THI Gave Jennifer Poulakidas an Opportunity to Give and a Chance to Receive
December 10, 2019
Jennifer Poulakidas got to know THI through friends. She enjoyed attending the annual Gala in New York, gradually learning about and coming to appreciate that “it is a wonderfully unique organization focused on our country of origin and its current significant problems, and the groups THI supports are about turning those problems around and turning things positive in a climate where that is not easy.”
She enjoys reading THI’s newsletter. “It helps me get a sense of what the new and more established programs are doing, how they are evolving, improving, and growing.”
Jennifer loves that through THI people in the Diaspora are also able to contribute to building a New Greece through activities like mentoring young entrepreneurs.
“Traditionally, Diaspora Greeks have sent funds back to their families and helped the economy though their visits, but THI provides an opportunity to pool resources in a significant way, by helping organizations that are set up to help the country get through the crisis.”
Her mother’s family is from the island of Andros and Asia Minor and her father’s father was a priest born in village of Hora in Messenia who moved to the United States. He began the family tradition of ‘giving back’ by helping fund the construction of a church in Hora.
Jennifer was born and raised in San Francisco, where the love for Hellenism and Greece was inculcated in them at home and in school. She and her younger brother and sister all attended the parochial school of the Church of the Holy Trinity, which was the only Greek Day School west of the Mississippi until it closed.
“Monday through Sunday we were at Holy Trinity or Annunciation Cathedral, the other San Francisco church, in school, dance classes, or GOYA. We did everything.”
Jennifer’s parents took the public service rather than the entrepreneurial route of most Greek-Americans. They were both lifetime civil servants – her mother a school teacher and her father a civil engineer who designed bridges for the U.S. forest service, reinforcing her ‘giving back’ philosophy.
She moved to Washington DC in the 90s “to get a taste of working in the nation’s capital, working on Capitol Hill for a then-junior but significant member of Congress…Nancy Pelosi. I was a legislative assistant and I also helped with issues of importance to the Greek-American community of San Francisco.
She is now running the Government and Community Relations office at her alma mater of UCLA, reflecting her dedication to the mission of maintaining the affordability of quality public education for American families.
In addition to being a vehicle for her desire to help the people of Greece, THI was also the source of a wonderful personal experience.
“A few years ago I wanted to celebrate my birthday by doing something different and also meaningful. I reached out to Peter Poulos at THI and asked “are any of the THI organizations willing to take a volunteer for 10 days? He put me in touch with METAdrasi and I went and worked at the house on the island of Lesbos for unaccompanied minors among refugees and migrants.”
It was a great experience for Jennifer. She notes that, “10 days is not a long time, but it was an opportunity to better understand the truly dire situation of the migrants and the local community that was absorbing so many of them. I am grateful to THI and METAdrasi for that opportunity.”