AYF member Arek Santikian speaking about genocide to students from Lakewood high.
LAKEWOOD, CA–Hundreds of tenth and eleventh grade history students gathered in the Lakewood High School Library on Monday to participate in a discussion on genocide with members of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF).
The discussion covered a range of issues, from the basic history of the Armenian Genocide to how its denial put into motion a cycle of genocide that has characterized the 20th century, as the bloodiest in history. The recurrence of that cycle today in the 21st century was underscored as the root cause of the genocide currently taking place in Darfur.
Lakewood High teacher Angela Wood, who had taken the lead on teaching the Armenian Genocide in her history classes, reached out to the AYF to organize the discussion with class. “We’ve been teaching WWI History to our students for many years and seeing as the Armenian Genocide occurred at this time, we’ve always wanted our students to be aware of this issue,” she explained.
Vache Thomassian, the AYF’s chairperson, led the discussion covering the five phases of the Genocide, focusing on how Turkey’s ongoing denial of its crime continues to provide genocidal regimes with ample precedents for how to carry out their crimes.
“The denial aspect is arguably the most disheartening, because not only has the Turkish government committed the crime, but now they are trying to rewrite our ancestor’s history by distorting the truth, and this has led to other perpetrators believing that they can get away with doing the same thing,” said Thomassian. “We are thankful that Ms. Wood has allowed for us to come here today to talk about the reasons and the means that our generation has confronted in order to prevent the government from completing this act of inhumanity.”
The presentation itself lasted for 4 class periods, with Thomassian and fellow AYF member Arek Santikian speaking to over 200 mostly non-Armenian students about the evils of genocide.
“It was amazing how motivated these students were by the discussion,” exclaimed Santikian, adding that many were anxious to find out ways they could make their voices heard on the issue.
Lakewood’s congressional representative, Linda Sanchez, is currently not signed on as a cosponsor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, H.Res.252. Santikian urged the students to call their congresswoman and share their concern over the cycle of genocide.
“The best way for any individual in America to get their voice heard is to reach out to their representative in congress and urge them to do the right thing,” he said.
At the end of every discussion, Thomassian and Santikian passed out fliers, sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America, detailing all the simple ways to reach out to congressional representatives on this and other issues.
The ANCA on Monday launched a nationwide online and print campaign, urging concrete action to end the Darfur genocide and full U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Titled the "Fierce Urgency of Now," the grassroots campaign gives anti-genocide activists across the U.S. an opportunity to learn more about the worsening humanitarian situation in Darfur and how this atrocity fits into the cycle of genocide that started with the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. Individual’s can use the campaign’s website to send webfaxes to members of congress and President Obama.
Founded in 1933, the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) has grown to become the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization; with chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world. Inspired by our past and motivated by the needs of the future, the AYF actively strives to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth.
LOS ANGELES–The Armenian Youth Federation is gearing up for its sixth annual Little Armenia Beautification Project when hundreds of volunteers are expected to mobilize in an effort to comb the streets of Hollywood, to clean up and beautify the Little Armenia region of Los Angeles.
The cleanup will take place on Sunday, March 29. The opening ceremony will commence at 9:00 am at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, located in the heart of Little Armenia on the corner of Vermont and Fountain. Before hitting the streets, volunteers will participate in a formal program that includes an address by California State Assembly Member Kevin de Leon and other honored guests. The clean-up will last until 3:00 pm.
With Los Angeles home to one of the largest Armenian communities outside the Republic of Armenia, the Little Armenia Beautification Project has become an anticipated avenue for community activism.
The City of Los Angeles Sanitation Department has estimated that more than 23,000 pounds of trash have been removed in the past, as a result of AYF volunteer efforts. This year, the program will go one step further by removing graffiti from walls and planting trees throughout the area.
Hollywood Presbyterian, the formal sponsor of the beautification project, reached out to the AYF this year to collaborate on the project.
"We are located in the heart of little Armenia and want to work at a grass-roots level with members of the community. That’s why we reached out to the AYF to help help promote this effort and become a part of little Armenia both literally and in in spirit," said the hospital PR spokesperson Maral Habeshian.
