AGBU Generation Next Mentorship Program in Los Angeles Wins Award

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On November 15, 2007, USC Armenian Graduate Student Association (AGSA)
held its First Annual Assembly of Armenian Professionals and paid
tribute to the AGBU Generation Next Mentorship Program (GenNext). The
event, attended by over 130 guests from various Armenian organizations
in the Los Angeles area, was held at the upscale Spazio restaurant in
Sherman Oaks, California.

Armen Donigian, USC AGSA chair of Professional Development, presented
Ara Arzumanian, director of the mentorship program, with AGSA’s first
annual “Award for Excellence in Community Leadership.” Arzumanian
gratefully accepted the award and invited his group of mentors to join
him on stage to share the honor. “AGBU Generation Next is receiving this
award because of the dedicated mentors who have made our program
successful. This award belongs to them,” said Arzumanian.

Arzumanian stressed the historical importance of mentorship, beginning
with Greek mythology. During his impassioned speech, Arzumanian
encouraged the audience of young professionals to be active in their
community. “Before you know yourself, you must know your community. You
must know where you belong in your community. Mentoring will help you,
as well as a young boy or girl, understand where each of you fits in
this world.”

He concluded with an appeal to guests to take up the challenge and
become mentors to Armenian youth in the Los Angeles area. As a result,
20 new applicants–a record number–signed up that evening. According to
Arzumanian, “This was a landmark event.” The follow-up recruitment
session, which took place on November 20, “clinched the deal for us,”
said Arzumanian. “We are now in the midst of interviewing all applicants
and expect to accept about 18 new applicants and bring our total numbers
to about 70 [mentorship] matches.”

GenNext was created in 1997 by a handful of volunteers under the
auspices of AGBU and the administrative assistance of the Glendale
Unified School District (GUSD) in response to the many pressures of
gangs, crime, drugs, and family dysfunction faced by Armenian youth in
the Los Angeles area.

The focus of Generation Next Mentorship Program is prevention. The
group’s mission is to identify, with the cooperation of school
counselors and parents, potentially troubled teens and help them find a
meaningful role in the community. By pairing youth with mentor
volunteers, 19 years and over, teens identify with positive role models
and receive guidance and necessary support from them. They meet with
their mentors at least twice a month for one-on-one sessions and
communicate often by phone.

An important part of the program is high-quality, highly interactive,
innovative group activities that focus on building self-confidence,
orienting kids toward future careers and helping them live the Armenian
culture. Other activities, such as museum trips, theater and dance
performances, help young Armenians discover new interests and learn to
become more self-sufficient.

The 10-year-old mentorship program has grown into a professionally
managed and highly recognized community service. On August 27, 2007, the
group earned distinction from the Glendale Unified School District
(GUSD) at their “Making a Difference Management Retreat.” Before an
audience of 150 district administrators, school administrators,
counselors, and other classified managers, GenNext received an award for
their efforts toward “Making a Difference in the lives of the children
of the Glendale Unified School District.”

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