Kiko Demetriou is a fourth-year Philosophy major and Sociology minor planning to attend law school in the fall. On Grounds, Kiko is a director for the Blueprint Leadership Program. Blueprint aims to develop students' leadership skills by providing the resources for students to create a change in their community. Each year, students in Blueprint embark on a project to solve a problem ranging from small procedural adjustments to large structural change. Kiko is also involved off Grounds as the head instructor for an educational nonprofit start-up called Richmond Debate Institute.
What led you to your service work?
I realized that resources are not just large institutional structures, like CAPS or the Career Center, rather resources are all around us. The friends around us are resources, our professors are resources, our school is a resource. I committed myself to service work, because I wanted to help people understand that the resources available to them are not just to use when they need them. Inversely, whatever they need, there is a resource for. This then reframes the picture: it is not, "What resources does this University give me?" but rather, "What resources can I get from this University?" This scope empowers initiative and motivates people to manifest the change they want in their life.
What has been the most rewarding aspect that comes with your community involvements?
The most rewarding aspect of my community involvements is seeing my students or participants gain a sense of vision. When Blueprint participants begin the program, they know they want to fix a certain issue, but they don't know how to solve it. My debate students want to learn about a certain subject, but they don't know where to begin. There is a tipping point, however, that really translates in their energy when they start to realize that there is a path to their mission – when they begin to see the vision for how to manifest the changes they want. It's the moment when students start to know what they don't know that breeds curiosity and ambition.
How has the virtual transition affected your involvements? Has your definition of service remained the same?
The virtual transition was definitely difficult at first; it forced us to give thought to even the smallest of details. As the world carries on and adapts, however, I find that the transition has not changed much overall. Surely COVID brought problems and difficulties, but if anything, this only empowers acts of service. It's during times of hardship and change where ambition and drive really shine, where people are actively looking to find and implement solutions to everyday problems. At the end of the day, if dialogue, conversation, and teamwork can still exist in a digital world, then service and productive change will always be possible.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
When people think of service, they think of large projects that aim to end world hunger or eradicate poverty. So, when people ask themselves "How can I get involved?" it's often an internal debate of which large organization to join or donate to. Those are great missions, but they skew the idea of what service actually is. I would encourage people to get involved by reminding them that helping even one person is an act of service and that can come in many forms. Everyone has something to offer to help someone else, they don't need to join clubs, programs, or large organizations to contribute to service. Tutoring a student or just going on a stroll to the lake and picking up trash can be acts of service.
What has been the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
I've taken lots of impactful classes at UVA, but I think the one that has changed me the most was my Sociology of Economics class. The biggest component for me was learning about the intersectionality between the state and the market. We looked at a few countries like Poland or Czechoslovakia that became countries in the early 20th century, and analyzed what sorts of policies the government passed to create their economy. They literally had to make an economy – policies like antitrust laws, tax laws, ownership laws, etc. create the foundation for which an economy to function. This class taught me that there is no such thing as an economy absent of government interference – despite it being such a common belief. This class really changed my outlook on economics, politics, and, ultimately, reinforced my passion for law and policy.
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
I'm not sure if this is a tradition, per se, but I really love the fact that we have The Good Old Song. I guess the tradition from that can be singing it after every touchdown or a big win in any sport, for that matter. I think it is amazing that we have a song that unites us – it emblematizes our collective belonging. In fact, I think the song really shows that we are not just a part of the institution that is UVA, but rather we are the institution that makes up UVA. We are a centralized hub of students that have created a home for everyone through student self-governance. For me, The Good Old Song really emphasizes that, and it's one of the things I love most about UVA.
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
This is a very difficult question; the world needs a lot of things. I am going to narrow this question down to what I would do to make the U.S. a better place instead. I find it despicable that as one of the richest nations in the world, we still have one of the highest numbers of homelessness for developed nations. I think this is a fault of poor redistribution, because we definitely have enough resources for everyone, but the ways they are allocated are not proportional. I would love to find ways to end homelessness – whether that be through better housing initiatives or food banks that draw from food that would have otherwise been wasted. I think before the world can be a better a place, we need to help everyone get to a certain standard of living.