2012 Leadership Camp Brings ASA Members Together

Saturday morning exercise led by Hovhannes Mkhitaryan (Photo by Lusine Harutyunyan)

BY NARE KUPELIAN & HOVHANNES MKHITARYAN

From February 24-26, the Confederation of All-Armenian Student Associations hosted the 4th annual Leadership Seminar at AYF Camp. The weekend retreat was attended by students from UCSD, UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, CSUN, CSULA, SDSU, GCC, UCSB, Woodbury, Loyola Law School, AEO, AYF, and ARF Shant Student Association. The purpose of the weekend was to give the students attending necessary tools to be effective leaders in their respective schools and organizations. Students were given the opportunity to delve into the various reasons why they were involved in Armenian organizations. This allowed them to connect their Armenian identity with the organizational work they carry out. The weekend provided a venue for the exchange of ideas and inspiration, creating a collaborative environment of talent and energy. Through a series of inspirational presentations and educational lectures, attendees were able to fine tune their leadership skills while connecting with their peers.

The weekend started off with a series of presentations that were geared towards honing the leadership skills and potential in the students. Vache Thomassian, Chairperson of the ARF Shant Student Association, lectured the students on the proper methods of running an effective meeting and organization. William Bairamian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee-Western Region, stressed the importance of effective campus activism and the need for students to build strong coalitions within their respective spheres. Allen Yekikian, led a presentation on social marketing and effective strategies for promoting  within an organization.

William Bairamian talking about activism with students (photo by Hovhannes Mkhitaryan)

After the morning presentations the attendees took part in an educational on the importance of activism and environmentalism, led by Vrej Haroutounian, member of the All-ASA Leadership Planning Committee, and Gohar Khachatryan, an environmental activist from Yerevan, Armenia. Students were informed of the current situation of the protests against development in Mashdots Park and of the “Save Teghut” movement geared towards preventing the destruction of Armenia’s Teghut forest. Afterwards, students were able to connect with nature on an afternoon hike that was followed by an open conversation about activism in the Armenian community. Mourad Topalian gave the final keynote presentation, informing the students about the importance of conviction and how it ties into our identity as Armenians.

On Sunday morning, students were presented various opportunities to volunteer and intern in Armenia, as part of the Tebi Yergir movement. Throughout the weekend students were encouraged to think of the reasons behind their work and dedication to their respective organization. They were asked to connect their experiences to what they learned over the weekend and establish a mission statement for themselves, a concise declaration of what each person hopes to accomplish for their organization, the Armenian community, our homeland, and our Armenian identity.

These are the mission statements the attendees came up with:

The beauty of being Armenian can be seen by the immediate social connections we establish with one another. Throughout the weekend, I was inspired to act on the wishes of my collective people. The All-ASA Leadership Retreat provided me with the means to carry out my goals. The stories provided by Unger Mourad, Arek, William, and Serouj have provided me with the conviction, inspiration, and determination to take action. The youth of the Armenian Diaspora have been stagnant for long enough, and it is time to take the first step and act on the morals, values, and emotions instilled in us by our ancestors. ”
Raffi Missirian – SDSU ASA

“Nothing is more powerful than a united people that strive for the same goal with the utmost conviction. This weekend has helped me to break down the barriers that would otherwise hinder communications and relationships with other people of the same culture. The love for our Hayastan is what  brings us together, and no difference in dialect, political affiliation, or place of birth can sever that unity. My goal is to step outside my social bubble as much as I can, because united we are powerful, and united we will succeed.”
Hovhannes Mkhitaryan – CSUN ASA

“Through all my experiences at the All-ASA Leadership Retreat, I can say that the flame that drives my Armenian spirit has definitely been revived. Sharing thoughts and experiences with other like-minded peers made me realize that I’m not alone on my journey towards establishing a brighter and more prosperous Armenia. I will continue to strive to work for my homeland and people by inspiring others to embrace our identity, including cultural and political aspects. I will also work toward realizing my own potential because the better I am as a person the better I can serve Armenia. At times it can be difficult to maintain motivation to keep fighting for this cause, but I will try to be the change I want to see among my peers and inspire them to keep pressing forward and fight by my side.”
Vahe Lepedjian- UCSD ASA

“I’m normally not very perceptive to my Armenian roots. Although my friends are Armenian and speak the language around me, I’ve grown up with a Russian speaking background. After this week I honestly know what it means to be Armenian and how important it is to preserve my history. I’m inspired to go back to Pomona and implement every workshop lesson I have learned here. At first I was hesitant on going to this retreat, but I’m beyond happy that I decided to go through with it.”
Eddy Mirzoyan- CPP ASA

“I am very glad that I chose to attend the fourth annual All-ASA Leadership Retreat. Throughout this weekend I gained many skills that I will utilize in the future. I also met many new people from different schools that I now consider to be my friends and will definitely keep in touch with later.

