December Regional Feature: Great Lakes Region

December Regional Feature: Great Lakes Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. December is the month for the Great Lakes Region, which includes Michigan, Indiana, western Ohio, and northern Kentucky.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Great Lakes, the dashing Spiro Morris–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Great Lakes All-Stars!

David Schutt, Chapter President, Flint, Michigan

My name is David Schutt. I grew up in Grand Blanc, MI. I attend St. Mary Magdalene Orthodox Church in Fenton. I’m a freshman studying Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University in Flint. I play the piano, I’m an amateur astronomer, I’m an avid reader, and I love the Church.

How did you get involved in OCF?

I’ve always imagined myself being involved in an OCF chapter when I went to college. So when my parish priest suggested that we get one started in Flint, I was more than happy to take the reins. We have four relatively small schools in the Flint area, and there was no OCF chapter. Our chapter is kind of unique, because it isn’t exclusive to only one school. We have members from all the local schools.
What is your greatest memory/experience from OCF?
The Flint chapter is only a few months old, but we’ve already had lots of fun. One of the best experiences I’ve had was our first trip to the soup kitchen. I had been to soup kitchens before, but there was one guy we met who really made our day. When we were finally cleaning up, one of the people we had served went up to us and sincerely thanked us. He said he eats there everyday, but he wants to serve the poor, too! This man was probably homeless and desperate himself, and he wanted nothing more than to serve other people like him.
What’s something you’re doing, right now, in your chapter, that you’d like to share with us?
We’ve got lots of stuff going on in our chapter. My sister is a member of our OCF, and she’s also the FOCUS ambassador for the Flint area. So recently we’ve been working with FOCUS to do charitable things around the community. Just last week we made 100 Christmas cards for less-fortunate kids. Meanwhile, I’m trying to get some students from our chapter to sign up for the Midwest Conference (which I’m really looking forward to). Also, we finally established a new bank account. And I’m trying to iron out some of the details for our next meeting. Nothing that exciting right now, but we’re doing well!

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc) across the nation?

At our chapter we rotate between “fun” meetings, educational meetings, and charitable meetings. I think it’s a good strategy because we’re doing something new every time and we can generate interest for OCF with our fun meetings. I don’t think we would be as successful if it wasn’t for that mixed schedule. However, we have been struggling with our attendance. We’ve got about twenty people on our email list, and sometimes we only have two or three at the meetings. I’m trying to think of new ways to motivate people. That’s our biggest problem, and I think it’s the most important thing for a chapter leader to watch out for.

Alexi Kakaris-Porter, Eastern Michigan District Student Leader

Alexi Kakaris-Porter, University of Michigan-Dearborn. Greek Archdiocese. Major in Economics, Minors in Biology and Spanish. Just accepted into dental school at the University of Detroit Mercy. One hobby includes melting and casting metal in my backyard.
How did you get involved in OCF?
I was born into the church and was involved in almost all of the ministries throughout high school. However, until my freshman year, Orthodoxy was something nice that required you to go to church on Sundays and that was it. As I entered college, I realized my understanding of Orthodoxy was very limited and that I had a choice. I could either learn about and embrace the faith, or I could brush it aside. I chose to follow the faith and study it along with byzantine chant. I did not know that there was a group dedicated to college ministry. My freshman year, I had made some Orthodox friends who told me they had gone to something called College Conference. This intrigued me and I looked into it further. This is how I discovered OCF. By my sophomore year, I wanted to start a chapter so that I could bring together Orthodox students and to tell other about the faith. By winter of my junior year (January 2015) our chapter was officially recognized by the school and the national board. This year I applied and was given the position of the Eastern MI District leader.
What’s your greatest memory/experience from OCF? 

College Conference 2015.  I learned so much about the faith and was able to meet many wonderful people from all over the country.

What’s something you’re doing, right now, in your chapter, that you’d like to share with us?

We just had our district retreat two weeks ago. We also just hosted a Day of Light scheduled as a way to get people together right before finals started to pray together for a good end to the semester and the year.

Any advice you could give to someone else in your position (Chapter Pres., District Leader, etc) across the nation?

