Greek-American organization EIMAI – Center for Emerging Young Leaders inspires and empowers youth in Greece.
EIMAI. It’s the Greek word meaning “I am.” This non-profit organization chose the name because they believe that anything you put after the phrase “I am” shapes the quality of our lives and our world. The EIMAI – Center for Emerging Young Leaders aims to “provide experiential leadership development opportunities to youth in Greece and the US, with the goal of empowering 21st century skills, character strengths, values, and actions necessary to cultivate citizen leaders with integrity and purpose.”
We spoke with Co-founder and Executive Director Ellen Froustis about EIMAI.
Maria A. Karamitsos: How did the concept evolve?
Ellen Froustis: I attended a two-day conference at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation on recharging the youth of Greece; many experts from the around the world shared their insight. There I realized that it was time. Born and raised in Chicago, I’d been working as an international school teacher and counselor at an American high school for 13 years, engaging students in civic projects throughout Greece and abroad. I helped develop a Leadership & Ethics course there after co-teaching two leadership summer courses at St. Louis University and University of Richmond VA. I saw tremendous empowerment of youth to reach the next stage of their development. I now also teach psychology at an American university here.
My background in education and clinical psychology along with an American education and work ethic, plus experience living and understanding the problems in Greece. was ideal for this task, From there I gathered a diverse and talented group of successful “leaders” in their field from Greece and the U.S. to create the Executive Board. We established EIMAI in August 2014.
MAK: Tell us about the administrative team.
EF: Our team is made up of a dedicated group of professional, unemployed single Greek American women who believe that EIMAI can contribute to a better future for their children. The educational consultants are innovative teachers and psychologists running programs aimed at developing youth and inspiring other teachers who want to contribute to positive change in their students. All have been working pro-bono for the last two years.
MAK: What is EIMAI?
EF: EIMAI inspires every youth to engage in a journey of personal discovery to become an empowered, inspired, motivated, altruistic, and intellectual citizen leader with integrity and purpose!
MAK: Where is EIMAI based?
EF: EIMAI was founded in Delaware and now represented in Virginia, opened their first office in Greece with the urgency to contribute to the personal and civic education of youth as a response to the ethical, political, environmental and economic crisis that has been escalating in epic proportions—in Greece and throughout the world.
MAK: Why is this initiative important?
EF: Greece has staggering unemployment rates of over 60% for young adults 17-35 (and beyond!), despite the fact that more than 90% of youth are college educated—one of the highest rates in the world. Jump starting the economy in Greece means generating innovative solutions to socioeconomic and political challenges, a global mindset and collective and ethical leadership practices.
We saw that the missing link in the educational system was civic education, social emotional development, job readiness and leadership skills, global thinking, and a lack of opportunity to contribute to change. While young people in other parts of the western world were developing their future, choosing the direction of their education and careers and developing their local economies, most youth in Greece were locked in a downward spiral of hopeless promises in a dysfunctional and asphyxiated bureaucratic system that doesn’t involve the potential of youth as resources for competitive growth and change. Despite the young dynamic human capital here, young people excelling individually in all fields, equal to their global counterparts, with few resources, their efforts are lost and cannot be substantiated to rebuild their country unless an attitude of civic responsibility and ethical and collective leadership prevails. This was the purpose of EIMAI—addressing the long term goal of “teaching a man to fish” to rebuild the future of Greece with 21st century leadership skills and innovation, using accomplished citizen leaders in their field to mentor youth.
MAK: Tell us about some of EIMAI’s programs.
EF: PEACEJAM is an American and International peace education program for schools, universities and community groups. The civic literacy curriculum for schools has been nominated for a Nobel prize 8 times. It’s designed to promote global awareness and inspire civic engagement and citizenship through the lives and accomplishments of the Nobel peace laureates.
THE LOUKOUMI PROGRAM: “Planting the seeds of Good Deeds!” Inspired by a series of books by Greek American author, Nick Katsoris, who founded the Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation in New York. Elementary School students read stories about how the little Greek lamb Loukoumi and her friends use the power of good to make the lives of everyone around them better. Students learn that no matter how big or small, each of us has the ability to make a difference in our communities.
HELLENIC GLOBAL LEADERSHIP SUMMER PROGRAM, a 5-week summer program, runs from June 11-July 17th, 2016. The goal is to bring together Greek-American college youth and youth in Greece to educate for Hellenic values and ideals, engage in the local culture, meet young local entrepreneurs striving for change, develop leadership potential, mentoring and collaborating on a community service project, that this year, addresses the refugee situation. It’s set in 7 diverse locations in Greece — Plaka, Ancient Olympia, Ithaki, Zagori, Meteora, Pelion, Paros–each one with different community strengths, culture and challenges. It’s taught by university professors, accomplished artists and entrepreneurs.
The ASPIRE Career Development Program is aimed at high school and college students and begins with an assessment of character strengths, academic assets, and career interests & suitability and then enables students to search for university higher and advanced degree options and participate in leadership and professional development workshops to strengthen job readiness skills, preparing them to shadow or intern at thriving corporations and non-profits. For every three paid programs, we provide free services to economically challenged youth.
MAK: How do these programs affect the kids?
EF: They empower youth with life changing skills, attitudes, initiatives and the power to change the direction of the future of their country by enabling them to align their personal, professional and civic goals with integrity and purpose for a sustainable future–the values their heritage was founded on!
MAK: How can people support EIMAI?
EF: Donations are most appreciated! Funds have been scarce as most funding has been addressing short-term relief for necessary humanitarian needs. We need funders who believe that the solution to the socioeconomic problems in Greece lies in the development of human capital that can recreate and sustain the future of Greece with ethos.
Donations help fund our programs, as well as provide administrative stipends for unemployed mothers working to support the EIMAI programs. We can always use volunteers to help mentor youth in entrepreneurship in a variety of career fields; mentor community projects; teach in our summer programs; provide student or teacher workshops in their prospective fields; and support grant-writing, marketing, and web development.
To support EIMAI: