Church, but are the here and now, he is absolutely right. We don’t need to wait to make a difference, we can start right now. Most gratifyingly, we can start making that difference in a way that positively effects the lives of other college students around the country.
Why Apply? Apply for the very reason I said above. You can make a difference now. Christ’s call to serve is not something that begins within parish life at age 30 once you’re married and have a kid. There is an active call to serve even now within collegiate life. Step up to the challenge, because it will be to the spiritual benefit of your friends and peers, yourself and most importantly, to the Glory of God.
Katerina Therianos, Mountain Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: I was the president of my university’s chapter for several years and thought it was time to try working with OCF in a different capacity. This gave someone else the chance to step up to the plate in our chapter and me a chance to meet new OCF students.
Favorite Moment: Anytime I get to see everyone else on the SLB, whether it’s during our conference calls, regional retreats, or College Conference. It’s always a reminder of how widespread OCF is and how wonderful our OCF friends are.
Biggest Takeaway: Working in a leadership position this big is humbling to the soul. It makes you realize how much you still have to learn about leadership and about your faith, but, at the same time, it’s incredibly inspiring. You’re working with people who truly love this ministry and love Christ and seeing this helps you in all aspects of your life.
Why Apply? It’ll change your life, whether you believe it or not. It could be a tiny (seemingly inconsequential) change, or it could have a huge dramatic impact. Apply and see what happens, because if that’s where the Lord wants you serving, you’ll be right where you should be.
Hibbah Kaileh, South Student Leader
Why I Applied: I grew up very involved in SOYO and other aspects of the church, and OCF has always fascinated me because it’s a pan-Orthodox fellowship, and I wanted to get involved and meet other Orthodox college students from different jurisdictions. I happened to be good friends with the regional leader before me, and she constantly raved about OCF and how fun the training and the OCF board was. So I decided to apply and here we are!
Favorite Moment: My favorite moment was spending time with all the other college students at the South Regional Retreat. The South region has slowly but steadily grown over the years and our Spring Retreat had over 40 attendees, the biggest event in the region for quite a while! The fellowship that lasted well into the night on Friday and Saturday with everyone was so beautiful and uplifting and it was truly a blessing from God to have so many of us gathered there that weekend.
Biggest Takeaway: Being on the OCF board has challenged me to grow in my faith more than I ever have before. I have been constantly inspired to be a better Christian by my fellow board members and to be a better servant as a student leader. As I get ready to graduate, OCF has taught me what it means to be an Orthodox Christian in this world, and it has made me so much better equipped to handle the future and what it has to offer. Being on the board has taught me what it means to lead by serving, and none of it would have happened without this experience.
Why Apply? First of all, why not apply? You have nothing to lose! It is one of the most enriching experiences I have ever been blessed to be a part of. Think of it as an infomercial. Apply within the next month and we’ll throw in an incredible support system of Orthodox college students from throughout the country, an awesome chairwoman to guide you through the year (shout out Emma), an incredibly inspiring leadership training, and a prayer inspiration guarantee. Apply now, and we’ll even throw in constant Orthodox memes and puns at the low low price of help with your salvation. How could you pass this offer up!?
Camille Bever, Northwest Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: Being on the Student Leadership Board of OCF seemed like a great opportunity to bring young adults together and dive deeper into the Orthodox faith
Favorite Moment: Getting to know my fellow regional leaders!
Biggest Takeaway: There’s no better way to strengthen your faith and enrich your young adult life than to bring people together and help strengthen your own and others relationships with God.
Why Apply? This is a fantastic opportunity to enhance your young adult lives and the lives of those around you!
Karma Khoury, Mid-Atlantic Regional Student Leader
Why I Applied: My non-Orthodox friends will tell you, I am definitely obsessed with OCF. OCF has been one of the best parts of my college career. It has brought me closer to the Faith, amazing friends, and a place to feel at home. I always went to College Conference and as many retreats that I could and when I found out that I could apply to be on the SLB, that I could help OCF continue to change people’s lives, I knew without a doubt I had to do it.