After listening to the presentations, speeches, and experiences of different leaders I have decided to be more involved in my community and culture. I am going to be more involved in my school’s ASA events and be more supportive of all events that the Armenian community plans and promotes.”
Lilit Sabounjian – CSUN ASA

“After attending the 4th annual All-ASA Leadership Retreat, I have gained skills and friendships that I will take with me forever.  From the inspirational speeches to the group activities, I have learned the core foundations to better myself and the organizations I belong to now and will belong to in the future. I am inspired to reach out to my fellow Armenians because together we can achieve anything and everything. When I return to CSUN ASA, I can’t wait to use all these valuable strengths that these incredible individuals instilled in us. With efficiency, effectiveness, communication skills, and conviction towards our cause, there is no doubt in my mind that we will achieve full potential and impact those around us. I am thrilled to be able to tell others of the wonderful experience I had!”
Alina Grigorian- CSUN ASA

“I was so proud to see so many like-minded individuals unify through their passion for civic engagement and love of the Armenian culture this weekend. The All-ASA Leadership Retreat proved to be a weekend full of hope and inspiration; providing me with the building blocks to strengthen and improve my own skills as well as my Armenian Student Association at CSUN. I can’t wait to inspire others around me and build coalitions with the different clubs and organizations on campus. By uniting and working together, there’s nothing we can’t accomplish!”
Talar Alexanian- CSUN ASA

“To develop and share ideas of Armenian and universal principles, traditions, and legacy of our ancestors with both fellow Armenians and people around the world. In doing this, I hope that they may inspire and guide in moral, intellectual, and all other forms of progress. To live and lead by this example and be in service to my nation, be it by sword, shovel, or pen.”
Khachig Joukhajian

“Spark the interest in you to drive the passion that lives in your heart to reach excellence. You never stand alone; your brothers and sisters are right there by your side. You just need to reach for it and let it flourish all for a common cause of keeping our Armenian culture alive.”
Christina Lulejyan- CSUN ASA

“I will propel my passions and convictions into action without fear of so-called defeat. I will not be afraid to take risks. I will put more effort into things I care about and make it known to others. I will commit and follow through with everything I say that I will do, starting with this mission statement!”
Sevana Manukian- UCLA ASA

“As people, we are our own worst enemies. We often let fear dictate what we will or will not do. To me the most important message was to conquer fear, to stop underestimating our abilities, and to march on with persistence. Mourad Topalian’s and William Bairamian’s experiences were testaments of what can be accomplished with dedication and confidence. For the remainder of this year and hopefully for the remainder of my life, I will seek to do everything to the best of my abilities, without the fear of failure and without the fear of what success will lead to. We constantly try to push the envelope, but that needs to happen more regularly. We can all accomplish more than we think we can.”
Loosi Azarian- UCSD ASA

“For the past year, I’ve been living with the thought that I shouldn’t intervene with the new executive board of CSUN ASA during their meetings, plans, and events. This weekend I learned that I was taking the wrong approach because I still and always will want to help the ASA and other organizations to better our nation. I’m going to leave the camp with the mission to better myself as an individual and as an Armenian! To take chances, fail, fail, and succeed! No more excuses, just steps to help my country, our people, our causes. Words aren’t good enough to express what’s in my mind, heart, and soul! Armenia, here I come!”
Lusine Harutyunyan- CSUN ASA

“To recharge my interest in my Armenian roots. To follow this interest with unyielding conviction. To prepare myself to back this conviction with the potential and capability to make a difference. To spread this conviction and this preparedness to others who may share the same interest. To aid this interest with all my strength and knowledge since a collection of effort is much stronger than the sum of its parts. To give back to the culture which has given us so much.”
Hovanes Keseyan- UCSD ASA

“One of the words we learned this weekend was conviction. Conviction is what I saw in the eyes of all the young Armenian leaders I met. Their passion was easily passed on to their audience, but the most important concept that needs to blossom in everyone at the seminar is how to continue this passion and make it so that everyone feels the same. The level of conviction that was portrayed to us was incredible. It sparked a light and I’m sure it sparked it in all the other young Armenians. I feel ready to go back and spark this inspiration to my schoolmates and friends.”
Tamar Barsoumian- UCSD ASA

“This weekend taught me a lot about what it means to be Armenian. I have never been to Armenia and have always wanted to go with a purpose other than visiting relatives and touring the country. I know of many programs that work to better the lives of Armenians in Armenia, but I was always afraid to go along to a country that I have never been to. The friends I made this weekend taught me that I can never be alone among my fellow Armenians. I have goals of participating in the Armenian Eye Care Project. I am also interested in becoming a camp counselor for AYF Camp and Camp Noubar in New York. I have more confidence in myself and now know that I can make a difference.”
Ida Markaryan- UCSD ASA

