AGBU President Berge Setrakian Underscores Organization’s Dedication to Homeland-Diaspora Symbiosis in Latest Visit to Armenia

sarkisian  On March 22, 2009, AGBU President Berge Setrakian arrived in Yerevan for
discussions with Armenia’s leaders on the challenges faced by the
Armenian people and issues pertaining to homeland-diaspora relations, in
light of new international, regional and Armenian community realities,
as well as to follow up on, give new impetus to, and bring into focus
the goals of AGBU’s programs in the homeland.
In the course of this visit, Setrakian met with His Holiness Karekin II,
Catholicos of All Armenians, Serge Sargsian, President of the Republic
of Armenia, Tigran Sargisian, Prime Minister of Armenia, Hovik
Abrahamian, President of the National Assembly, Hranush Hakobyan,
Minister of Diaspora, Edward Nalbandian, Minister of Foreign Affairs,
and Spartak Seyranian, Minister of Education, accompanied by members of
the AGBU Central Board of Directors, Vasken Yacoubian and Yervant
Zorian, the Vice Chairman of the AGBU SCDC Haig Messerlian, and the
directors of the AGBU Representative Office in Armenia.
vaskenAt his March 23 meeting with the Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan,
Setrakian stressed the necessity of adopting a strategy that goes beyond
traditional approaches and organizations, taking the new diasporan
realities into consideration. A strategy based on a clear analysis of
priorities that address the interests of young diasporan Armenians who
are not involved or feel distanced from traditional Armenian community
life. During the meeting, Minister Hakobyan expressed her satisfaction
about the productive activities being carried out by AGBU in both the
homeland and the diaspora. She also presented a brief overview of the
ministry’s programs for maintaining national identity and bringing
Armenians together, along with programs adopted by the Armenian
president and government to foster cooperation between Armenia and
Armenian communities around the world.
Setrakian acknowledged the importance of the activities of the Diaspora
Ministry, wherein the balanced merger of civil society and governmental
approaches will inevitably lead to anticipated results. Special emphasis
was placed on programs developed by AGBU in recent years that provide
social and academic experiences to diasporan Armenian youth in Armenia,
in light of the potential these programs have in raising awareness and
cultivating a sense of national identity.
Following this meeting, Setrakian met with Spartak Seyranian, Armenia’s
Minister of Education and Science. During the meeting, issues of mutual
interest were discussed, especially those pertaining to AGBU’s
educational programs, and particularly the soon-to-be-launched AGBU
Virtual College. Through the application of the latest information
technology, this new AGBU initiative creates opportunities for
individuals scattered all over the world to access credit-bearing and
in-depth information on topics of Armenian language, history, and
culture.
The same day, Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargisian received
Setrakian and Vasken Yacoubian of the AGBU Central Board. Prime Minister
Sargisian expressed thanks to AGBU and its leader personally, adding
that he was satisfied with the course of the implementation of projects
underway by AGBU. Setrakian stated that through its projects in the
homeland, AGBU is engaged in the task of connecting members of the young
diasporan Armenian generations to their national roots and inspiring
them with the reality of the homeland. He expressed the conviction that
while the impact of traditional organizations and their activities has
weakened in the diaspora,
and the new generation is distancing itself from Armenian life and
gradually losing the language, Armenia remains the only strong foothold
that can inspire and energize the youth and ignite in them an interest
and pride in their identity and heritage.
On March 24, President Setrakian and Vasken Yacoubian were received by
Hovik Abrahamian, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of
Armenia. The president of the National Assembly highly praised AGBU’s
activity in Armenia and welcomed the programs aimed at acquainting the
youth with national traditions, culture and history, while strengthening
their ties with the homeland. Setrakian underlined AGBU’s commitment to
continue its extensive programs in the homeland despite the
international financial and economic crisis. He noted AGBU’s vision of
building a contemporary center in Yerevan for young Armenian specialists
and intellectuals, endowed with all the necessary resources.
Later on, Setrakian and Yacoubian had a meeting with Armenian Foreign
Minister Edward Nalbandian and they discussed supporting Armenia’s
foreign policy, defending Armenian rights and assisting Armenian
diplomatic missions abroad.
The same day, His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians,
received Setrakian at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin. During the
meeting, Setrakian underscored the important role of the Armenian Church
and clergy in the spiritual and national life of the Armenian people,
pointing out the necessity of putting the priority of that role above
other issues.
On March 25, the opening of the new building of the sports and cultural
center took place in the Nubarashen district of Yerevan. In cooperation
with the World Bank and Armenian Social Investment Fund, AGBU helped
realize the Nubarashen Sports and Cultural Center by underwriting more
than 55 percent of the overall cost. In response to journalists’
questions, Setrakian expressed joy for the opening of such a building in
the community founded by Boghos Nubar, which can be considered a payment
of respect for the memory of AGBU’s founder. Participating in the
opening ceremony were President Setrakian, AGBU Central Board of
Directors members Vasken Yacoubian and Yervant Zorian, World Bank
Executive Director Rudolf Yan Trefers, Armenian Social Investment Fund
Director Ashot Kirakosian, Nubarashen community leader Mher
Hovhannisian, colleagues of the community administrative center, and
prominent community figures.
The same day, Setrakian and other AGBU leaders attended an awards
ceremony for the Yerevan finals of the Yerevan Republican
Interscholastic Chess Olympiad. For the second year in a row, AGBU is
sponsoring the interscholastic chess Olympiad, together with Armenia’s
Ministry of Education and Science and the Chess Academy of Armenia. The
sponsorship of the interscholastic chess Olympiad is one of AGBU’s
newest youth programs and it is designed to generate interest in chess
and identify future talents, through whom Armenia can maintain its
standing as a frontrunner in international chess competitions.
In the evening of the same day, President of the Republic of Armenia
Serge Sargsian received AGBU President Berge Setrakian. During their
meeting, President Sargsian expressed high appreciation for AGBU’s
activity in Armenia and the diaspora for the benefit of the nation and
preservation of the Armenian identity. He also hailed the organization’s
new programs in Armenia.
Setrakian, in turn, briefed the Armenian President on AGBU’s upcoming
programs. They spoke about preserving the diaspora’s potential, rallying
diasporan Armenians around national goals and maintaining the Armenian
identity. During their meeting, Sargsian and Setrakian exchanged
opinions about certain national issues of political significance.
On the evening of March 25, Berge Setrakian and the members of the
Central Board of Directors had a meeting with the staff of the AGBU
Armenian Virtual College (AVC), to assess the work being done in the
various developmental aspects of the program. AVC has already launched a
pilot version of their initiative which is open to the public for review
and feedback at www.avc-agbu.org.

