Over 350 Gather at Annual AYF YOARF Junior Seminar

WATERTOWN–MA–Over 350 junior and senior members of the Armenian Youth Federation-Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern Region gathered in Prospect–Penn. from May 27-30–to attend the 34th annual National Junior Seminar.

The theme for this year’s event–"Stepping in to the Future: A Journey through Armenia’s Past," aimed at bridging Armenia’s history and today’s efforts of cultural preservation–Genocide recognition and reparations–and a deeper understanding of Western Armenian lands.

Welcoming remarks were given by the 2005 Junior Seminar committee–and members of the AYF-YOARF Central Executive and Central Junior Council were introduced. A slide show was presented by Greater Boston AYF chapter member Sossi Essajanian on the AYF Pan-American Seminar and the contributions of the eight AYF-YOARF delegates to the seminar. Central Executive member Aram Hovagimian showed a PowerPoint of his recent trip to Turkey–with comparative photographs from the region of sites before the Genocide and today.

During the event–members attended lectures various topics including activism and Hai Tahd issues–genocide denial–and Armenia’s independence and progress. Lecturers included Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Western Region Board of Directors member Raffi Hamparian–who discussed the activities of the organization and each individual’s contribution to the cause; Dr. Lucy Der Manuelian–who presented a slide show of Armenian monumen’s and man’scripts; and Dr. Dikran Kaligian–who discussed the modern history of Artsakh.

This year–the seminar also featured four lectures by Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan and Rev. Father Anoushavan Tanielian–who discussed the challenges facing the Armenian Church and Christianity as part of Armenia’s history. According to the Prelacy Crossroads E-Newsletter–the Archbishop noted that he was particularly impressed with the questions that were posed by the young participants–showing maturity and knowledge–he said.

Addressing attendees this year was ARF Eastern Region Central Committee chairman Hayg Oshagan–who spoke to the older juniors and senior members about the ARF–its goals and work in the Eastern US and abroad. Oshagan answered many questions from the large group–ranging from his work as chairman to the structure of the organization.

Evening entertainment was provided by singer Avo Ashjian from California–as well as Antranig Kzirian on oud–Aram Hovagimian on keyboard–Jimmy Kzirian on dumbeg and vocals–and on the final night–Armen Sevag on violin and vocals. The group energized junior and senior members alike by leading AYFers in singing patriotic songs–as well as popular Armenian songs.

Various chapters also presented skits during a talent show with performances commemorating the 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide–and remembering the founding of Armenia’s first independent republic in 1918. Acts included a solemn skit depicting the many fedayees that fought in the battle of Sardarabad–as well as a moving presentation of Western Armenian villages and the total number of people lost in each.

The following evening–the Central Junior Council announced the winners of its annual programs and contests. The first award given was for the Junior Page contest–where chapters submit articles for the Armenian Weekly newspaper’s AYF Page. Taking first place was the Greater Boston chapter–followed by the Chicago and Providence chapters. The honor of Best Article was awarded to Sahag Zakarian–while a Camp Haiastan Campership was gifted to Araxi Karafian of the Greater Boston chapter. Finally–Outstanding Junior Member awards were given out to one person from each of the region’s 18 chapters.

In an attempt to link the past–present and future–members also filled a time capsules with letters and keepsakes from the weekend–to be opened by the committee in five years.

"As a parent and as a lecturer–I was very impressed by how well Junior Seminar was run. Any event that can gather 60 percent of an organization’s membership is astounding. In this age of video games and youth sports–it is to the great credit of the AYF that so many of its members are dedicated enough to travel hundreds of miles for an educational–as well as social–weekend," said lecturer George Aghjayan.

"The whole weekend is energizing. I only wish the entire Armenian community could witness junior seminar–where our kids shine; intellectually–athletically and socially," he said.

Junior members were also enthusiastic about the event. "I thought this year’s seminar was a great success. The lectures covered a lot of topics including the AYF history–Armenian dynasties–and Armenian architecture. I especially liked the way the lecturers presented the information; by using PowerPoint–maps–videos–slide shows–and through group activities. It was also fun reuniting with of all of my Armenian friends. Nothing makes me happier than seeing over 300 people Armenian line-dancing; this is a way of keeping our Armenian culture alive," said Providence junior member Ani Anto Megerdichian.

Since 1971–Junior Seminar has grown to become the largest AYF junior event with more than 350 junior participants from throughout the United States and Canada each Memorial Day weekend. The event is an opportunity for juniors to meet and take part in a thorough educational program–which consists of a set of eight lectures geared to the participants’ age groups to relay information and to encourage discussion and independent thinking. The seminar is supervised by a staff of more than 50 AYF senior members from various local chapters who accompany the junior participants to activities and supervise them throughout the weekend.

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