Committed to engaging Armenian youth in the Little Armenia community, the AYF Hollywood Musa Dagh Chapter is hosting this year’s organized cleanup.“Little Armenia is home to one of the largest Armenia Diaspora communities in the United States and it is imperative we take responsibility for the well being of not only our community, but also the greater Hollywood community,” said chapter chairperson Arek Santikian.
“It’s our home away from home and we should feel proud to be giving back to it,” he added.
Every year, for the past five year, the AYF has rounded up Armenian youth from across California and the western United States to give back to this community. This one-day campaign has also attracted volunteers from Arizona, and Nevada to make the trip to Los Angeles and help the AYF remove thousands of pounds of trash from the streets in Little Armenia.
The Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) was founded in 1933. Since then, it has grown to become the largest and most influential Armenian American youth organization with chapters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world. The group actively strives to advance the social, political, educational and cultural awareness of all Armenian youth. More information about the youth group is available at AYFwest.org.
CRESCENTA VALLEY–The Crescenta Valley ‘Zartonk’ Chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation will be hosting a lounge night fundraiser on Saturday March 28 as part of a large scale effort by the organization’s nine Southern California chapters to raise funds for the AYF’s Youth Corps program in Armenia.
The event, titled “Just Kick It,” is set to begin at 8pm at the Crescenta Valley Armenian Center. It is the 5th Youth Corps fundraiser held since the program began engaging the local chapters on this initiative late last year.
Thus far joint fundraisers have been held with the Burbank ‘Varak’ chapter, the Orange County ‘Ashod Yergat’ chapter, the Montebello ‘Vahan Kardashian’ chapter, and the Hollywood ‘Musa Dagh’ chapter.
The AYF Youth Corps program was established in 1994 to strengthen ties between the homeland and Diaspora youth. The program provides an unequaled opportunity to experience daily life in Armenia by volunteering as camp counselors for underprivileged children in Gyumi.
“The Youth Corps program is the bridge for diasporan youth to connect with their homeland. Working with children in Armenia is a priceless experience,” said Sose Thomassian, chairperson of the Youth Corps Committee. “In the future, with the support of our communities, we hope to expand the program to several cities throughout Armenia.”
The six week program is open to all youth over the age of 18 who are motivated and enthusiastic about helping Armenia. The deadline to submit applications for the Summer 2009 Youth Corps program is on April 20. Applications can be downloaded at: https://www.ayfwest.org/assets/2009_yc_application.pdf
The Crescenta Valley Armenian Center is located on 2633 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA, 91020.
The struggle to maintain one’s identity and culture outside of his or her homeland is not a new one for Armenians. For centuries, we have survived exile, dominion under foreign powers and life on foreign soil.
Despite even the decimation wrought by the Genocide, Armenians everywhere transformed their existence from one of refugees, orphans, and scarred survivors to flourishing, tight-knit and successful communities. Through the invaluable strength of organization, we were able to build new schools, churches, and cultural institutions. Thanks to the perseverance and will of our parents and grandparents, the youth of today were provided the proper avenues for maintaining their identity and preserving their heritage in the diaspora.
But this struggle to stay Armenian outside of our indigenous homeland has always been daunting. In the Western societies of Europe and North America, especially, the fight against assimilation and apathy is a daily challenge. The cultural homogenization now propelled around the world by the process of globalization has only further expanded this obstacle.
Adding to this complexity of life in the diaspora is the changing landscape of communities themselves. An influx of more recently arrived immigrants from Armenia has challenged the traditional dynamics of many diasporan communities. What’s more, regaining an independent Armenian Republic—one with all the powers available to a state and an impetus to engage the seeds of its nation spread across the globe—has opened a new page for what lies in the future.
These realities demand the need to take a fresh new look at the state of the Armenian Diaspora and grapple with the modern challenges that face it. In this special Tri-Regional AYF collaborative issue, we set out to do just that.
One thing continues to remain crystal clear: more than ever, it is the responsibility of the youth today to recognize the accomplishments of previous generations so as to build upon them with vigor and determination, and ensure an even brighter future for generations to come.
The countless Armenian diasporan communities and the Republic itself are like the seeds of a sunflower. While some are larger than others, they exist in unison to form our blossoming Armenian Nation.
It’s up to our generation to keep that flower beautiful.