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YP Northern California Winter Gala Weekend Attracts Hundreds, Raises $6,000 for American University in Armenia Scholarships

ypnc

San Francisco – Over 200 Armenian Young Professionals from around the globe gathered in San Francisco, California for the 10th Winter Gala Getaway Weekend on February 20, 2009. The annual affair, organized by AGBU Young Professionals of Northern California (AGBU-YPNC), raised $6,000 for scholarships at the AGBU-funded American University of Armenia (AUA), an American-accredited university.
The Winter Gala is an opportunity for friends, new and old, to network with fellow professionals of Armenian descent in a friendly social setting. The weekend began at Cossu, a San Francisco hotspot, where DJ Raffy spun his international beats all night long.
On Saturday, guests took advantage of the unusually sunny and warm weather to plan city tours, visit landmarks and shop in Union Square.
After a day of relaxation and exploration, guests traveled to the city’s SOMA district for the Gala Evening at San Francisco’s 111 Minna Art Gallery against a backdrop of breathtaking skyline and Minna’s edgy, contemporary artwork. Rev. Father Nercess Balabanyan of the Armenian Calvary Church gave a heartfelt blessing, followed by a warm welcome from Gala Chairpersons Steven Cherezian and Arsineh Ghazarian.
"The Winter Gala is, hands down, the most incredible Armenian event I have ever attended," Ghazarian said. "It brings Armenians from around the world together for an amazing weekend and unites them under a shared purpose — support of an Armenian cause."
On behalf of the AGBU Central Board of Directors, AGBU YP Liaison Kim Yacoubian from New York presented a special award to the AGBU Young Professionals of Northern California Chairwoman Emily Kluczynski and former Chairman Edward Minasian to mark the group’s 10-year anniversary and a decade of extraordinary service to the Armenian community and to AGBU. As one of AGBU’s first YP Groups established in 1998, AGBU YP Northern California has matured into a formidable presence serving the YP community in the Bay area as well as the AGBU family.
Back by popular request, Khatchig Jingirian and his band provided the musical entertainment for the evening and the party continued with a post-dance event at the world-renowned nightclub Ruby Skye. Weekend festivities officially concluded with a private brunch at Rouge and Blanc Wine Bar, which was catered by the chef at the neighboring Café De La Presse.
"There is real joy in bringing Armenians together in our gorgeous city for a really great cause," exclaimed Gala committee member, Alison Ekizian. "It’s exciting to draw our community together and twice as rewarding to do it in the spirit of philanthropy."
The AGBU-YPNC chose the AUA as this year’s recipient for their annual philanthropy. The funds will go towards providing scholarships for outstanding AUA students. "Education is one of the best ways we can give back to Armenia," says AGBU-YPNC Chair Emily Kluczynski. "Helping the students of today helps the Armenia of tomorrow."

