BY DR. KATHERINE FUNDUKIAN THOROSSIAN
What began as a Saturday School of maybe 20 students evolved into a fully accredited K-12 academic institution that prepares its students for the most prestigious universities within the U.S. A group of like-minded immigrants, who had found refuge following the Genocide in every corner of the world, settled in Montebello, determined to establish roots. Forming the solid base of the community were its three pillars: church, school, and organization.
The Armenian Mesrobian School shaped generations of us with common ideals and a shared history. Whether you were an “Upstart,” “Hye,” or “Bulldog” (here the names will change, but the concepts remain fixed) there are certain things which will always be true:
1. Lupe’s is always good for lunch – unless Deegeen Magda has made spaghetti and meat sauce.
2. Believe only half of what you hear happened at the park.
3. Save yourself the embarrassment and ask your parents to help with the “mission” project.
4. Always beat Ferrahian in basketball.
5. Hemingway only did one thing right, and that he did too late – ask Dodd.
6. Go with just one fold over for the skirt.
7. If your sister is writing all your notes to “excuse” absences, stick with her for legitimate ones.
8. Turn right (or left) at the cow.
9. If you and your friends have never ditched school before, don’t start as a senior. The police and Beverly Hospital will be called before your parents.
10. When in doubt, pik pik.
Having the privilege of attending Mesrobian wasn’t just to learn to read, write, or count. It was to be enveloped in a special shroud of safety knowing that you were part of something much larger – something your grandparents and parents envisioned would provide the stability that their youth lacked. Few of them had much money; but, what they had, they contributed to the building of the school. The vision was simple: acquire a piece of land, a building crowned in gold lettering identifying it as the Armenian Mesrobian School (at least that’s how my grandfather Nerses describes it in the Asbarez in 1959), to serve as the heart of the community.
Now that I have been an educator for 30 years, I realize that this is what every parent seeks and every teacher aspires to offer. It is the lens through which every classroom is viewed in both public and private schools: would I entrust my child to this school? Offering strong academics is important. Inspiring a sense of purpose and belonging is the “value added” of extraordinary schools. It is what defines Mesrobian.
Dr. Katherine Fundukian Thorossian is the Superintendent of the Monrovia Unified School District and graduated from Armenian Mesrobian School in 1980.