CRESCENTA VALLEY, CA–The Armenian Center in Crescenta Valley was teeming with excitement on Saturday, March 14, as members from the Armenian Youth Federation came together in the center’s hall to compete in what has become the most anticipated educational event on the AYF’s yearly calendar.
Dubbed the “4th Annual Biggest Quiz Bowl in AYF History,” this competition has been hosted annually by the organization’s Crescenta Valley Zartonk Chapter since 2006. This year’s quiz bowl pitted six chapters against one another in a friendly competition on the history of the Armenian Zartonk, a period covering the 18th and 19th centuries, when dedicated intellectuals and activists tirelessly laid the groundwork for a literary, cultural and political awakening.
The event, which required participants to prepare months in advance, has been the pride and joy of the chapter since its inaugural year, according to its chairperson Aris Hovasapian.
“The intent of the quiz bowl, from its inception, has been to explore themes that have not been at the forefront of AYF’s educational efforts,” Hovasapian said. “We wanted to select topics to which we have historically been underexposed.”
The first quiz bowl, he recalled, focused on the February Rebellion of 1921; the next centered on the rebirth of Armenian nationalism during the Soviet Era. Last year, chapters learned about the vital role played by women in the Armenian revolutionary movement.
Hovasapian explained that every year, chapters from throughout Southern California establish teams and study groups in anticipation of the annual quiz bowl.
While the quiz bowl challenges competing chapter to take a journey into uncharted territory, equally challenging are the logistical aspects for the event’s organizers, according to Saro Haroun, who was in charge of putting together this year’s quiz bowl.
Preparing for the quiz bowl starts nearly 6 months prior to the actual date of the event, Haroun said, explaining how chapter members from AYF Zartonk’s educational committee are required to study the reading material and develop questions to be used in the actual competition. This is all in addition to actually taking care of the logistics of the event, such as finding a host, securing the judges, and promoting the event.
This year, the chapter decided to raise the bar with the topic and questions, Haroun said, adding that the study guides were composed of university level reading that covered dense concepts and challenging issues.
“When I first received the email with the study guide to this year’s quiz bowl I thought it was going to be extremely hard,” said Serob Aprahamian, a member of the Valley Sardarabad team.
Although Sardarabad won this year’s competition, winning wasn’t easy, he stressed, noting how his team had to adopt a strict study regimen. “We decided to split the packet up among four team members, distributing work evenly to be more efficient,” he said.
Several chapters followed a similar formula, preparing flashcards and outlines from the reading material that had been provided by the Crescenta Valley chapter months in advance. Some even went so far as to organize internal review sessions where team members would quiz one another on their assigned reading.
Orange County’s Ashod Yergat Chapter prepared by having weekly study groups. “Our quiz bowl team prepared for the event by reading the comprehensive material, extracting key points in an outline format, and making study cards to review key figures and events,” said Ashod Yergat member Alex DerAlexanian, who described his own systemic approach to studying as one initially driven by the desire to win.
“But I was quickly taken aback by intriguing material,” he said, noting how he studying for the quiz bowl opened his eyes to the role of the Armenian Diaspora in the development of a homogenous national identity for the Armenian people. “Learning about the Mkhitarist brotherhood’s efforts to collect, research, refine and publish Armenian History, literature, geography and language helped me develop a much deeper understanding of the amount of work and sacrifice it took for Armenians to get where they are today,” he added.
“It was rather inspiring actually,” DerAlexanian, 22, exclaimed. “In the 19th century, Armenians my age were graduating from Universities in Europe and Russia and going to the provinces to raise awareness of the plight of our nation under Turkish occupation.”
This topic is very important, stressed David Arakelyan, from the Glendale Roupen chapter. “The Zartonk was the intellectual awakening of our people. It not only fueled the revolutionary movement and the independence movement, but also saved the nation from assimilating into the dominant trends shaping their every day realities,” he said.
The event’s host, Mourad Topalian, emphasized that poignant point throughout the evening, relating each question he asked the participants to the current struggle for the Armenian Cause. “Hai Tahd is not a new phenomenon; Armenian men and women were dreaming of, and working for, the liberation of their people long before Armenian Americans began working in Washington DC toward the just resolution of our cause,” he exclaimed after asking a question about Israel Ori’s attempt to liberate Armenia from Persian domination in 1659.
