Meet the Greek-American Educator Helping Kids to Thrive

Helen Siani-Athanasiou

Helen Siani-Athanasiou is a woman on a mission. As thousands of young people in Greece and the U.S. feel the onerous pressure of exams and study, each step potentially deciding their future career and livelihood, many lack a guiding hand to help them navigate this challenging time.

Siani-Athanasiou, born into a Greek family in Chicago, knew from an early age that she wanted to work in education. After 18 years of working in the U.S. and Greece, she began to see what she calls “the needs of students through two different lenses; the international and the state side”.

Speaking to Greek Reporter, she explains how her mentoring company — Know Thrive, its name taken from the Greek word ‘eudaimonia’ — began to offer coaching and guidance services to under-pressure students:

“The students in the United States are currently dealing with high levels of competition, anxiety and at times depression in addition to economic struggles. Building a profile that will help them stand out on college applications is extremely costly and stressful for most families.

“International students on the other hand, more specifically Greek students, are seeking opportunities for education in a country where dreams have come to a halt because of a failed economy and lack of structure in preparing students for the skills they will need beyond school.

“The search for alternative options besides what the Greek public educational system has grown significantly and there is a need for meaningful guidance.”

Helping hand

Living in the U.S. with her husband and two young sons since 2015, Siani-Athanasiou’s company assists students in drafting college-entry essays and well as creating tailor-made action plans to help them manage their time efficiently and get into the best Universities.

With additional services on time management, English, finding scholarships and funding gap years, Know Thrive has developed a range of educational life skills for students.

“It is essential for students to understand and monitor the various components of the application process,” Siani-Athanasiou says, adding: “This can be very challenging to navigate oneself through.

“Families are relieved knowing there is someone there to guide them through what has become an extremely difficult task.”

Technology and modern living have also changed the way young people are now required to study. “Students are under such pressure, that by the time the reach the ‘finish line’ at high school graduation, they have already exhausted their physical and mental limitations,” Siani-Athanasiou says.

“Schools do not have the time or budgets to assist students in finding the best fit for his/her individual needs, and as a result, students lack vision of the bigger picture moving forward.”

Know Thrive offers students personalized services, sometimes directly and sometimes remotely. Working with close colleague Debbie di Verde, Siani-Athanasiou’s company is in a market where, in Greece, it was revealed this month that anxious families are shelling out €3 billion ($3.4 billion) a year in private tuition.

Having worked as an educator in Greece, Siani-Athanasiou says: “We are preparing students for skills and jobs that may not even currently exist regardless of location. We are resourceful, yet utterly lost at times.

“The competition and cost of preparing our children for success and happiness can be an unbearable feat as well as the insecurities of unstable governments and economies that have created a new stress factor for families.”

“If there is something that the Greek system could learn from a service like my own is that cultivating the minds of youth whilst guiding them through academics, physical and mental changes is a responsibility that is delicate and necessary to be treated with care.

“Changes in government should not interfere with keeping stability and growth in education from residing at the highest point on the totem pole of a nation’s priorities.”