Strength and Inspiration

Self-motivation, community and belief in a higher power sustain history pedagogy major Nektaria Anagnostou

In her element: Nektaria Anagnostou finds the nature surrounding the Cal Lutheran campus motivates her to achieve her goals. In this photo, she stands in front of the Reagan Ranch House, where she completed her internship.

Photo: Nektaria Anagnostou

Senior Nektaria Anagnostou completed an internship at the Reagan Ranch and the Reagan Ranch Center last summer. She describes her work as affording her with multiple opportunities through the ranch’s and center’s proprietor Young America’s Foundation (YAF). 

“At our high school conference in June, I introduced speakers including the past president of Mongolia to our conference stage and aided YAF in all things program development as we were treated and assigned tasks as full-time staff,” she said. 

Other work she performed through her internship included attending YAF’s 45th National Conservative Student Conference in Washington, D.C., where she introduced twelve-time All-American swimmer and women's sports activist Riley Gaines to an audience of more than 600 other college students. Anagnostou also appeared at the first Republican Presidential Debate in Milwaukee working at the YAF Block Party. 

In September, Anagnostou volunteered at the second Republican Presidential Debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library near the California Lutheran University campus. There, she met the debate moderators, took notes in the media room and staffed the spin-room, where all candidates talked with media outlets post-debate.   

Community and faith 

Anagnostou expresses her appreciation to YAF for learning about an interesting period in America that happened before her birth. “Although I met many political figures, the best part about this internship was giving tours of Ronald Reagan’s ranch, named Rancho del Cielo, and leading gallery tours at the Center to the public on a weekly basis,” she said. She feels grateful to share an “important piece of our history” with her peers and others who visited the gallery in downtown Santa Barbara.

Not surprisingly, her internship relates to her major, history pedagogy, a subject that gained her interest during her second year at Cal Lutheran. 

“What first drew me to studying history was my upper division religion course I took in the fall of my sophomore year titled the American Religious Experience,” said Anagnostou. “After completing the course, I acquired a knowledge of different cultures and ideologies that I was not familiar with before. I knew the only way that I could further develop my love for societies and cultures would be to immerse myself in an environment where I would be exposed to something new every day.”

During her time on campus, Anagnostou has gained novel insights and knowledge about her major and minor, political science. Through her involvement on the Women’s Swimming and Diving team and other clubs, she has also discovered new facets about herself.

“Being at an academic institution like Cal Lutheran, allows one to grow in all sorts of directions at the same time. The person I was in fall 2020 is distinctly different from who I am today,” she said. She discusses how self-motivation has benefited her in her studies and extracurricular activities noting, “There have been multiple times where I could have only given fifty percent to a task, but my respect for myself and love for community are what kept me going.”

This community she mentions consists of a constellation of faculty, staff and fellow students who have nurtured her love of education. “All of the professors are very knowledgeable and genuinely care about the success of their students. History professors’ uniquely decorated offices are full of history in themselves and are open on a daily basis for office hours or to discuss anything students are struggling with,” said Anagnostou. 

Others she acknowledges for her motivation and accomplishments are those who work in Cal Lutheran’s Athletic Department. 

“Outside of the classroom, I can also attribute my success in multiple different areas to the kindness and care that my swim coaches, the weight and strength coach and the athletic trainers have shown to me and all athletes at CLU,” she said.

In addition to the guidance she receives from the campus community, Anagnostou reveals that religion holds a pivotal role in her life, helping her to cope with challenges related to excessive and unjust criticism from peers. “I always do my best to treat individuals of all identities with kindness, yet multiple students stereotyped and painted me as a person I could not be more unalike from.”

Anagnostou mentions some students harassed and spread falsehoods about her on social media, but she did not allow those trying to tarnish her reputation to distract from her good work and accomplishments.

“I chose to overcome this time by forgiving those who had thrown harm at me. I also turned to Scripture where I found the words and promises of the New Testament to strengthen me and let me know that I am not alone.”  Anagnostou references John 15:19-21 and Matthew 5:10-12 among many other Scriptural readings that give her comfort. 