“These people were thinking about freedom and democracy, women’s rights and civil liberties, long before the United States Constitution was even written,” Topalian said. “These are still very pertinent issues today, for all people.”
Myrna Douzjian, one of the quiz bowl’s three judges, also reflected on the topics resonance with contemporary Armenians, explaining how the efforts of Armenians of the 19th century to “define a transnational Armenian identity and to revive the vitality of the Armenian language and culture are pressing concerns for Armenian communities worldwide.”
“Interestingly enough, over a century later–after the collapse of the Ottoman, Russian and Soviet empires, the independence of the fledgling Armenian state, and the large-scale, multi-phased remappings of Armenian populations across the globe–many of the issues that the Zartonk period put forth remain relevant for Diaspora Armenians today, though in contemporary terms,” she said. “The AYF’s decision to engage in the study of this period serves as a testament to that reality.”
Douzjian, who is currently a Ph.D. candidate in comparative literature at UCLA, was joined on the judge’s panel by Sevag Garabedian and Talar Chahinian, all alumni of the Crescenta Valley Zartonk chapter.
“I had a lot of fun as a judge in this year’s quiz bowl,” said Chahinian, who is a lecturer at UCLA with a Ph.D. in comparative literature. “I think it’s a wonderful way for the youth to engage more closely with Armenian cultural history.”
Garabedian, for his part, described the evening as an elevating and nostalgic reminder of his days as members of the chapter, organizing educationals and discussions around the same issues.
Arick Gevorkian, a member of the Crescenta Valley ARF Zavarian Gomideh, shared similar sentimen’s. “I was uplifted by the spirit and energy of the AYF members in the room,” he said. “The passion and enthusiasm the quiz bowl participants displayed took me back 20 years; I felt like an AYF member again.”
Editor’s Note: AYF Zartonk will also be launching the Blueprint for Progress lecture series on April 5. The series will explore progressive issues in American politics, and will show how Armenian-Americans’ participation in those issues will help us in achieving our political goals in the United States. Among the issues that will be explored are the civil rights movement, organized labor, and sustainability. Lectures are schedule for April 5, May 17, June 28, and July 26. All lectures will begin at 6pm and will be held at the Crescenta Valley Armenian Center at 2633 Honolulu Ave., Montrose, CA, 91020. For more information email: AYFZARTONK@GMAIL.COM
PASADENA, CA–As part of its ongoing commitment to popular education within the community and, especially, among the youth, the Pasadena “Nigol Touman” chapter of the Armenian Youth Federation held the latest installment in its lecture series this past Sunday, March 15, at the Pasadena Armenian Center. The guest speaker for the evening was Senya Lubisich, a professor of History at Citrus College, who spoke about the legacy of the French Revolution to a packed house of over seventy, mostly AYF members.
“With so many young people in attendance, we found the event to be very successful,” said Pasadena Educational Committee member Tro Krikorian. “The numbers are increasing with every lecture and that is the goal of our chapter: to get ourselves educated and educate as many other youth along with us.”
Before jumping into the details of the French Revolution, Lubisich began her lecture by clarifying how she viewed the concept of revolution. “We tend to use the term %u218revolution’ very loosely,” she asserted, noting how most people use it to refer to a specific event or a series of confined events that lead to some ultimate outcome.
“I tend to think of it, instead, as a longer-term process; a spark that sets off an extended series of ongoing events and changes,” explained Lubisich. Using the French example, she described how, even though the French people did not achieve democracy right away, the revolution politicized the working masses and set in motion an ongoing process for a more equal society.
Lubisich then reviewed the key events of the French Revolution and expounded upon what she felt were its three everlasting imprints on the course of human history. The first she described as the constitutional legacy and the notion that the rights of citizens must be enshrined in an agreed upon legal framework. This impact was felt immediately, as the world soon saw the rise of constitutions throughout the 19th and continuing into the 20th century.
The second lasting impact was the concept of nationalism and redefining the state from one bestowed to a royal family to one belonging to a specific linguistically, territorially, culturally and historically homogenous people. Lubisich was quick to point out that unifying the people around this new concept of nationalism was a conscious undertaking that required considerable effort and articulation. It was also one that soon spread across the world, helping spawn the modern era of the nation-state.