AGBU Garbis Papazian Award Given to Polish Public Figure & Photographer Msgr. Stanislaw Pindera

stanislaw

The 2008 AGBU Garbis Papazian Award was given to Monsignor Stanislaw
Pindera at a reception held at the Armenian Embassy in Warsaw, Poland on
March 31, 2009. A devout servant of the Catholic Church, Msgr. Pindera
is also a well-known public figure and photographer in Poland. He was
given the award for his preparation and publication of an impressive
photographic album entitled Armenia: Stones Are More Eternal Than Man,
which was realized through the patronage of the Armenian ambassador to
Poland.
Present at the reception were Polish political and public figures,
including members of the Polish Republic’s Sejm and Senat, high-ranking
diplomats at the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, various foreign
ambassadors to Poland, the dean of the Polish diplomatic corps and the
Catholic Archbishop of Warsaw.
His Excellency Ashot Galoyian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to
Poland, spoke about how Msgr. Pindera’s impressive achievement made him
eminently worthy of this type of recognition. Amb. Galoyian went on to
outline the history of the photographic project and expressed his
gratitude to the author for his valuable contribution in spreading
knowledge and increasing public awareness about the scenic wonders and
historic monuments of Armenia and Karabakh.
Subsequently, Razmik Hartunian-Tamrasians, representative of the Garbis
Papazian Fund and president of the Austrian-Armenian Cultural
Association, presented the certificate and monetary award to Msgr.
Pindera. The congratulatory message of AGBU President Berge Setrakian
addressed to the award winner was also read.
During his speech, Msgr. Pinera thanked AGBU for the presentation and
spoke about the deep connection he feels for Armenia:
"I fell in love with this country at first sight. I can see it when I
close my eyes and when I open them again; it is like an open-air museum.
Finally, I fell in love with Armenian people whom I met during my
pilgrimage…In this album I wanted to show the true beauty of the
nature and the wealth of spiritual values of Armenia. This album is my
admiration for this extraordinary country and the people, who shed their
blood for the country – it is a miracle that Armenia and its nation
still exist. The miracle of a nation’s wisdom, but first of all the
strength of the written word."
The AGBU Garbis Papazian Award was established in 1988 through the
initiative and with the financial resources of Garbis Papazian, for the
purpose of recognizing non-Armenian intellectuals who contribute to an
increase in awareness of Armenian history, culture and the Armenian
Question.

Looking to the Next Generation in Armenia: AGBU FOCUS 2009 Honors Hye Geen Pregnant Women’s Centers

