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ATTRACTING OUR YOUNG TO HELLENIC CULTURE AND HERITAGE

by Professors, Michael C. Geokas and A. T. Papathanasis

 

Many believe, that the Greek-American Community has "lost most of its young" due to intermarriage and the modernizing and homogenizing imperative of our ultramodern society. Others remind us, that many of the young in Greece, have been lost as well (Dehellenized) because of the same forces. This is a matter of concern to most ethnic minorities in America, especially those who are interested in maintaining their Culture and Heritage.

On November 16,1998 an article appeared in New York Times entitled: "To Bind the Faith, Free Trips to Israel for Diaspora Youth." Thus, Jewish organizations are planning to finance a trip to Israel for any Jew aged 15 to 26 for 10 days. This program (named "Birthright Israel") will cost $300 million over five years and will be financed by the Israeli Government, a group of major Jewish donors and the Council of Jewish Federations. The assumption is that even a brief period spent in Israel, can form an attachment to Judaism. However, the issue of the Greek-American youths is somewhat different from that of the Jewish youths. This analysis will discuss certain issues, concerning the Greek-American young of today.

WHAT MAKES THE YOUNG TIC? The young of the second and third generations, born into Greek-American Families (mainly the High School Seniors and College Freshmen), are driven by forces of the highly competitive and demanding American Society. Similar to the young everywhere, they wish, and rightly so, to have everything and to have it now, or as soon as possible. This generation has been shaped by prevailing values of the Second Demographic Transition in the Western World, with strong emphasis away from traditions and altruism and sharply towards progressiveness and self-fulfillment.

Philosophically, progressiveness means a tendency to vigorously embrace the new, to look critically at the present, and to largely ignore the past. The young pursue their education and establish their priorities, mainly as a tool for professional success and upward mobility in the social ladder. With the advent of computers

the sky seems to be the limit for their dreams. Most of them, after High School and College studies, pursue professional education such as Law, Business, Engineering, Medicine, Dentistry and other professions. We should keep in mind that most of today's young, value independence very much and work through school, with or without assistance from parents.

The competition for entering distinguished professional schools in America, is very strong and success depends on: the reputation of the College they have attended, their scholastic achievement (Great Point Average [GPA] scores and scores on Qualifying Examinations),on a successful personal interview, and on strong recommendation letters

Family support is important during the College years because, if the student has to work more than 20 hours per week, might finish College, but with a low GPA, which makes entry into a good Professional or Graduate School problematic.

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