Favorite Moment: My absolute favorite moment was one night at College Conference I saw this group of kids who were hanging out, having a great time, enjoying each other’s company, reflecting on the talks that they had attended that day when one of them came to me. She thanked me for planning the fall regional retreat, where they had all met. She said that they all went to different schools in different districts and were it not for these retreats they would have never met. Feeling the love that they shared for one another and the Church was such an amazing thing to witness, I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Biggest Takeaway: Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. I was no public speaker before the SLB, and I didn’t think I could successfully plan a party, let alone a whole retreat. I definitely was not the most well-versed in the theology of the Church, but with the love and support from the SLB and having faith in God, I have gained these skills that will last me a lifetime. I have learned so much about the faith and my fellow Orthodox brothers and sisters in Christ. I love the fact that I got to make a difference in people’s lives, it truly was the most rewarding thing I have done with my free time in college. It is work, but it is amazingly gratifying, and no matter what you have on your plate, you can do it. God is there helping to guide you every step of the way. Have faith that you can do it and do an amazing job and you will see what a wonderful gift it is to work in this ministry.
Why Apply? You should definitely apply to be on the SLB! If you want to make a difference, help OCF flourish, and be blessed with contributing to this ministry that keeps you and your fellow students close to the faith then the SLB is for you. I hate to say it but “be the change you want to see in the world,” help OCF continue to get better and enjoy it along the way! You gain incredible experiences, for both the Kingdom and this world. You make amazing friends, and you make amazing memories. I cannot stress enough what an amazing experience it has been to be on the SLB. I have been truly blessed to get to work in this ministry of the Church. You can definitely do it. Don’t second guess yourself. Just take a leap of faith and see what amazing things the Lord can put in front of you.
Nora Haddad, College Conference West Student Leader
Why I Applied: I applied as the College Conference West chairman because I fell in love with this conference immediately: the people, the program, the monastery, everything. My life was changed and transformed entirely and positively; I could not help but return every year. However, I did not intend on or ever see myself being the chairman, but some beautiful souls encouraged me and thought I would do well in this position, and because of their belief in me, it allowed me to have faith and recognize that I needed to use whatever talent God had given me to give back to something I cherished so dearly!
Favorite Moment: Being in this position entails the witnessing of many favorite moments, but on the second evening, we had a Paraklesis in a newly-built chapel on the camp grounds. On one side, we had female chanters lead by Katerina Therianos (I was able to be part of this side), doing the GOA-style of melodies, and on the other, we had male chanters lead by Nicholas Baba, doing the Antiochian-style of melodies. Prior, some clergy were hesitant about this back-and-forth with different styles, but when it came to service time, the Antiochian and Greek styles blended and were reciprocated with unfathomable, flawless beauty, by grace of the Holy Spirit and by the God-fearing leadership of Katerina and Nicholas.
Biggest Takeaway: Being able to witness the transformation of the participants from beginning to end filled my heart with unparalleled joy and served as a testimony and witness to how the Holy Spirit can touch, encourage, and enlighten each and every individual person. From the outside, it may seem like I was chairman this year because of whatever visible reason, but honestly, no words can describe how much I was able to grow spiritually simply by witnessing the transformation of everyone else– individually and as an entire group. I could not have witnessed this the same way if I was not the chairman.
Why Apply? “Desire and effort must come from you. God will provide the power and results” (St. Paisios of Mount Athos). You will not be alone in this position: help will come from everywhere. There is an entire committee backing you up, as well as the encouragement from the entire Student Leadership Board. Any questions you have will be answered, and the results of the conference are completely and utterly worth every ounce of work put into it!
Emma Solak, Publications Student Leader
Why I Applied: By luck of having some friends on the previous board, I was able to see a lot of the work the SLB does. I knew I wanted to be a part of the machine that makes OCF run. I saw them in action at College Conference or regional retreats and wanted to be up there leading. I already loved everything I did with my OCF–whether it was planning an event, discussing living the Orthodox life, or just hanging out–and the SLB was just an augmentation of that.
Favorite Moment: Meeting everyone for the first time at SLI. We were so hungry but had to wait for dinner, so we all crammed into someone’s tiny hotel room and ate all of Anna’s mints. There’s really no better way to bond with people.
Biggest Takeaway: The friendships I’ve made on the board. I haven’t seen some of the other board members since SLI and some I’ve only seen once since then at College Conference, but they are some of my dearest friends.
Why Apply? Because you’ll get to work with me! Haha, just kidding. Applying to the SLB was easily the best decision I’ve made during my college career. It’s a lot of work, but it teaches you important skills like time management, organization, and leadership–all while serving the Church. You learn so much about yourself and the faith. You make incredible friendships and work with amazing, dedicated, intelligent, faithful people. There’s absolutely no reason not to apply!