BY TALINE NAHAPETIAN
As globalization takes the world by storm, Armenian youth have seized the opportunity to use technology to connect with children from the border regions of their homeland. In collaboration with Teach for Armenia, a group of Southern California high school students with a desire to form relationships with their brothers and sisters across the globe established Buddies Across Borders. The Buddies program is an entirely youth-led initiative aimed to increase cultural connections, expand knowledge, and enhance students’ English language basis.
The team is led by student volunteers Alexander Abramian (La Cañada High School), Armand Asatoorian (La Cañada High School), Chloe Baghdassarian (Mayfield Senior School), Kaitlyn Baghdassarian (Mayfield Senior School), Taline Nahapetian (Ferrahian High School) and Christopher Petrossian (Loyola High School). The pilot program was introduced at the border village school of Choratan in the Tavush region of Armenia.
“As Armenian youth we attempt to contribute to our homeland from across the world, however, we don’t often get the opportunity to connect with the people there, especially the kids,” said Christopher Petrossian, the founder of the Buddies program. “While the focus of the Buddies program is to help Armenian children with their English language development, it was mutually beneficial because it allowed us to become mentors and form friendships from abroad.”
The tutors meet with their students weekly via zoom and converse in both English and Armenian in order to create opportunities for both sides to increase their levels of fluency. The students and tutors then come together on a monthly basis for group competitions in translation, recall, and accuracy. Although a majority of the meeting time is used teaching English language lessons, the tutors and students spend time sharing cross-cultural experiences about their lives. The Buddies program has paved the way for Armenian youth across the globe to develop overseas relationships for a more united Armenia.
The Buddies program would not have been possible without the support of and collaboration with Teach for Armenia. The teacher leaders on site have assisted the students and tutors throughout the entire process – putting in extra hours and helping to translate more colloquial phrases. “Teach For Armenia envisions an Armenia and Artsakh where all students have access to quality education. Our mission is catalyzing a movement of leaders that increase educational opportunities nationwide. That includes giving dedicated individuals and organizations from anywhere in the world the chance to invest in Armenia and Artsakh through education,” said Katrina Shakarian, Head of Private Partnerships at Teach For Armenia. “We are grateful to Buddies Across Borders for joining our movement and building a special relationship with the students of Choratan Secondary School in the Tavush region of Armenia. Over the past year, they have met every week to practice the English language and get to know each other. The results have been learnings and connections that span continents and cultures.”
As the pilot program has shown to be hugely successful and a joy for both parties, Buddies is looking to expand its program. If you are interested in becoming a tutor and are bilingual in English and Armenian and a high school student between the ages 14-17 you can apply at buddiesacrossborders.com.
The Buddies program has paved the way for Armenian youth across the globe to develop overseas relationships for a more united Armenia.
Taline Nahapetian is a senior at Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School.