By the Community, For the Community

Armenian Mesrobian School opening day September 13, 1965: an awestruck and grateful community gathers for the historic opening of the first Armenian elementary dayschool in the United States
Armenian Mesrobian School opening day September 13, 1965: an awestruck and grateful community gathers for the historic opening of the first Armenian elementary dayschool in the United States

Armenian Mesrobian School opening day September 13, 1965: an awestruck and grateful community gathers for the historic opening of the first Armenian elementary dayschool in the United States

The Montebello Armenian community has always relied on a symbiotic triangle of support, with pillars in the form of Armenian Mesrobian School, Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Cathedral, and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dro Gomideh including the plethora of resources and sister organizations under its umbrella, ranging from the Armenian Center to the Armenian Youth Federation Montebello “Vahan Cardashian” Chapter, AYF Juniors Chapter, Armenian Relief Society “Ani” and “Nairy” Chapters, the Armenian National Committee of America, and the list goes on.

Governor Jerry Brown, during his visit to Mesrobian, accepted an honorary diploma. Principal, Dr. Onnik Keshishian, presenting tothe Governor his special Diploma. Circa 1975

Governor Jerry Brown, during his visit to Mesrobian, accepted an honorary diploma. Principal, Dr. Onnik Keshishian, presenting tothe Governor his special Diploma. Circa 1975

“The fraternal spirit of solidarity in the community has always manifested such that when one of these pillars has been in need, we have always rallied together in support,” shared Levon Kirakosian, who was once a faculty member of Mesrobian School, and is currently a member of the ARF Central Committee and ARF Dro Gomideh.

“When in recent years the school itself had its need for help and assistance, the ARF has always been there to answer the call,” explained Kirakosian.

Similarly, Kirakosian added, when the community and its organizations have needed Mesrobian, the school did its part.

In the early 1980’s, when the decision was made to move Holy Cross Armenian Apostolic Cathedral from Downtown Los Angeles to Montebello, the church needed somewhere to conduct services until its new location was ready. During that time for two years, Mesrobian School held regular church services out of its cafeteria.

With the developing independence of Armenia in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, Mesrobian took its involvement in Armenian Cause to the next level, explained Kirakosian.

George and Nazely Mardikian honored by Armenian Mesrobian School circa 1966. Mr. Mardikian, of the American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians (ANCHA), was instrumental in bringing Russian-Armenian Displaced Persons (“DP’s”) to the United States from Germany after World War II. Among the thousands of “DP’s” brought by ANCHA were the founders of Mesrobian

George and Nazely Mardikian honored by Armenian Mesrobian School circa 1966. Mr. Mardikian, of the American National Committee to Aid Homeless Armenians (ANCHA), was instrumental in bringing Russian-Armenian Displaced Persons (“DP’s”) to the United States from Germany after World War II. Among the thousands of “DP’s” brought by ANCHA were the founders of Mesrobian

“The school became even more involved in global aspects of Armenia. The school and its students, parents and community strongly felt the necessity to follow the political and international events that shaped the future of Armenia.”

Speaking to the present day activism of the Mesrobian community, Kirakosian emphasized the role Mesrobian students and faculty played particularly in Armenian Genocide justice and commemoration events.

 In 1965, the late Father Sumbat Lapajian, then Pastor of Holy Cross Church in Los Angeles and Mr. Torkom Postajian, first Principal of Mesrobian School

In 1965, the late Father Sumbat Lapajian, then Pastor of Holy Cross Church in Los Angeles and Mr. Torkom Postajian, first Principal of Mesrobian School

“The school has organized student marches from the school to the monument. They have participated consistently in April 23rd Armenian Genocide Monument vigil with different types of presentations from dance to song to dramatic performances to speeches, demonstrating that our culture is an act of resistance,” explained Kirakosian.

“The school participation at protests, demonstrations, and advocacy days have always been hand in hand with the ARF and the community,” he added.

The school’s emphasis on Armenian studies and Hai Tad (Armenian Cause) classes have always created a platform that presents a comprehensive and holistic understanding of what the community and the Armenian people have struggled for. Mesrobian encourages students to not only learn Armenian studies in the classroom, but instead to learn it by actively engaging in the community through direct grassroots organizing and service.

As a result, countless Mesrobian graduates have gone on academically major in the field of Armenian Studies and pursue doctorates and careers in it. Furthermore countless have gone on from Mesrobian to dedicate their lives to the Armenian Cause as community organizers, be it in the AYF, ANCA, ARF, etc.

“Today, more than 20 members of the ARF Dro Gomideh are former Mesrobian students. That’s a testament to the school and to the ARF,” said Kirakosian.

During the construction phase of the school (from Left to Right) Mkrtich Mosikian; Archbishop Hrant Khatchadourian (Prelate of North America, prior to establishment of the Western Prelacy); Yeghisheh Hagopian. Circa 1964

During the construction phase of the school (from Left to Right) Mkrtich Mosikian; Archbishop Hrant Khatchadourian (Prelate of North America, prior to establishment of the Western Prelacy); Yeghisheh Hagopian. Circa 1964

An old proverb states, “A society grows great when people plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”

In this way Mesrobian is a grassroots school built by the community and for the community. It was built by those who served a greater cause, and produces leaders and organizers, movers and shakers, who themselves serve a cause.

No symbol is more telling of this reality than the fact that the school is named after Mesrob Mashdots, rather than a benefactor.

Mashdots was as much a Saint as he was a community organizer. Mashdots pulled resources together from around the world to contribute something larger than himself to the Armenian people, something which has outlasted him and lives on today — the Armenian Alphabet.

In much the same way, Mesrobian was a labor of love by those ready to do something bigger than themselves to realize a dream that would outlive themselves.

Mesrobian’s Ron and Goharik Gabriel Pre-School 

 

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