Don’t get discouraged. It can be very difficult to get people to participate. My school is 90% commuter and the majority of students do not stay on campus after their last class, so finding a good time to meet is difficult. Keep having events,  keep encouraging people to come, and results will come. As a district leader, keep reaching out and work on just being friends with the chapter presidents.

November Regional Feature: Northwest Region

Happy November everybody! As you all very well know by now, we feature an OCF region every month–this month, the Northwest Region wears the crown. But instead of doing our usually Regional all-star format, we decided to shake things up a bit, because the Northwest Region recently did something so psychedelic that we just had to share. With that, I turn things over to the Northwest Regional Student Leader, David Munkres:

This year, OCF history was made! You’re probably wondering what hadn’t been done in OCF yet: an annual Northwest Regional Retreat! Shocking, I know. It was the first one in recent memory and a great success. It nrr3left everyone speechless and renewed, ready to go back to the spiritual trenches of a college campus.

We went to St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery in Goldendale, Wa. It was about five hours away from Seattle, four hours from Portland, four hours from Spokane and seven hours from Boise. A great location to equally inconvenience everyone who traveled. The theme was “Incarnating Christ in the Midst of the Modern World,” and the keynote speaker was THE Abbot Tryphon. Fr. Tryphon is the Abbot of All Merciful Savior Monastery on Vashon Island in Washington. He bought with him Bishop Athanasios from Kenya. The two of them gave a series of talks on Friday night and Saturday morning that left everyone in awe. It was like watching two theological giants waging war and we benefited. Look for the talks to be uploaded to the OCF podcast series (shameless plug for Dan).

We arrived at the Monastery on Friday and got to know one another for a few hours. The bookstore at the Monastery got a lot of money as we bought icons, prayer ropes and books. The Sisters were gracious and let us tour the Monastery and see everything it had to offer. After Vespers, we got to hear His Grace talk about Orthodoxy in Kenya and how he feels inspired by seeing young people engaged in their faith. After hearing his hour long talk, Fr. Tryphon dismissed the adults and Bishop and gave us a small talk about the importance of fellowship. He talked about his 15134387_10205763160478151_101058869_nexperience setting up an OCF at a college in Seattle and how he loved seeing us get along. He lead some icebreakers and left us to play games and get to know one another/look for an Orthodox spouse.

Saturday was amazing! We got to witness a Bishop celebrating Liturgy at a Monastery. His singing voice gave everyone chills as it echoed throughout the walls of the Church. It was a blessing to see such an amazing service.  After coffee hour, we got to hear from Fr. Tryphon again. His nearly two-hour talk left everyone inspired. It was so quiet you could hear a prayer rope drop. Everyone spent the next few hours just walking around the Monastery and talking as we digested the Abbot’s words. Everyone felt as if they had received a second wind and could be a vessel of Christ’s love to others.

It is as St. Seraphim of Sarov said, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and a thousandnrr1
souls around you will be saved.” This really became clear after hearing this talk, which will be available on AFR in the near future. Later, we did a service project by helping to renovate the area where the goats lived. We moved heavy food containers and dug trenches to re-direct water.  After Vespers, a Sister came by the guest houses and read stories of miracles worked by the Theotokos.  This is a hand-written book that is only at the Monastery.  Everyone left with a sense of awe and a desire to know the Mother of God better.  We then socialized more and went to bed very late. We departed after coffee hour on Sunday.

You can find out more about retreats going on in your region–or, even closer to you, in your district–right here!

October Regional Feature: Southwest Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. October is the month for the Southwest Region, which includes California, Nevada, and Arizona.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Southwest, the charming Markayla Stroubakis–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Southwest All-Stars!

Mathew Madain, Vice President, UC Berkeley

Version 2Hello! I’m Mathew Madain, a sophomore at UC Berkeley studying international relations. I’m originally from Los Angeles, with family across SoCal and Jordan. I am the vice president of Cal’s OCF chapter and I’m hopeful that our community will continue to grow! I am also very active in UC Berkeley’s Rotaract Club and the Olive Tree Initiative.

So, how did you find out about OCF?

I first discovered OCF as an incoming freshman through a little poster I saw near Sproul Plaza (our main entrance) at my UC Berkeley orientation weekend. A few weeks later, I happened to meet some OCF students tabling on Sproul and learned from them the dates/times of our chapel services and meetings. Ever since then, I’ve attended meetings (almost) every week!

