BY RITA HINTLIAN
The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA’s (ARS) mission includes the promotion of the Armenian language and culture. From the early days, ARS members established Saturday schools to pass on the Armenian language and culture to the new generation. These schools became the basis for establishment of the first day schools from the 1960s to the 1980s.
Initially, funding was provided for the establishment of Ferrahian, Mesrobian and Pilibos high schools in Los Angeles County, and operational funding to these and newer schools continues to this day.
Over time, the need for the re-establishment of the one-day schools was determined, some Saturday schools were reopened, and today the ARS-WUSA operates 15 one-day schools, with almost 750 students. Almost all the schools are in California, except for one Saturday School in Nevada.
The ARS also helped to establish day cares. Only one of the day cares is run by the ARS — Nairy Chapter in Montebello, California.
Along with the Armenian language, the Saturday or one-day schools teach Armenian history, music and arts. To further develop the students’ general knowledge of the Armenian culture, inter-school performances and competitions are organized. Other than academic programs, even raising funds for Armenia/Artsakh or Javakhk helps to develop the children’s appreciation of national and humanitarian ideals.
During the early days, Saturday Schools were run by volunteer teachers. Over time, paid professional teachers were hired, and experienced ones were assigned as principals, to help run the schools, which became more sophisticated in their teaching approach and methods.
All schools have volunteers, alongside with paid staff, who take care of mostly non-teaching tasks, such as preparing snacks or dinners for the children. Working or volunteering around children provides tremendous satisfaction. Even parents and grandparents are impressed, when their precious ones perform during Christmas or year-end programs, by displaying the results of all the efforts to help them grow.
In well-established schools, former students, return to volunteer as aides, and as they gain more experience and education, they are promoted to teaching positions.
In addition to volunteers, the ARS allocates significant financial resources to keep operating the schools.
The ARS Regional Executive has assigned an ARS Saturday School Board of Regents to help promote Armenian teaching standards and organize regional seminars for teachers. Most recently, Dr. Alina Dorian made a presentation regarding emergency preparedness and response on November 23, 2013. The board also organizes inter-school events for students.
The ARS Saturday schools have an important function, because they help link future generations to their roots, to make a better future for all.
For more information regarding one-day schools, please visit the ARS Web site at arswestusa.org
The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, established in 1984 and with regional headquarters in Glendale, CA, has 27 chapters and more than 1,200 members in five western states. The ARS-WUSA operates a Social Services Division and Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center, and funds numerous youth programs, scholarships, and relief efforts.