“It was in those times of hardships that I have been able to turn to God as I also developed my faith immensely while at Cal Lutheran,” she said. During her freshman year, Anagnostou attended Delight Ministry meetings where she studied the Book of Acts among other women attending Cal Lutheran. She credits this as being one of the first steps in developing the faith that sustains her. 

“Most Sundays you can find me at a Greek Orthodox Church, where I often invite my classmates and teammates to visit.”

Building fortitude through civic engagement 

Since arriving to live and study on campus four years ago from her hometown of Downey, Calif., Anagnostou has participated across the spectrum of academic and extracurricular opportunities available to students. “I fully immersed myself in the community,” she said. 

This immersion refers to her service as a resident assistant in her sophomore year in a first-year dorm and work as a photography editor for The Echo for three semesters, which included “attending sports games and campus events with reporters, acting as mentor to them in both their writing, interviewing, and of course, photography skills.”

Clubs she leads include Cal Lutheran’s College Republicans Chapter, Line Dance Club and History Club, where she respectively serves as co-president, president and treasurer. Both the National History Honors Society, Phi Alpha Theta, and the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, where she represents Women’s Swimming and Diving, count her as a member. Her involvement in these pursuits led her to be nominated for the “Spirit of Gumby Award” and the “Rising Leader Award” last spring. 

Anagnostou played a key role in reviving the Scandinavian American Cultural & Historical Foundation’s Santa Lucia Celebration of Lights, which had been absent from Cal Lutheran for a few years. Amidst studying for finals in December, she dedicated many hours to prepare for the ceremony.

“Though research deadlines were soon approaching, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to take part in both a culturally and religiously significant event.” 

Anagnostou portrayed St. Lucia of Syracuse in a first-person narration she wrote herself, performing it in front of all attendees. Her narrative gave a detailed account of the late third-century saint’s martyrdom where she highlighted St. Lucia’s refusal to go through an arranged marriage with a pagan man and her steadfast refusal to renounce her Christian faith despite threats of torture.

“Wearing a heavy wreath crown with bright electric candles on top of my head was the most unique and rewarding experience I had at CLU,” she said. “Bearing the weight of the crown humbly reminded me of the hardships of early Christian martyrs. I was so honored to share this strong young woman’s story to the CLU community.”  

Her recognition for her involvement and participation in campus-related interests has resulted in a sense of physical and mental tenacity. “Through all of these activities, I have learned to have strength and confidence when faced with opposition and challenges,” said Anagnostou. 

Moving forward

Anagnostou chose to attend Cal Lutheran as she saw the university placing her on a direct path to individual and career success. “Two aspects really stood out to me and ultimately led me to enroll at Cal Lutheran: One is the small class size environment, allowing for more personalized instruction,” she said. “The other is the vast amount of nature that surrounds campus.”

This setting encourages Anagnostou to pursue her academic endeavors and professional goals. “When I need a break from my coursework, walking up the hills to become exponentially surrounded by nature with every step brings me peace, strength and love, allowing me to be motivated to move forward in my life. Also, watching the sunrise over the Samuelson Aquatic Center makes 5 a.m. morning practices much more enjoyable.”

When she graduates from Cal Lutheran in May, Anagnostou plans to attain a teaching credential to fulfill her dream of teaching social sciences to high school students. She wants to remain in the region and eventually earn master’s degrees.

“My whole life, I have been a SoCal resident and always thought about moving out of the state for various reasons,” she said. “But, through my California history course, and living this past summer in Santa Barbara, I felt such a connection to the Golden State because of its vast history, specifically the Ventura and Santa Barbara County areas.”

As displayed, Anagnostou’s ties to people and places have driven her to achieve, and she aspires to galvanize others to do the same.

“I hope that I can inspire my fellow Kingsmen and Regals to take advantage of all of the great experiences that Cal Lutheran has to offer and become a leader in their community, especially when encountering adversity.”


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