focus  Since 2001, each AGBU FOCUS weekend pays tribute to a specific AGBU
program that has touched the lives of young Armenians. Looking to the
next generation in Armenia, AGBU FOCUS proudly honors AGBU Hye Geen by
dedicating its 2009 fundraising campaign to benefit the new Pregnant
Women’s Center in Talin, Armenia. The Talin Center will be the third of
its kind in Armenia and the first in that city.
Established by the AGBU Hye Geen Committee of Los Angeles in response to
the country’s high infant mortality, lack of nutrition and the shortage
of resources for potential mothers, the first Hye Geen Pregnant Women’s
Center opened its doors in Gyumri in 2002 with the encouragement of the
Republic of Armenia’s Minister for the Protection of Women and Children.
Two years later, a second center in Vanadzor was opened. This year, the
Hye Geen Committee plans to open its third center in Talin, which is in
desperate need of help, as many villages in the region are poor and
practically abandoned.
These community-based health resource centers provide critical pre-natal
care to pregnant women who often suffer from malnutrition, lack the
funds for proper medical care, and have little access to accurate health
information. Expectant mothers who gather daily at the centers benefit
from vital medical exams, a congenial social atmosphere, individual
meetings with counselors, nutritious meals, and vitamins provided by Hye
Geen. Center participants are recommended by local clinics and spend 4-5
hours a day at the facilities. Meals are prepared and served by the
women themselves in order to encourage good nutrition habits which are
taught by the trained center staff. Each center has three local
employees on staff, including a social worker, who work with the women
to ensure that their babies are born healthy. Various medical personnel
are invited to the centers periodically, or as required, to monitor each
woman’s progress and needs. The superintendent of the centers, Nara
Sahakian, who is a lecturer in psychology at Yerevan State University,
travels from Yerevan for weekly visits to each center and ensures that
each facility is operating at its utmost.
To date, hundreds of healthy babies have been born to the mothers who
have participated in the programs at the AGBU Hye Geen Pregnant Women’s
Centers.
AGBU FOCUS believes that every child born in Armenia deserves a chance
at a healthy life unfettered by preventable medical issues. Honoring
AGBU Hye Geen’s latest project, FOCUS has launched a large-scale
pre-event fundraising effort to ensure that the Talin Center will open
with all the resources it needs to carry out its mission of serving the
pregnant women of Armenia.
To make a donation to the AGBU FOCUS 2009 initiative, please visit
www.agbu.org/focus, email focus@agbu.org, or call 212-319-6383 x.128.
Businesses interested in donating to this worthy cause may choose to
purchase an ad in the FOCUS booklet. More information is available on
the FOCUS website.
AGBU FOCUS is a biennial weekend event designed for young Armenian
professionals from all over the world to congregate and share their
international perspectives, as well as provide a venue to showcase
notable contributions and achievements made by AGBU’s diverse
youth-oriented programs. Building on the impressive achievements
experienced during the premiere weekend in New York in 2001, AGBU FOCUS
has since united more than 1,500 young Armenians from cities around the
globe, with weekends hosted in New York (2001, 2007), Montreal (2003),
Miami (2005), and now heading west to Chicago. Additionally, well over
$125,000 has been raised for many AGBU programs, including Generation
Next, the Scholarship Program and the New York Summer Intern Program.
From July 16-19, 2009, FOCUS will welcome hundreds of Armenians to
Chicago for this unique celebration. Rooms have been reserved at the
Westin Michigan Avenue Hotel and a special discounted rate is available
for reservations made only through AGBU beginning in mid-April. Plans
have also been set to host the Gala Evening, the highlight of the FOCUS
weekend, at the Art Institute of Chicago’s new modern wing, which is set
to open this summer.
Since 1994, AGBU Hye Geen in Southern California has worked to preserve
and honor achievements of Armenian women, provide a forum for them
throughout the world, promote their role in family and society through
research, education, and advocacy, and provide overall support to
empower Armenian women as carriers of the Armenian cultural heritage.

AGBU High School-Pasadena Grads Excel, 90% Accepted at Major Colleges & Universities

pasadena

Pasadena, CA – As a college preparatory high school, AGBU High School –
Pasadena strives to encourage and support students in their path to
higher education. The combined efforts of the school and the students
paid off with a 40% acceptance rate to the University of California
system, including a 15% acceptance rate to UCLA. Overall, 90% of the
Class of 2009 have gained acceptance into the University of California
and California State University systems, as well as other reputable
private institutions of higher learning.
These high levels of acceptance are an indication of the rigorous
curriculum, dedicated faculty and hard-working student population of
AGBU High School-Pasadena. Over the past three years, AGBU High
School-Pasadena has worked diligently to raise the standards of its
curriculum, by adding honors sections for all classes and offering over
seven advanced placement courses. The school also offers SAT preparation
courses and free tutoring sessions with faculty members after school. In
addition, the senior year academic program is also enhanced with
enrichment opportunities made available to the students, which enhance
their college application portfolios. The school facilitates the process
of students taking community college courses, volunteering for local
organizations and finding meaningful programs for them to participate.
To complement the rich curriculum at AGBU High School-Pasadena, the
faculty is continually involved in professional development. Almost 100%
of faculty members have a master’s degree and/or teaching credential in
the field they teach. In addition, teachers are encouraged and supported
to attend workshops and are offered professional development
opportunities on campus.
Finally, this success is also the result of the hard work and diligence
on the part of the students, which is truly commendable. The Class of
2009 is committed to their future goals and aspirations by continuously
taking advantage of the academic opportunities available at AGBU High
School-Pasadena.
The smashing success of AGBU High School-Pasadena Class of 2009 is truly
remarkable and portends favorably on future prospects of the school.
With reporting from AGBU High School-Pasadena’s school newspaper.

