Christina Florakis ’19 has been named the recipient of this year’s Levitt Center Post-Graduate Social Innovation Fellowship. Next year, Florakis will travel to Chios, Greece, to work on improving communication between Greek citizens and refugees. She is majoring in cognitive science, an interdisciplinary concentration of her own design that mainly combines elements of sociology and psychology.
With the funding, Florakis will create Bridges to the Future, an intervention program based on her thesis which researched intra-group dynamics and the promotion of intercultural understanding.
Major: Interdisciplinary studies
Hometown: New Rochelle, N.Y.
High school: New Rochelle High School
Her efforts will create the first program on the island that will bring Greek and refugee youth together in equal status to have group discussion and participate in community service activities. If the program proves to increase common group identity and integration efforts as well as decrease prejudice, METAdrasi, a Greek NGO, will likely continue the program. Florakis also has a personal connection with this opportunity, as her paternal grandmother was a refugee from the island of Chios.
“To me, social innovation is honestly striving to create positive, sustainable social change in a way that is creative and collaborative,” Florakis said. She described the work she plans to do in Greece as “a good first step in creating a social impact that will allow refugees the humanity they deserve.”
Florakis has long been interested in serving others and bettering her community, beginning in high school where she acted as a peer mentor and tutor. At Hamilton, she completed the Levitt Leadership Institute her first year and subsequently participated in the Levitt Center’s Social Innovation Fellows her sophomore year.
She also co-founded with Lilly Pieper ’18 the Shenandoah-Kirkland Initiative, a student organization that seeks to spread awareness of the fact that Hamilton College was originally founded for American Indians and settlers to learn together. The student organization also connects with the neighboring Oneida Nation and other American Indians.
Florakis said her participation in Hamilton's Adirondack Program her sophomore year was one of her most pivotal experiences. “The semester’s experience changed my inner being to believe that I can and should do what I am passionate about while basing my life in community with others,” she said.
“I hate to do anything if I don’t think it’s going to do good or contribute in a meaningful way,” Florakis said. “I want to do this work because it makes me feel useful—it’s tied with a sense of belonging and purpose.”