What’s your favorite OCF story?

One Saturday morning, my OCF chapter woke up very early and decided to hike up to Berkeley’s “Big C”. Throughout the hike, we shared jokes and stories and got to know each other very well. On our way back down, we encountered a few coyotes. We managed to stay calm and they walked past the trail within minutes… We all came out safely and enjoyed a nice brunch with ice cream later!

What are a few things unique or special to your chapter?

Our OCF is extremely fortunate to have the support and close collaboration of the Patriarch Athenogaras Orthodox Institute and His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas (many years!). With this support, we are able to attend Divine Liturgy every Tuesday evening and enjoy dinner and spiritual discussions.

On most weekends, our OCF visits local Bay Area parishes and cultural festivals in an effort to experience the diversity within Orthodoxy. We’ve visited and plan to visit Greek, Antiochian, Russian, and Jerusalem parishes – and hope to include more dioceses in the near future!

What’s some advice you could give to someone else in your position across the nation?

Outreach is key. Try to invite new members – both Orthodox and members of other Christian backgrounds – to your fellowship meetings frequently. Also, look for ways to include charitable service within your chapter’s activities. IOCC is always willing to assist in planning fundraisers!

img_4195  Sophia Berg, District Student Leader, SoCal (I’ve recently learned this means Southern California. Very catchy)

Hello! My name is Sophia Berg, and I’m a second year Nutrition major at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. I’m member of the OCF Chapter at Cal Poly, as well the District Student Leader for Southern California this year.

Some fun facts about me are – I’ve lived in 7 different states, I play the cello, and I love to go sailing!

And how did you get involved with OCF?

I first got involved in OCF when I came to Cal Poly through a mutual friend who was also involved. I really loved the community and family that OCF provided last year, so I knew I wanted to get more involved this year. Therefore, I applied to be the District Leader of Southern California, and I love it so far!

What’s the coolest thing you’ve done with your OCF?

The coolest thing I’ve ever done with OCF was celebrating Pascha this past Spring. Those of us who were away from our families for Easter decided to get together after the service and celebrate with each other. We made traditional Pascha foods like kulich and Pascha cheese, as well as comfort foods like quiche, bacon, and milkshakes! Even though we missed our families at home and our usual Pascha traditions, we grew close as an OCF family and started our own OCF traditions together!img_5581

How about something unique to your chapter?

This past year, our chapter started a Greek Dancing group! It began last year as just a few students who got together to dance for fun. The group grew as more people joined, and even I started dancing though I had never done it before. By the end of the year, we were dancing at our church’s Greek Festival, and this year we hope to perform more and even compete at a competition in San Diego called FDF (Folk Dance Festival). Not only has it been a great way to celebrate our Greek heritage, but we have all grown so much closer because of it!

What’s some advice you could give to someone else in your position across the nation?

Some advice I would give to another person in my position is to not be afraid to ask people for help! More often then not, people are more then willing to give you a hand. In addition, the more people you make connections with, the more people learn about OCF, what we do, and Orthodoxy.

September Regional Feature: Mid-Atlantic Region

September Regional Feature: Mid-Atlantic Region

Every month, the OCF social media platforms will be featuring one of the nine regions of chapters. September is the month for the Mid-Atlantic Region, which encompasses Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC/Baltimore, Delaware, Virginia, and Eastern Ohio.

On the blog, I’ll be asking the Regional Student Leader–for Mid-Atlantic, the lovely Rachel Howanetz–for a few names of people in their region who are absolutely rockin’ it. It’s an opportunity for every region to showcase and share that which makes them unique and awesome, and hopefully all the regions can learn from and grow with each other.

So, without further ado, your Mid-Atlantic All-Stars!

Nicole Mansour — District Leader, DC/Baltimore


My name is Nicole Mansour, and I’m a junior at Georgetown University, majoring in Global Health and minoring in Economics. One fun fact is that I am the Interfaith Coordinator for Georgetown’s OCF, and the most important part of my position is to organize weekly Interfaith Sandwich-Making events, during which students from all faith groups come together, assemble about 100 sandwiches, and donate them to the nearest homeless shelter. It’s a great way to facilitate interfaith dialogue and service!

