BY KHACHIG JOUKHAJIAN
GLENDALE—High school students, Armenian Youth Federation volunteers, and noted guest speakers took part in the AYF’s second annual Armenian Youth Leadership Workshop on December 3.
The workshop, which was organized by the AYF in partnership with the Glendale Unified School District, brought together ambitious students from both public and private Armenian high schools. The primary goal of the workshop was to help develop skills in social media and outreach, so students can build strong networks on and off campus, promote their projects and events, recruit better, and be more effective leaders in their respective Armenian clubs. The second goal in mind was to connect these students with one another, with the hopes that they will support each other’s endeavors and work together in the future.
The event kicked off with an inspiring speech by GUSD Board of Education President, Greg Krikorian, on the ever growing importance of organizing meaningful events and club activities to Armenian and non-Armenian circles alike. He began by asking each participant to introduce themselves by one of their grandparents’ last names, then discussed the importance of effective leadership, and closed by stressing how this commitment is a means of honoring the legacy of their grandparents and the sacrifices they made to give their grandchildren better lives.
Following this motivational opening, the first workshop was conducted by Raffi Kassabian, a former student leader and current lecturer at UCLA, as well as a longtime activist in the community. Drawing from his many past experiences, Raffi’s presentation focused on skills such as being proactive as opposed to reactive, improving member recruitment, utilizing media and publicity, keeping organizational memory through archiving methods, and building relationships with other on-campus organizations. The students paid close attention and took notes as Raffi shared stories of his successes and personal experiences at UCLA.
During the lunch break, participants sat in mixed groups intermingling with one another and exchanging views on several of the points raised by the speakers. Many found the opportunity to interact as productive as the workshop itself. Each table featured healthy, organic discussions about the common problems students face in their campus organizations, and how they might overcome them. Students, AYF members and guest speakers all shared their insights and experiences with one another. The lunch break went on longer than scheduled due these lively and productive conversations.
The next speaker at the event was Allen Yekikian, the past Assistant Editor and Online Media Director of Asbarez News, and current Chief Technology Officer at Operation Hope. His presentation highlighted the historic role social media has played in the civil and national movements of the Armenian people. He outlined the way Armenians from all around the world used the “new media of their day” to create a common national identity and spread awareness of the Armenian Cause in the minds of Armenians everywhere. He argued that the Armenian people were at the forefront of the technological frontier, using things like the printing press to educate, motivate, and activate a movement which eventually resulted in the establishment of an independent Armenian Republic. He also discussed how we can learn from our tech-savvy ancestors by using all the technology at our disposal today – everything from blogs, to YouTube, to Facebook and Twitter – to make our message go viral.
After all the presentations, the students were divided into three groups and each was given a task. The groups had twenty five minutes to come up with strategies for recruitment of new members, fundraising aid for a sister city, and hosting an Artsakh Independence celebration, respectively. Using the skills they had learned from the workshops all three groups developed very impressive presentations, demonstrating their ability in organization and creativity.
When the event ended, the students were eager to continue their own meetings elsewhere, which meant the goal of connecting these Armenian youth, had been accomplished. The skills they learned at this workshop will hopefully help them in their campus lives, and later in their volunteer/organizational and professional work as well.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation is the largest and most influential Armenian-American youth organization in the United States working to advance the social, political, educational, and cultural awareness of Armenian-American youth.