NUGAS representatives visited 14 Greek schools across Melbourne in 14 days to speak to VCE and other high school classes, including those of the GCMV, Omiros, Nestoras, St Raphael, St Andrews St Anargiri, and St Nicholas.
Over 140 year 12 students received a NUGAS gift bag with a stress ball, NUGAS magazine, a CD of popular Greek songs, and information on how to continue their Greek language education providing options both locally and remotely.
“The purpose of these visits was to encourage students to maintain their Greek identity through [continuing] their language studies at a tertiary level, as it helps maintaining a central part of the core culture among members of the Greek community,” said Jordan Moschovitis, NUGAS’ education officer.
“We spoke about the opportunities and benefits of joining an organisation like NUGAS, socially as well as professionally, plus the networking opportunities, the connection with the culture and maintaining a friendship group that is solely Greek reminding yourself that you don’t need to hide this aspect of [your] identity.”
Mr Moschovitis also explained that one of NUGAS’ primary aims is to bridge the gap between university and high school.
“VCE students are often 16 or 17 years old so they usually have a year where they are completely disconnected from the language if they don’t speak it at home, focusing on their school studies.”
“When they eventually come to university many have not been regularly exposed to Greek culture and are experiencing an overall disconnect,” the education officer added, pointing out that “Students will find a friendship or study groups during their first months at uni and if there isn’t a Greek group there, they may not become involved in activities that relate to their Hellenic background.”
Moreover, Mr Moschovitis stressed that there still is a certain stigma amongst final year high school students about taking Greek language classes, as for a large number of teenagers the decision is a result of pressure from the parents or grandparents.
“I know anecdotally from speaking to students in schools that many of their siblings are dropping out of Greek language classes at a younger age; most students don’t continue past year 11 as they are not aware of how Greek can be useful outside of home; past school.”
With language being a major co-component of the Greek identity in Australia, aside from music and dance, the community members that don’t speak Greek experience a certain sense of exclusion and are not as invested as they can not entirely relate to their cultural background.
“The understanding of the language is important and actually becomes an incentive for young second and third generation Greeks to want to be involved in the community,” Mr Moschovitis said.
Study tours in Greece in partnership with La Trobe and Flinders University is one of the incentives NUGAS provides for those that become part of its extended family.
“Informing year 12 students about the option of studying in Greece we saw that they were very motivated and excited [that] such an opportunity is actually available. Many of them were also fascinated [about] studying Greek alongside their main degree as a minor, even cross-institutionally.”
“These kinds of activities, the events and Greek study programs that we run create enthusiasm to the students and help to maintain their interest in the Greek language and identity,” Mr Moschovitis concluded. The NUGAS education officer overlooks the activities of the organisation that relate to Greek Language and Greek studies programs, organisations and Hellenic communities in Victoria.