LAS VEGAS–Over recent years, Las Vegas has become one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. From 1990 to 2000 alone, census figures show that the population of the city increased by 83%. Not surprisingly, a sizeable proportion of these new residents have included Armenian-Americans.
As their numbers have grown over the years, the Armenian community of Las Vegas has sought to steadily organize itself and establish local social, political and cultural institutions. The latest addition to this tapestry of Armenian community life in the world’s brightest city is the soon to be christened ‘Sosse Mayrig’ AYF chapter.
“We are very proud to be considered part of the founding generation of the Las Vegas ‘Sosse Mayrig’ chapter and are very excited to be part of the larger AYF family,” says Carnie Armenian, a key organizer of the chapter and member of its temporary care-taking body–which is tasked with managing affairs until the chapter’s official formation later this August. Armenian serves on the body alongside fellow Las Vegas youth Hera Armenian and Narineh Abadian.
Over fifteen prospective members from the community have already gone through the educational process required for AYF membership and are looking forward to taking their oath during an inauguration event set to take place late next month. Once the membership is formally established, the chapter will then hold its first general meeting to plan its yearly agenda and elect an executive body.
The momentum leading up to these developmen’s and culminating in the creation of this new chapter has been over a year in the making. The youth in the Las Vegas community have long shown interest in having a local AYF chapter but the possibility of this becoming a reality only began to materialize in the summer of 2007. It was then that Carnie Armenian met AYF-Western Region Central Executive (CE) Chairman Caspar Jivalagian at AYF Summer Camp in California.
“Once I learned that he was a CE member and he learned that I am from Las Vegas, we both knew that we had to start working on forming a Las Vegas chapter,” says Armenian. Looking back on their first encounter, Jivalagian adds, “As a CE member, I was glad to meet someone from a growing community like Las Vegas and excited about the prospects of uniting a new group of Armenian youth.”
In early February, Jivalagian and several of his fellow CE members traveled to Las Vegas to give a special presentation about the AYF to a gathering of interested youth. In addition to discussing the purpose and work of the organization, the CE members answered audience questions and helped clarify the AYF’s mission and operation. The Central Executive took several more trips to Las Vegas in the following months, giving further presentations and educationals to prospective members.
“Las Vegas is home to a growing and thriving Armenian community,” said Vache Thomassian, one of the AYF Central Executive members who traveled to Las Vegas to give educationals. “It was wonderful to come out to meet the bright and enthusiastic youth of the community.”
These visits by CE proved to play an important role in both educating and motivating the local youth who would soon form the foundation of the new chapter. “I could have never imagined a better group of ungers to help form our chapter,” says Carnie Armenian of the assistance given by the AYF leadership. “They were always willing to drive more than four hours to Las Vegas and help inspire us to get on our feet as a chapter.”
In the course of these efforts, news about the creation of the chapter quickly spread throughout the Nevada Armenian community and across the western region. Those involved in the chapter’s creation explain that, even today, they are constantly finding new young people wanting to join the organization.
Interestingly enough, the majority of those currently involved in the Las Vegas chapter also happen to be female. Hence, it was decided to name the chapter in memory of one of the most heroic female figures of the Armenian liberation movement, Sosse ‘Mayrig’ Vartanian.
With the momentum on their side and the support of the community, Carnie and her fellow young activists have high hopes about the potential of their growing new chapter. “Our chapter is unique because we are in such a small community that even a little outreach can make a noticeable difference,” says Armenian. “We believe we can have a large impact on our community and get Armenian issues across to the state of Nevada politicians and representatives.”
For those interested in learning more about the new Las Vegas ‘Sosse Mayrig’ Chapter or the inauguration "kick-off’ event scheduled to take place in Las Vegas on August 23rd, please contact Carnie Armenian at CarnieArmenian@hotmail.com.