WRIGHTWOOD, Calif.,—More than 170 Armenian Youth Federation Juniors and 50 AYF Seniors made their way up to AYF Camp over the course of two holiday weekends in January and February for the AYF Juniors’ Annual Winter Getaway. The Martin Luther King long weekend was allocated to campers between the ages of 12 and 16, while Presidents’ Day long weekend was allocated to those between the ages of 8 and 11.
“The two groups gave us the ability to be more conscious of our campers’ age, to hone in on specific interests of each group, “said Arlene Tutunjian, a member of the AYF Juniors Central Council.
The theme of both weekends this year was “Our Nation, Our Cause.”
The campers learned about their own Western Armenian roots by participating in an interactive and educational set of activities.
“I wanted our juniors to develop an emotional attachment to our homeland through the culture we see in our homes; the food, songs, dances, and games,” said Haig Minasian, a member of the Orange County AYF chapter who organized the educational. “The activities included a dance from the Karin region, Karno Kochari, Kharpertsi games played by local children, participating in Zeytuntsi wedding traditions, and singing the song, ‘Zartir Lao,’” said Minassian.
The Juniors learned more about our cause the second day with presenters from the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region and the Armenian Relief Society. The ANCA representative, Communications Director Alex Galitsky, spoke about our future next steps following the passing of H.Res 296 and how the youth play a vital role in continuing our cause.
A discussion by ARS Central Executive chairperson Dr. Nyree Derderian followed the ANCA’s. Derderian spoke about leadership and the youth’s role within Armenian organizations.
“I met lots of very nice AYF Juniors from other chapters and great counselors whom I would never had the opportunity to meet had I not attended the Winter Getaway,” said Armen Krumian, a member of the AYF Juniors Valley Chapter and first time camper.
“My three children have been attending AYF Juniors Winter Getaway since they were eight years old. The decision to send my kids to this camp weekend is quite simple – if they do not have connections to their heritage, they will not really know where they fit in this world,” said Taleen Keshishian, a mother of three from the Orange County chapter members. “I am beyond grateful to have AYF Juniors as a special place for my kids to grow and develop as an Armenian,” said Keshishian. “Thank you to the AYF and all the passionate volunteers who dedicate their time to our Armenian youth.”
To keep campers engaged and energized, both sessions featured classic AYF Camp activities, games, and patriotic songs. During each session, campers were treated to the exciting musical accompaniment of Tro Krikorian and Arick Gevorkian, who volunteer their time and talents to the AYF Juniors on a regular basis.
“As a member of a distant chapter spending the weekend at AYF Camp with the AYF and AYF Juniors is always something I look forward to,” said counselor Shahen Ohanian, who is a member of the Fresno “Kevork Chavoush” chapter. “The goal is that they make connections with other AYF members that will last a lifetime.”
Each weekend was directed by two AYF Alumni. Christina Mehranbod and Berj Parseghian took the lead in January.
“This year’s Winter Getaway was unforgettable for our participants in a whole new way, as the organizing committee introduced new activities that happen to be thousands of years old,” said Parseghian. “Our juniors got to play ancient Armenian games and they absolutely loved them.”
Tamar Baboujian and Sako Aslanian were the directors for the February weekend.
“We had such a great time – The new generation of Juniors are brilliant, talented, and capable kids who are eager to learn about their history and culture. The hands on program offered them the opportunity to learn through play, as well as lead one another in creative discussion and exploration” said Baboujian. “The counselors were truly a talented group of AYF members who demonstrated so much empathy, patience and love towards the campers. It is with a great ease of mind that I returned home after a weekend spent with these kids, having seen the bright future that lies ahead in our youth.”
“On behalf of the AYF JCC we would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the AYF members who served as counselors, the AYF Camp Management Board, our four directors, our volunteer EMT Nayiri Alexander, all educational presenters, all our parents for their trust, our chapter directors, our donors, and Tro Krikorian and Arick Gevorkian,” said Sylva Khayalian, who is a member of the AYF JCC and lead organizer of the Annual Winter Getaway.
The AYF Juniors strives to nourish its members with experiences, information, and resources to become ambitious and successful in their pursuit of civic, academic, and career excellence, so they are best equipped to serve our communities, nation, and cause. We serve our mission through active participation in our communities and during weekly gatherings held at all eleven of our chapters in the Western United States.