Finally, the French Revolution set in motion a new era of articulating popular visions of society. The traditional nobility, the liberal merchant class, and the democratic working masses all competed for the triumph of their particular vision of what a future society should look like. Today, this struggle for ideas and challenges to the status quo remains with us more commonly than ever.
Following the lecture, a lively question and answer period gave the audience an opportunity to guide the discussion towards learning from the French Revolution as it relates to Armenia. Lubisich admitted that, “Having to think in terms of a diaspora lends different factors to consider in the Armenian case.” Nevertheless, she suggested that the challenge to illegitimate authority that revolutions often pose is an important one to draw from for any society. “There is this important question of what purpose are institutions serving and do they merit legitimacy,” said Lubisich. “This question needs to always be asked; it’s an ongoing process for Armenia and even us here in America.”
According to many of the AYF members who were in the audience, the event proved to be well worth attending. “I enjoyed it a lot,” said Hrag Melkonian of the Valley “Sardarabad” Chapter. “It gave us the opportunity to get a better understanding of what has happened in the past so that we can apply it today.”
His counterpart from the “Sardarabad” Chapter, Hrag Kitsinian, agreed, saying “It was very interesting to hear about how revolutions have progressed in other cultures and what impact their aftermath has had for each country.”
The mere fact that these youth gathered together on a Sunday night to learn about a topic as momentous as the French Revolution says a great deal in and of itself. Rather than roam around in a mall or sit in front of the television, they were out exploring issues of history, social change, justice, democracy and revolution.
As summed up by Krikorian, “We usually get these types of lectures only at schools or in a classroom setting, if we’re lucky. But these are topics that all youth need to know about in order to have a clearer understanding of history and relate what’s important back to our own cause.”
The next lecture in the Pasadena “Nigol Touman” Chapter’s educational series will be on May 3rd and will feature a talk by Prof. Eloy Zarate, on the topic of other key historical revolutions. For more information, contact ayf@AYFwest.org.
NORTHRIDGE, CA–Students and human rights activists recently attended a talk by Consul General of Azerbaijan Elin Suleymanov held Wednesday at California State University-Northridge (CSUN), the Armenian National Committee Reported
The lecture, organized at the requested of Suleymanov, was titled “The Geopolitics of Energy Security in Eurasia, Central Asia, Europe and America,” and served as a propaganda event to present Azerbaijan as a stable democracy and investment receptacle for the west.
Suleymanov attempted to portray Azerbaijan as a country of “stability, with unmatched regional cooperation and [as] an ideal location for investment”.
Concerned students, in a collaborative effort, produced flyers on the event and disseminated materials to attendees and passers-by, informing them about Azerbaijan’s bleak human rights record and history of war-mongering in the region.
During the presentation, students also asked the Consul General questions regarding the Azerbaijani President’s repeated and explicit threats of war over Nagorno Karabakh, Azerbaijan’s swelling list of human rights violations, the rampant government corruption plaguing the government, the Sumgait Massacre of Armenia’s and the disinformation campaign of the Azerbaijani government against Armenia.
Those participating were members of various organizations, including the CSUN Armenian Students Association, Shant Student Association, the Armenian Youth Federation and the AEO Fraternity.
Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, has used soaring oil revenues to buildup the country’s military to launch a new war against Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, which have isolated from regional projects,” said Armen Aboulian, Chairman of the ARF Shant Student Association. “As United States citizens, we refuse to partake in a relationship whose profits will be used to undermine the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and its people’s rights to self-determination.”
Wednesday’s presentation by Suleymanov comes amid heightened activism by the Azerbaijani government in the United States, working with Azeri and Turkish Americans on college campuses and in the halls of Congress and state legislatures, to distort the facts of the Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan’s interests.
Late last Month, a group of Azeri’s stages anti-Armenia demonstrations in Washington DC, protesting against what they called “Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan” and demanding that Armenia’s "get out" of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s government earlier this year announced February 20 – March 1 would be considered Khojaly Awareness Days, kicking off what they called an international memorial effort that would be observed at all the Azeri embassies and consulates in the United States.