New Sports & Cultural Center Unveiled in Yerevan Suburb of Nubarashen, A Cooperative Venture of AGBU and World Bank

Noubarashen With the cooperation of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and
the World Bank/ASIF (Armenian Social Investment Fund) program, the
Nubarashen Sports & Cultural Center was completed and opened on March
25, 2009 in the Yerevan suburb of Nubarashen.
During the opening ceremony, AGBU President Berge Setrakian remarked on
how incredible it was to see the opening of a beautiful new building in
a district which was first established by the organization’s founder,
Boghos Nubar, in the 1930s and today still bears his name. By
participating in the construction of the building, Setrakian said, AGBU
pays homage to Boghos Nubar and his ideals.
The plans for the construction of the Nubarashen center began in 2005
but they were finally realized when AGBU and the World Bank/ASIF program
stepped in with the 85 million AMD (approx. US$250,000) needed to
complete the final stage of the project. Forty-five percent of that sum
was paid by the World Bank/ASIF program, while AGBU provided the
remaining 55%.
Mher Hovanissian, mayor of the Nubarashen district, spoke about Boghos
Nubar’s choice of this site as a recipient of his largesse. He explained
that it was not an accident that the AGBU founder chose this locale,
since it had symbolic importance as a perfect location from which to
view both the Ararat and Aragats mountains–the former being a spiritual
symbol of the Armenian people and the latter, as Armenia’s tallest
mountain, a symbol of Armenia today.
The first floor of the center houses a gymnasium, while a hall for
cultural events is located on the second floor.

Introducing the New 2009 AGBU Camp Nubar Director Jennifer Omartian

Omartian

AGBU Camp Nubar is pleased to announce that Jennifer Omartian will serve
as the 2009 Camp Director. Jennifer first came to Camp Nubar, located in
the Catskill Mountain Region of New York, in 1993 and she has returned
yearly ever since. She began as a counselor for several years before
going on to serve as Activities Director, Girls Head Counselor, and
Assistant Director. No other director in the 46-year history of Camp
Nubar has spent more time at the Catskill camp than Jennifer, which is a
clear indication of her passion for the facility by idyllic Lake Arax.
Jennifer grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where she attended St.
Mark Church in neighboring Springfield, MA. She graduated from James
Madison University where she received her master’s degree in Middle
School Education. Jennifer now resides in Virginia and attends St. Mary
Church in Washington, D.C.
The following is a short interview with the new Camp Director about the
plans for summer 2009.
AGBU: What are your goals and hopes for the summer?
Jennifer Omartian: Preparation is crucial for a safe and fun season. I
will ensure that counselors are prepared, qualified, and ready for
another successful summer.
I hope to see campers and counselors work alongside one another, to grow
as individuals and into one family. Campers learn from their counselors,
but counselors learn from their campers as well. Every session has a
unique blend of people from different places. I look forward to seeing
how each session will create its own set of memories using the same
resources and facilities.
AGBU: What are your favorite aspects of camp and do you have any
favorite memories?
JO: I love the anticipation that surrounds camp. Throughout the year,
campers and counselors anticipate the following summer, the friends they
will be reunited with, the bonds they will form and the memories they
will make. When camp begins, the campers and counselors anxiously wait
for their favorite camp event, whether it is an evening activity, a
carnival, or Color War. Throughout their camp careers, campers count
down the summers until they finally become a counselor.
I also love seeing the camp family within the greater Armenian
community. It is such a wonderful feeling to walk into church, a
basketball game, or a picnic and see campers and counselors so eager to
see each other and talk about camp.
My favorite camp memory was watching my very first group of G1 campers
mature every summer and then serve as counselors.
AGBU: What is your current occupation and what do you enjoy about it?
JO: I teach sixth-grade social studies in Fairfax County, Virginia. I
love the diversity at my school and the many challenges that it presents
on a daily basis. I teach students from all over the world and it amazes
me how they blend together and learn from each other while maintaining
pride in their own identity. I see this same sense of pride in our
campers. Camp Nubar excels at encouraging campers to build a sense of
pride in their personal and community identities. I look forward to
another amazing summer at Camp Nubar.