How did you get involved in OCF?

How did I get involved? I honestly don’t know where to begin. I could say college, or high school, or even middle school. I was known as “The Dictator” because I was the teen group Consul for so long…I promise that I was voted into the position every year. The community of Orthodox Christians has always been so valuable to me, both spiritually and emotionally, so when I came to college, it was one of the first things for which I looked. In a place so different from my hometown, I could still feel at home.  I am a very active member of Georgetown’s OCF, and when I was told that I could get even more involved through the District Leader position, I felt that it was only natural to apply. And now I have the most wonderful opportunity to serve as the District Leader for the Washington D.C. to Baltimore area.

So you’ve had a lot of OCF experience–what’s one of your favorite memories?

Last year, our Georgetown OCF actually had the opportunity to travel to Boston to visit Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology for the weekend. The retreat was so refreshing, filled with theological discussions and tours of the majestic city. While retreats are typically hard to schedule (and harder to plan), the impact on each one of us (especially me) was not only enormous, but uplifting as well. It reminded me of the breadth and depth associated with Orthodoxy, and how the support network of Orthodox Christians expands far beyond the gates of Georgetown or any campus OCF. (sorry if that was too preachy…)

It wasn’t–I was a big fan. So, any advice you could give to District Leaders across the nation?

Advice? To be honest, I can typically use more advice than I can give. Perhaps I can share some of my goals with the hope that other District Leaders share similar goals. Firstly, as a District Leader, I want to be a support system for thriving, struggling, and potential OCF chapters. Secondly, I hope that our district retreats will be both spiritually enriching as well as applicable to our college lives. Thirdly, I wish to be a good representative through my actions as a person of the Faith and in leadership to non-Orthodox Christians, so that they might better understand what Orthodoxy is.

Stephen Yamalis — Chapter President, Pitt/CMU Chapter

Hi! My name is Stephen Yamalis and I am a Junior Information Systems major at Carnegie Mellon University. Some fun facts about me are that I’m an avid SnapChat user and in 2013 Selena Gomez posted pictures on her Instagram account that I am in.

Pics or it didn’t happen.


Respect. Alright, the Pitt/CMU chapter is notoriously dope. What are you guys doing that you’d like to share with us?

Our chapter does so many fun things that have almost become little traditions of ours that to us I believe is a staple of OCF.  One of those is Bible Olympics, led by our very own, Stephanie McFarland. For one of our meetings we get together, split into teams, and have to complete different activities like putting a list of Books in the proper order or matching Feast Days with the correct date. It gets a bit competitive for a change and is a big hit! Another cool meeting we’ve done was an open discussion, lead by our treasurer, Abay Tadesse, to talk about anything on anyone’s minds, and it really encouraged some deeper topics and great opportunities to learn about and from each other.

Something very important to our chapter that is new this year is that we wanted to make sure we are creating more opportunities to get together as a group and have a social chair, Nicole Yanouzas, who has organized all sorts of awesome things like late-night pizza outings and a Pirates game.

Something fun we have planned for October, which is Orthodox Awareness Month, is that we will be doing a “Church Tour” on Sundays. We are blessed to be located in Pittsburgh where we are surrounded by so many beautiful and welcoming Orthodox parishes. Therefore, we will, as a group, be visiting a different parish each Sunday. We are very excited for that!

Okay, what’s the BEST thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve had the opportunity to do so many amazing things with the Pitt/CMU OCF, from College Conference to the awesome meetings and social events we’ve gotten to do.  However, something that sticks out is something much simpler. Last year as an OCF chapter we read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and each week at the beginning of the meeting would discuss little chunks of the book.

One of my Sunday School teachers, Mr. Brian Elderkin is a big fan of C.S. Lewis and graciously offered to come discuss the book and other related topics at one of our meetings. We usually end our meetings with half of the Small Compline service, so we went into the church after a great discussion and the lights were off. I know where the light switch was so I really couldn’t tell you why I didn’t just turn the lights on, but our OCF Secretary, and now your very own Media Student Leader, Dan Bein came up to me with candles and said, “Hey, why don’t we try a candlelight service?” And that’s just what we did. We got in a semicircle around the altar, each holding candles and standing close together to share the books.  It was a simple thing, but it was very special and really captured the tight bond of our chapter, despite being a relatively large one. Of course, the opportunity could not be missed for #ocfIsLit posts to accompany pictures on social media. Very good times!

