Since 2004, the Greek Association for Atlantic and European Cooperation (GAAEC) has been organizing one of the most innovative youth programs, "Kernels of Our Future". This year, under the direction of Dr. Aliki Mitsakos-Georgiou, Responsible for Education and Science within GAAEC, the organization hosted the third edition of this annual summer event for teenagers (aged 15-18), co-financed by the European Union as part of their Youth for Europe/Action 1 program, with the aim to teach them about the international community, conflict management and leadership.
"Kernels" is a unique three-week program, as it not only responds to the growing need of educating the next generation of leaders, but also offers the opportunity of international and intercultural learning and understanding.
This year, the young participants, coming from Hungary, Romania, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Bulgaria, Denmark and the US, had the opportunity to take part in a new program component, "Leadership in Action".
Held in Athens on the 7th of July, “Leadership in Action” allowed the students to meet with leaders of today and discuss political and economic issues with them.
Students had the chance to visit the Parliament of the Hellenic Republic, to experience the daily work of the parliament and to meet with the PM of the New Democracy Party of Arcadia and member of GAAEC, Mr. Andreas Lykourentzou, as well as several young parliamentarians, which resulted in a productive meeting. Participants were able to meet with Dr. Marietta Giannakou, Minister of Education and Religious Affairs, and to ask her questions about the current educational system in Greece, as well as discuss the major problems that the public Greek education system is facing nowadays. In addition, students were received at the Town Hall by the Vice Mayor of Athens, Mrs. Katerina Watsabe.
The highlight of “Leadership in Action” was undoubtedly the special workshop "NATO, European Security and Greece in the 21st Century", held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This workshop included lectures by distinguished professors and experts such as Mrs. Ino Afentouli (Information Officer for Greece, NATO Public Diplomacy Division), Mr. Panayiotis Tsakonas (Aegean University), Mr. Athanasios Dokos (Director of |Studies, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy), Mr. Aristotelis Tziampiris (Lecturer, University of Pireus, Member of Educational Council, Institute of Democracy "K. Karamanlis"), and Mrs. Polina Lampsa (Political Scientist, Secretary of International Relations, PASOK), and was chaired by Mr. Theodossis Georgiou, Chaiman of GAAEC.
Consequently the students were honored to attend and participate in a lively discussion with the Secretary General of NATO, the Honorable Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. The Kernels were enthusiastic about the privilege to share their thoughts, curiosities and doubts with the Secretary General. The Leadership in Action Program offered the students a broader dimension of politics and political-diplomatic life.
During their stay in Athens, the participants attended lectures on Greek Archeology, visited the Acropolis and its museum as well as the Olympic Installations, were treated to a bus tour around the city, and enjoyed traditional Greek food at a Monastiraki restaurant.
After Leadership in Action, the program moved to Chania, Crete. From July 9th till July 23rd this beautiful seaside town provided the ideal backdrop for an international and multicultural event such as Kernels of Our Future. In Chania participants stayed on the campus of the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Chania (MAICh), where most of the activities took place.
Professors included Dr. Fabrizio Luciolli, Secretary General of the Comitato Atlantico, Professor Zehra Odyakmaz from Ankara University, Professor Peter Trummer of the State Institute for Civic Education in Baden-Stuttgart, and Mrs. Jessica Teague, Lecturer at Georgetown University of Washington DC.
The lectures covered a wide range of contemporary issues, including among the others classes on political philosophy, economics, and the role of international institutions and organizations in the contemporary world. The participants had the opportunity to discuss gender and security issues and environmental and human rights challenges, and to find and share common historical heritage. Thus, a variety of topics was addressed, in an international and open atmosphere. In addition to this, the Kernels visited significant Cretan archeological sites such as Heraklion and Knossos.
Apart from the lectures, students had the chance to participate in simulation games, including a simulation on Israel-Lebanon crisis, turning theoretical bases on conflict management into practical use. Athletic championship games and other entertaining events, such as the country presentation night, were organized in order for the participants to get to know each other.
At the end of the program all participants took a final examination and were awarded with certificates during a grand graduation ceremony. After three weeks they left for their home countries enriched, not just by the knowledge and skills acquired but also by the intercultural experience, proud of their achievements and of their contribution to this unique international phenomenon of leadership education.