On February 22, the Azerbaijani Consulate General in Los Angeles staged a public event on Khojaly. The event came two days after the American Council of Turkish-speaking Students Association at Berkeley University and Northern California Cultural Center sponsored a conference at UC Berkeley titled “Tragedy of Khojaly.”
Since being appointed in 2005, Suleymanov has been actively working to reshape Azerbaijan’s image in the Western United States, speaking at places like the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and in states like Colorado, Idaho, and Wyoming.
Last August he addressed a group of local world history schoolteachers as part of a two-week training workshop about historical and contemporary links between Europe and Azia hosted at UCLA. Through Suleymanov, these K-12 teachers learned about Azerbaijan’s struggle to survive and to succeed” in an “inflamed” region.
“The misinformation campaign of the Azerbaijani government continues,” stated Andrew Kzirian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee–Western Region. “Our community is committed to working with human rights activists to ensure that America knows the facts when it comes to Artsakh and Azerbaijan."
LITTLE ARMENIA–For 12 hours on Thursday, March 5, the auditorium of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was overflowing with activity, as nearly a hundred young Armenia’s poured in throughout the day to join members of the community in donating blood to the American Red Cross.
A single donation of one pint of blood can help save the lives of up to three people. Even though it’s an easy way to make a difference, few people surprisingly donate. This year, the Armenian Youth Federation teamed up with Hollywood Presbyterian, the Red Cross and other community organizations to break that trend, reaching out to volunteers from the Armenian community in an effort to educate, motivate, and activate potential donors.
“The hospital’s outreach to the Little Armenia community led to a natural partnership with the AYF,” explained the organization’s chairman, Vache Thomassian, who spent his day at the hospital helping staff accommodate the large influx of donors answering the AYF’s call to action.
Avo Shanlian, a member of the Pasadena chapter of the AYF, was among the first to arrive on site that day, anxiously waiting for two hours to donate his blood. “Our participation is necessary and required,” he exclaimed when asked why he had taken time out of his day to donate. “I grew up on stories about how the world turned a blind eye to my people as they were being killed in the genocide, now I have an opportunity to save three lives, and I’m taking it.”
“Our community needs to lead by example,” Shanlian stressed. And his chapter did just that; by donating 10 pints of blood to the Red Cross, they saved 30 lives in less than a day.
Throughout the day, AYF members from across southern California helped maintain a steady flow of donors into the hospital’s auditorium, with chapters in Hollywood, Burbank, La Crescenta, Montebello, Orange County, Torrance, Pasadena, and the San Fernando Valley all having joined together to mobilize their respective communities behind the important project.
“The overwhelming response of our membership to this blood-drive shows how concerned the youth is with the well being of our community, Thomassian said. “Hollywood Presbyterian is a vital institution in Little Armenia and as the largest and most active Armenian youth organization in Southern California, we felt it was our responsibility to take part in planning and implementing this blood drive.”
Many of the blood-drive participants shared Thomassian’s sense of responsibility for the community’s well being. Some at the drive even said they were hoping their participation would motivate others to be more active in the community.
Indeed, that turned out to be the case as eleven students from the Hollywood Rose and Alex Pilibos Highschool arrived after school to join the drive. “I heard about the blood drive through the AYF and Little Armenia is my home away from home so it only made sense to come out and participate,” said Vazrig Aprahamian, a senior at Pilibos, who along with his friends, was donating blood for the first time. “It was very gratifying knowing that I saved three lives.”
For Serena Vartazarian, it was particularly inspiring to see “the AYF mobilize so many youth not a part of the organization to participate in an activity that directly affects the lives of so many people in the area.”
By the time Vartazarian arrived, the hospital had received more donors than it could handle. “All of us who had scheduled to go down got text messages saying that they had such a great turnout and that there were so many people, the Red Cross couldn’t handle more. But I decided to go down there and I saw a lot of Armenian youth ready and waiting to donate,” she added. “Most of us waited about 2 hours before we could get in but it was worth it.”
“They overwhelmed us with their support and dedication with boatloads of donors,” exclaimed Caeser Fontanilla of the Red Cross, commenting on how excited he had been all day to see one young Armenian after another donate in support the Red Cross and the community Hospital.
“The AYF was probably the largest contributor to this blood-drive,” he added.
