AYF Retreat Empowers Armenian Youth

AYF Retreat participants at AYF Camp Big Pines. Nov. 22, 2013.

Members come together to discuss Armenian Identity

LOS ANGELES—On Friday, November 22, 2013, over a hundred members and novices of the Armenian Youth Federation Western Region (AYF WR) made their way up to AYF Camp Big Pines for the 2013 AYF Retreat, a weekend-long seminar of educationals, discussions, and activities revolving around the Armenian identity, community activism, concluding with an oath ceremony and a celebration for the new members of the AYF ranks.

The retreat included presentations on “What is an AYF member?”, Grassroots Organizing Training (GRO), and Ungerutiun (Fraternalism); team building activities; and even Armenian “Shoorch Bar” (Armenian folk dance) lessons by Armenian dance and music specialist Tom Bozigian.

Sophia Armen, who led the presentation on GRO Training, expressed her thoughts of the weekend stating, “I can’t even begin to explain how full my heart is from this weekend; how taken aback I am from so much community, so much real talk and courage that is coming from young people right now. Discussing identity in honest and open ways, and discussing the struggles of being in this country was amazing. I was so inspired to see our histories not only preserved, but thriving and being adapted, redefined, and claimed with honor, integrity, and passion by the next generation.”

The goal of the retreat was to foster a safe and intimate atmosphere for productive dialogue and liberal thought, both of which are essential starting points that give rise to programs like AYF Youth Corps and the new AYF Mentorship Program. The progressive discussion topics included issues such as the marginalization of women in the Armenian community and the intersectionality of identity.

Alique Cherchian, an executive member of the Orange County “Ashod Yergat” Chapter, stated “I am blessed to have comrades beside me who thrive in the same dreams I thrive in. It is even more beautiful how we all pursue our dreams together. This weekend allowed me to expand my mind even more on who we are and what we can become.”

Shawnt Karakozian from the newly formed North Valley Chapter and one of the oath-takers of the weekend explained, “This weekend meant a lot not just to my chapter but to the entire AYF organization as well. Not only was my chapter warmly welcomed by the rest of the AYF members, but all of us together were able to bond and become closer. For that reason I think this event was crucial to the growth of our chapter and the AYF as a whole.”

Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization in the United States, working to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.

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