What about your advice for a Chapter President?

The advice I’d give to anyone else in a chapter president or officer role within OCF in general would be definitely to work as a team and don’t expect to do it all alone.  It’s definitely a group effort and I absolutely could not pull it off without the hard work and dedication of our executive board team, as well as all of our members who come to our meetings and make it all worth it.

The biggest piece of advice I have is also to take advantage of the opportunities to connect as a group. We are all going through similar stressful situations, pursuing further education, and OCF is truly an important source support to grow together.  Therefore, creating opportunities for us to all bond and create long-lasting relationships is essential as we strive to grow in Christ. It’s the little things and the extra social events that have helped make these friends dome of the closest friends I’ve ever had in just 2 years at school.

Tim Daly — Chapter President, Penn State

Hi! My name is Tim Daly and I’m the president of the Penn State OCF. I’m a senior getting a Management B.S. (Human Capital concentration), a Labor & Employment Relations B.A. (Human Resources concentration), a minor in The Legal Environment of Business, and a M.S. in Human Resources and Employment Relations. I’m from Lancaster, PA and am a huge sports fan.

Alright, how did you get involved with the OCF?tim-daly

Growing up, I attended the Annunciation Lancaster Greek Orthodox Church, went to Camp Nazareth every year, and am an alumnus of CrossRoad. Coming to college, I knew I wanted to join OCF as soon as I could and got in touch with them the first week of school when I went to Liturgy. Since then, OCF has been my second family. In addition to being President, I have also served as Treasurer and Vice President for our OCF.

Coolest thing you’ve ever done with the OCF? Tell us a good story!

This one is tough. Our OCF has an annual fall cabin trip and an annual spring beach house service trip that are my favorite parts of each semester, but I want to talk about Pascha last spring because I think some of you might want to steal this idea. Normally, our parish eats in the church hall after the midnight Pascha service and our OCF maybe has 4-5 students who stick around in that crowded room and eat some cold food together. Last year we made that different.

We somehow discovered and excavated a mini OCF grill that no one had ever seen before from the church shed and got an idea. Mike Mavrides, my VP and best friend, went with me to Walmart the day before Easter to spend an immoderate amount of money on meats and cheeses. We spread the word and got people to chip in a couple dollars each for our Pascha feast.

After the midnight service on Pascha, Mike and I fired up the grill and went to work. I’ll never forget that meal. While the rest of the parish was inside eating, we were outside on the porch of Trinity House, the building next door that the church had purchased, grilling and jamming out to Greek music and hanging out.

We had the most magnificent arrangement of artery-destroying food you could ever see. Burgers, sausages, ribs, bacon, burgers wrapped in bacon, sausage wrapped in bacon, bacon wrapped in bacon, along with drinks and other food that other OCF members brought with them.

Many of our OCF members went home for Easter, but we had about 20 who showed up that night and had a great time. I was most happy to see them having so much fun.

Unfortunately, Mike and I also had cleanup duty. We spent hours trying to clean out the grill and I had grease in my fingers for weeks. Despite this, I think it went really well and will be an OCF signature event for years to come. I’d suggest your OCFs try to provide similar events for members who stick around on campus during Pascha. It’ll be tons of fun, and who knows, you might just learn the legend of Snowball the Lamb.

And your advice for Chapter Presidents?

Be organized and surround yourself with the right people! It’s one thing to have elections be a popularity contest. It brings your OCF to a different level to have real leaders on that executive board who will make an impact. Combine that with excellent organization and communication and your OCF will provide the best experience possible for its members. But it really does take a team. There’s no way I would be able to execute the eight projects outlined in our 2016-17 OCF strategic plan the way my team of four has thus far. And if you need any tips, contact your District Student Leader or feel free to reach out to me and I’d love to help.

Register for the FREE Mid-Atlantic Regional Retreat!

“Mystical Beauty: Exploring the Liturgical Arts & How They Point Us Toward Heaven”

Oct. 7 – Oct. 8