SANTA ANA—The Armenian Relief Society’s Orange County Sevan Chapter Saturday School held a graduation-year end program on June 7 at the Gugasian Hall in Santa Ana. Eleven graduates and 4 assistants received their trophies; one student earned one-week stay at AYF Camp in Wrightwood, and Kohar Zaher, the principal, was recognized for her 20 years of service at the school. The hall was full of family members and friends who came to see the 85 (out of 94) students took part in the year end-program.
Under a Mardiros Saryan painting mural (by Debbie Fermanian, a parent) of a village scene under Mount Ararat displayed on the stage, the students enthusiastically sang the 2009 Armenia Fund telethon theme song “Garmir, gabouyd, dzeranakooyn” (red, blue and orange), and featured solos and dances in tri-color dance skirts (the ARS is a member agency of the Armenia Fund).
The program included recitations and songs starting with the kindergarten class, through the 6th group (students are grouped by their age and level of understanding Armenian). Arin Melkonian, one of the graduates, played “Azk im parabantz” on the piano. 8-10 year old students attending Hamazkayin Siamanto Chapter’s after-Saturday school program performed a dance. The graduating class presented a play and had a video prepared of their memories of the school (edited by a parent, Giro Donabedian). The students also sang such selections as “Arpa-Sevan,” “Karoon-Yerevan” and “Kedashen” as their music teacher, Gohar Alexanians played on the piano.
Kohar Zaher, the principal, explained that the program theme was love of country and heritage, noted the numerous donated services by parents, former students and ARS members, and said that the spirit of the school is reflected in Edward Everett Hale’s quote, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I should do…”
The ARS is not just providing a learning environment for the children, but also for those who serve as members sharing their values and skills in service of their community. Twenty years ago, a young mother, with a child in her arms and another holding her hand came to the Saturday School to sign up her oldest child in kindergarten. She took a leap of faith that day and shortly after even began teaching at the school. That parent was Kohar Zaher. Anahid Bulujian, Vice-Chair of the Chapter Executive, then presented a plaque for Zaher’s twenty years of dedicated service.
Throughout the year, the students had enjoyed the benefits of holding classes at Ari G. Minassian Armenian School and holding special events at the Harut Barsamian Armenian Center. For Thanksgiving, they made “ghapama” a special whole pumpkin and rice dish in the kitchen, they learnt to make “choreg” (a bread) with chocolate chips and pizza, they had special Easter activities, participated in the Javakhk funds drive, attended a special program at Forty Martyrs Apostolic Church, and set flowers at the Armenian Genocide memorial located in the school-church grounds. Their photographs throughout the year were compiled into a single CD, which was shared as a slide show right before the program got underway.
Rev. Father Hrant Yeretsian praised the students for doing such a good job, encouraged the graduates to continue on to learn the Armenian language and get involved in their community, and asked the parents to look out for others’ children who are not getting an Armenian education. The program ended with “Bahbanich” prayer.
It was truly an impressive scene to have a stage full of children, who were excited about being part of a special program and recited poetry, sang and danced beaming with pride in their heritage.
Editor’s Note: Rita Hintlian is the chairperson of the Orange County Sevan Chapter of the ARS.