Inaugural Young Professionals Conference Encourages and Inspires
On August 14–17, 2014, the NAC Fellowship of St. John the Divine hosted the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference in San Diego, CA. This conference, the culmination of a year-long effort, was the first of its kind for any Orthodox jurisdiction.
Co-Chaired by Kyra Pelachik and Fadi George Madanat, the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference brought together 125 Orthodox young adults representing every major metropolitan area in the United States, as well as Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ontario, Canada. The conference gave attendees an opportunity to network, listen to prominent speakers, engage in very meaningful and practical discussions about their faith, and learn about the interdependence between their personal lives and the life of the Church.
His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph, in special attendance at the conference, shared his vision for Orthodoxy in North America. He also discussed the vital role that young adults play in the Archdiocese, and offered a unique, open forum Q & A session, allowing attendees to ask a wide range of questions pertaining to their faith, the life of the Church, and the Metropolitan's role within it.
The Fellowship of St. John the Divine also welcomed Mr. Paul Karos (Keynote Speaker) and Mr. Charles Ajalat (Workshop Speaker) to the conference. Mr. Karos, a world-renowned stock analyst and money manager that achieved remarkable success on Wall Street despite total blindness, gave two very inspiring presentations on life-building from an Orthodox Christian perspective. Mr. Ajalat, a prominent tax attorney, former Chancellor of the Antiochian Archdiocese, and founder of FOCUS North America, presented on philanthropy, social action, and activism. Both Mr. Karos and Mr. Ajalat challenged attendees to reflect on their own personal lives, assess how much of an emphasis (or lack thereof) is placed on church and spiritual growth, and devise a plan for self and community improvement.
In so much as the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference was spiritually stimulating, it was very entertaining. Social events were hosted each
evening, giving attendees ample opportunity to network and relationship-build. The evening events were held at some of San Diego's most exciting venues, including the Ultimate Skybox (a 15th floor private lounge in the heart of downtown, offering panoramic city and ocean views), a harbor dinner and dance cruise that sailed around downtown San Diego and Coronado Island, and a dinner and dance banquet at the Westin Hotel located in San Diego's historic and vibrant Gaslamp Quarter.
When asked about the success of this year's conference, Ms. Pelachik stated "a post-conference survey revealed that 50% of attendees either never or very rarely participated in church-related events prior to the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference...the fact that we were able to motivate so many young men and women to attend this conference is very telling." Mr. Madanat added "we now have very valuable data pertaining to the void that exists in services to the Archdiocese's young adult population, and the NAC Fellowship officers can use this data to implement a plan that continues to encourage young adult participation within the Church."
The following attendee comments were taken directly from post-conference survey responses:
- "I used to attend conferences when I was younger, but I haven't had the interest recently...attending this conference has made me want become more engaged..."
- "I was telling my friends that couldn't make it to the conference, that if you isolate just one of the events (speaker sessions, the nights out, hearing the Metropolitan, etc.), each one would have been worth every penny. However, everything combined Thursday to Sunday made the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference priceless...I am blessed to have been part of the first of God willing many Orthodox Young Professionals Conferences."
- "This was one of the best, if not the best, conference I have ever attended... So much fun... I actually attended the speaker sessions and enjoyed them, and I met so many wonderful people... It was a novelty for us and I think a huge success!"
- "You could tell that this conference was planned by young professionals, for young professionals."
Clearly, the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference has left a lasting impression on its attendees, and there is little doubt that the remarkable success of the conference will encourage an even greater number of young adult participation at future events. The goal, according to Ms. Pelachik and Mr. Madanat, is for the NAC Fellowship of St. John the Divine to build on the momentum, innovate, and continue implementing services nationally that keep the Archdiocese relevant in the daily lives of its (core) young adult population. Future events are already being planned; "stay tuned" say Ms. Pelachik and Mr. Madanat.
The NAC Fellowship of St. John the Divine would like to give special recognition to those individuals and organizations whose generous support helped bring the Orthodox Young Professionals Conference from vision to reality:
Mr. Jason Amash, and Dr. & Mrs. George Madanat
The Antiochian Orthodox Christian Women of North America
Fellowship of St. John the Divine, Diocese of Wichita and Mid America