Jay Yoo, the Director of Special Projects at HPMC, was similarly impressed with the large turnout. The Armenian community is an integral part of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, he explained, noting its location in the heart of Little Armenia. “The culture of the hospital is very much Armenian, as many of its patients, physicians, staff and employees are Armenia’s.”
“I’m very thankful for the Hospital’s newly established alliance with the AYF and impressed with its leadership. I look forward to working with their 400 or so volunteers in sponsoring the Little Armenia Beautification Project on March 29,” Yoo said. “This is a group of motivated youth with their finger on the pulse of the Armenian community and together we look to make a positive impact on Little Armenia.”
Only 21, Yura Movsisyan has already played on two MLS professional soccer teams, competed with the best players in Europe, and is being sponsored by Adidas. But he did not reach his goal of becoming a professional soccer player by just wishing for it.
Movsisyan was born on July 6, 1987 in Baku, Azerbaijani SSR, Soviet Union. As a boy he learned to play soccer on the streets of his hometown and grew to love the game. Unfortunately being in Baku as an Armenian was not safe, especially during the pogroms of the late 1980s and 1990s.
Armenians generally were not respected or tolerated in Baku and, in 2000, Movsisyan and his family fled Azerbaijan to come to the United States. They were blessed enough to move to Pasadena, Calif., where they started a new life, with new hopes and dreams. This is where his dreams truly started to come true.
He quickly joined an organized soccer club called Lazio FC. When asked what drew him to join the team, he replies, “I had a lot of love for soccer ever since I was a child. I wanted to be a professional soccer player and I felt proper training was key.” He joined two more club soccer teams: Flyers FC and Arsenal.
Movsisyan explains that maintaining his Armenian identity was initially a daunting task, but he vowed he would never forget where he or his family came from. “Soccer did help me feel more comfortable to be in the United States,” he explains, “and it was a way for me to get away from the rest of the world, it made me feel really happy.” Even though Yura’s life is and was completely surrounded by soccer he didn’t forget about his roots. He maintained his culture by doing what he knew best: every year he would play Forward for the Homenetmen “Azadamard” soccer team at the Navasartian Games.
The young Movsisyan also attended Pasadena High School (PHS), playing for his school and his future mentor, Cherif Zein. He shattered the PHS goal record by seven goals, making 32 goals in 13 games. “Breaking the record in high school was nice,” recalls Movsisyan. “During the season it wasn’t the amount of goals I wanted to make, for me it was just making goals till the end and it was nice to have it on my resume.”
While living in the United States and even in Baku, Yura did not attend any Armenian Schools. “The other day, I went to Pilibos Armenian School to speak,” says Movsisyan, “and that is the only time I have ever been inside an Armenian School.” Yet, to this day, he knows how to read and write fluently in Armenian.
After high school Movsisyan moved on to college soccer. While, at first, he was not very interested in attending college, his mind was quickly changed after his mentor Cherif told him that if he played for Pasadena City College (PCC) for one season, he would guarantee that professional coaches would see him. Yura played his heart out, becoming the MVP of the Pacific League, scoring 18 goals in 19 games, and accounting for half of his team’s goals for that season. Cherif’s promise proved to be true as Yura was pronounced eligible for the MLS draft within three months of playing for PCC.
Movsisyan’s dream had finally come true. He was a professional soccer player playing for Kansas City. “It was a dream come true playing for Kansas City. It was the best feeling actually attaining my goal,” says Movsisyan. He admits, however, that, “I did feel out of place being in Kansas City, not being with my family or other Armenians.”
Since then Movsisyan has moved on to play for the MLS soccer team, Real Salt Lake. This past season he scored eight goals and assisted one goal. When asked what his goals are for the upcoming season his answer was, “to score more goals and be healthy.”
This past summer, Movsisyan was invited to play at a tournament hosted by Adidas called “Generation Adidas”—where the best in the MLS are asked to compete. For the future, Movsisyan has his sights set on one day playing for a soccer club in Europe. “Eventually I want to end up playing in Europe whether its next year or in the next five years, I really want to go,” says the ambitious Movsisyan. “Any good team in Europe is fine with me; any good team would be good.” Currently, he is also hosting a soccer camp in Arcadia, Calif., where he is teaching and training many young athletes. Movsisyan will also continue to play for Real Salt Lake this upcoming season.