ACS Athens recently hosted the Ideagen Global Summit, where cutting-edge thinkers, entrepreneurs, and experts came together from all parts of the world and various industries to discuss what is needed to shape success in the future - particularly from the perspective of sustainability. Throughout the Summit, panel discussions featured conversations addressing progress and trends enabling the attainment of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The Agility 21 panel, moderated by journalist Yanna Darili, focused on developing agility and the mindset of the future - specifically, the need to be able to adapt, navigate and often initiate change. ACS Athens President Dr. Peggy Pelonis, as well as ACS Athens alumni and leaders in their respective fields, Katerina Stathopoulou and Leo Charitos, were among the six panelists that discussed the topic.
In this three-part series, we will discuss the insights shared by the panelists with the strongest ACS Athens connections - Dr. Pelonis, Katerina Stathopoulou, and Leo Chartios.
In fact, Dr. Pelonis was invited to expand on the conversation as a featured speaker during the upcoming Ideagen 2022 Global Goals Summit at the United Nations on October 27th, which alumni are invited to attend by registering HERE.
ACS Athens as A Microcosm of Educational Potential
After a brief introduction, Dr. Pelonis opened the panel discussion, which was fitting since education and childhood development plays an important role in teaching soft skills like resilience.
“It is a great honor and great responsibility to be leading an institution that has the American philosophy of education and curriculum but is also situated in Athens, Greece, and hosting more than 60 nationalities. It is really a microcosm of the global world,” she explained. “With kids coming to learn, communicate and collaborate with one another, this becomes an educational laboratory for what could happen outside in the world eventually.”
Dr. Pelonis turned to the ancient Greeks about how to best empower young people to navigate the changing world - namely through a holistic education, and what we have learned from Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.
Holistic education = Mind + Body + Soul
Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Pelonis underscored the reality that change is a constant, and this reality is further amplified by various technologies and innovations.
Global competition in the economy, in turn, requires high levels of expertise earlier, which requires young people to know themselves better - both so they can choose the best educational and professional path. Knowing one’s self, one’s values, and capabilities is also critically important in building and developing an ethical filter to help guide one’s personal and professional life.
“This means that we have to train young people at a higher level of mental complexity earlier and younger, and, of course, this places a lot of psychological stress on students, “ Dr. Pelonis explained. “We want to be able to teach them not only to respond and cope with change, navigate change and to shape and initiate change - so they don't become victims of change.”
In addition to academic fundamentals, Dr. Pelonis pointed to the study of the Classics, music and art as pivotal tools to empower critical thinking, information-synthesis and decision-making - particularly through an ethical lens to improve life and living on the planet as conscious global citizens.
“When we talk about educating kids holistically, yes, we talk about providing the skills and knowledge so that they can succeed in a very competitive world but we are also talking about creating conscious responsible citizens - people that will take that knowledge and skill and turn it into action in the world,” she underscored.
Compassion + Psychological muscle = Improving life and living on the planet
Teachers are at the heart of this transformation journey because they teach young people how to think. That is why ACS Athens empowers teachers to be lifelong learners, so that they - much like students - can be ahead of change to shape it proactively instead of responding reactively.
Preparing Students to Succeed
In today’s world, preparing students to succeed on tests and for entrance exams is only one part of an optimally designed education. Even more important than the knowledge they will take into college classes is the moral compass they have carefully honed to guide them when they are standing on their own two feet without being immediately surrounded by family, teachers and friends.
“The result of education is not necessarily immediate,” noted Dr. Pelonis. “The real result of education show when people go out into the world and live their lives and make the choices in terms of how they will live their lives, how they will impact the world , what kind of choices they will make that will make a difference in a positive way and how they will think about improving their lives, somebody else's life and life on the planet.”
In addition to the unique approach that ACS Athens faculty use to elevate the holistic educational journey for students, the school also utilizes partnerships and collaborations with organizations, universities and corporations.
“Partnerships are very important so that we are informed as educators about what is going on in the world out there and what kind of skills are necessary in order for young people to succeed, what they [employers] are looking for when they hire people in their respective areas. In addition to that, we also are informing the different sectors about what we are doing in education to prepare young people.”
By nurturing connections - among students, with faculty, with the community, alumni and with partners, ACS Athens is laying important groundwork to help students build resilience and helping them approach their future with a mindset capable and prepared to navigate and harness change in positive and innovative ways.
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