“My mission after I leave leadership retreat is to be a more active member of my Armenian community. There are so many opportunities out there for young Armenians that there is no excuse to not be active. Our country needs us and with the tools I have gained through this retreat I can really help my country. All it takes is one spark and the rest can be done, this retreat can serve as that spark.”
Vanuhi Karapetian- UCSD ASA

“Why? It is the question we often ask ourselves when we are discouraged. At times we forget where we came from, our main roots, but after an inspirational weekend like this…My heart screams ‘I am PROUD to be ARMENIAN!'”
Sarkis Kulakchyan- CSUN ASA

“I wondered why I was here in the beginning of this trip. I wondered how this seminar was going to change what my idea of leadership was, I definitely had my doubts. Now a weekend later I feel that this fire has been lit inside me. I am astounded at the amount of volunteer work that went into this camp. I am shocked that people need me, people want me, want to teach me, and love me because I am Armenian and on an even greater level because I am a human being. This weekend has opened my eyes to so many opportunities and I could not be more thankful. I am ready and feel well-equipped to start activating and implementing my community in Los Angeles and at UCSB.”
Atina Manvelian- UCSB ASA

“Coming to this seminar was probably one of the greatest decisions I have made in a while. I met awesome people from many different ASAs and built awesome friendships. I thought I had a lot of knowledge about leadership, but I was wrong. I thought I was a leader, but I did not do the things a leader should do. The main thing I took out of this weekend and all of the educational talks was to stop sitting around and waiting for something to get done. I always had these ideas that I never went forward with because I was scared of failure. I need to stop being afraid and try. It’s okay to fail and things aren’t going to be easy, it just matters to keep your head high and move on; learn from my failures and apply what I learned to my next idea and grow from it.” Shushan Tigranyan- UCSB ASA

“I came to this camp without a single goal in mind. I am unexpectedly leaving with much more. I had no idea that we as Armenians had so many goals that cover such a broad spectrum of opportunities available to us. Our commitment to our culture is unlike anything I have ever seen. I have been inspired to commemorate the past of my people and positively influence our future by participating and creating an organization that spreads the Armenian cause and motivates Armenians to become much more involved. Thank you for this amazing weekend. You have made a difference, both directly and indirectly, on the lives of many Armenians. Your passion and commitment is admirable.”
Christine Gasparyan- UCSD ASA

“Coming to camp this weekend was extremely last minute, but naturally I am so happy that I did and had loads of fun. The inspiration that I received from the educational talks is something that I will take with me outside of these campgrounds and apply it to my life. Sharing this inspiration with my fellow Armenians at Glendale Community College is essential as well. Being a part of Armenian youth organizations more than half my life molded me into the person that I am today. Nationalism and the sense to give back to my Armenian people has become a lifestyle for me. Every breath I take, every move I make reflects my “Armenianness” and how I want to shape myself into becoming a better Armenian. Taking part in this leadership seminar showed me how much potential and strife my fellow Armenian students have in order to seek the betterment of our people and our homeland (both in the Diaspora and directly). I look forward to many events with the All-ASA so we can collaborate and find solutions for the Armenian Cause.”
Lori Boghigian- GCC ASA

“I realized from this weekend that even one person him/herself can initiate a progressive movement in helping others. What surprised me more about this sphere of philanthropy for Armenia is the lengths young people my age have taken for their cause. For example: the party fundraiser our colleague, Vahe Lepedjian, is helping organize to raise money for hearing aids; Or the student from Stanford who received a $10,000 scholarship (Strauss) to establish a foundation in a village in Armenia.”

“With my studies at UCSD as a third year student, I plan to continue being involved in these philanthropic organizations for the benefit of Armenia and mesh my academic goals with it.”
Elvira Derhovespian-UCSD ASA

“This retreat has given me an even stronger conviction to be a better Armenian. I have been inspired to lead, not through my words, but through my actions. I want to work towards preserving my culture and history, but more importantly to return to my homeland and make a lasting difference and continue to promote progress. That is when I can truly consider myself an Armenian.”
Mariam Aschyan- UCSD ASA

As evidenced by the closing mission statements, attendees all left the camp with a revitalized passion to make a change in their community and to strive to create a better Armenia through coalition building, networking, and activism. 

Attendees were also asked to submit any inspiration they got throughout the weekend via short statements written on a post-it. The post-its were then gathered and compiled into a collage that can be found on the All-ASA Facebook (link below)

Find out more information about the event and All-ASA.  “Like” All-ASA on Facebook for more updates and photos from the event.

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