The five pillars of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) represent the goals and importance of the organization: Cultural, Educational, Political, Social, and Athletics. The weekend of October 4-6, 2013, over ninety participants from across Eastern region, along with members from Montreal and Florida, convened at AYF’s Camp Haiastan at AYF Senior Seminar 2013: Stand Up, Stand Together for Artsakh.
Without a doubt, it is always heart-warming to witness Armenian youth gather around a unified cause; however, the ambiance at Senior Seminar set a more meaningful tone to our great organization. Not only was it instilled in us to continue to stand in unity as the Armenian Diaspora, but the motivation and inspiration to be active members in our respective communities weighed deeply throughout the weekend.
The Central Educational Committee (Narineh Abrahamian, D.C.; Tamar Alexanian, Chicago; Nairi Khachatourian, Boston; and Talene Taraksian, Providence) organized a fulfilling weekend balanced in educationals, activities, and political activism. Lecturers included Nanore Barsoumian, assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly, Michael Mensoian, professor at University of Massachusetts-Boston, and Unger Mourad Topalian, former chair of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
With Artsakh as the central theme of the seminar, Nanore Barsamian shared stories about both Armenian soldiers and Artsakh locals, including the inspirational story of Stepanakert resident and caretaker of Artsakh’s military museum, Galya, who has devoted herself to honoring her fallen son, one of our many lost soldiers. Professor Mensoian discussed the abundant resources in Artsakh and Armenia and their importance in strengthening our homeland economically. He focused on how homegrown, Armenian products are sometimes undervalued or ignored, while products from abroad are often desired. During the seminar, ANCA-ER Executive Director Michelle Hagopian and ANCA National Board member Steve Mersobian instructed AYF members on how to make phone calls for Congressional hopeful, Peter Koutounjian. The seminar participants then led a phone banking session to help the Middlesex County Sheriff get elected to Congress.
The always inspirational Unger Mourad Topalian spoke about two very moving topics: first, about “inside baseball” between Armenia, Artsakh, Russia, and America discussing the aftermath of the 1988 earthquake and second, about the passion and fire he shares with the youth to realize a free, independent, and united Armenia. Unger Mourad opened his heart and shared his words of wisdom with the participants, lighting a fire in each and every member, stirring an eternal dedication to our organization and our homeland.
While AYF Senior Seminar spanned only a weekend, the discussions that came about throughout proved that our members will take what they learned and share their knowledge and aspirations with their respective chapters. The seminar ended on a high note, as members played a makeshift soccer-volleyball game, danced the traditional shoorchbar to the melodies of the AYF’s very own Yerakouyn Band, and nestled by the campfire, even under the rain. It was a weekend where we not only learned a great amount, but also left our chapter “cliques” behind and bonded as a single group in fraternity.
AYF Senior Seminar: Armenian Youth Standing In Unity for Artsakh