Being in the center of one of the most Armenian populated cities outside of Armenia, the Glendale “Roupen” Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Chapter feels a special obligation to keep the Armenian youth involved culturally, socially and politically.
Founded in 1977, the Glendale Chapter was named in honor of Roupen Der Minasian, a famed Armenian revolutionary and former Defense Minister of the First Republic of Armenia. Born in Akhalkalk in 1882, Roupen became a key figure in the ARF soon after returning from studying in Russia. He was both an organizer and fedayee, who traveled from Kars, to Van, to Sasoun, leading resistance efforts and defending the Armenian population. His famous seven-volume “Memoirs of an Armenian Revolutionary” serves as one of the most important sources of information on the figures, ideas, and events of the Armenian Revolutionary Movement.
It is in the spirit of dedication and sacrifice set forth by famous heroes such as Roupen that the Glendale AYF seeks to carry out its activities in the heart of the Armenian community of Southern California. Yet, given the diversity of cultures in Los Angeles and the many challenges which confront the youth, this obligation can often be a difficult one to fulfill. Nevertheless, despite the obstacles, what makes the Glendale AYF unique is its strong emphasis on outreach, getting the youth acclimated and interested in contributing to the community, and reaching higher grounds of success.
In 2009, the Glendale AYF Chapter finally received an important resource in its pursuit of activating the youth: the Krikor & Mariam Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center. The ground breaking for the center was on December 12, 2007, and the opening on July 7, 2009. The chapter finally had an “agoump” that they could call their own.
“The Roupen Chapter might have been on hiatus due to lack of a center,” said Roupen Karakouzian, a member of the chapter’s Executive body. “However, with our new Armenian center, it gives us the upper hand showing the community what activities we are able to carryout for Armenians and non-Armenians.” This community center is shared along with other organizations that serve the community, such as the Armenian Relief Society and the Armenian National Committee.
“We are such a big part of this center and we stepped up to protect it when the city asked for papers from the youth center of financial proof; we took the initiative” explains Anahid Yahjian, a member of the Glendale AYF. “We finally have a center of our own; what sort of family has no home? At times we had to have our meetings in a parking lot” says Anahid.
From the members’ perspective, this center, opens doors to a stronger community, “With our new youth center, Glendale AYF is reaching out to the Armenian-American youth. We organize a variety of social and educational events to bring the youth together” said the chapter’s Chair, David Arakelyan.
This past year the “Roupen” Chapter welcomed the new agoump with activities for the AYF Olympics. After fifteen years it was once again Glendale’s turn to host the annual Olympics, which was held in San Diego. The committee spent months on the preparation and the arrangement of the event. “It was extremely successful and changed our chapter,” says Executive member Kristina Karayan. “It brought us together and it was a blast. We didn’t expect it to rain, though,” she says laughing. Building fun memories and strong bonds together, the chapter continues to grow and fulfill each goal that they have set for themselves and their beloved new home.
Another treasured asset of the Glendale Chapter is its ARF Badanegan (Junior) chapters, “Shant” and “Zavarian.” The main source of transfers to the “Roupen” AYF continue to be Badanees from these chapters. “It’s important that we spend time with them; they will soon follow our footsteps” said Nairie Mirzayan who is a Director for the Glendale ARF Badanees. There are many plans in the works relating to the Badanees to ensure that ties between them and the chapter remain strong.
This is an investment that could not go wrong. They are the future of the chapter and of AYF as a whole. In many ways, the future of the Glendale AYF rests in their hands, along with the overall youth of the community. “The chapter is planning on starting a tutoring program for high school and college students and we will hopefully have that starting next year” said Arakelyan.
Returning to the importance of the new youth center, members regularly point out how it is full of opportunities that are created by the youth for the youth. “With a new café and game room, we utilize this Armenian center as a social environment, as well,” says Karakouzian. “We encourage whomever is reading this to come and experience what I’ve experienced, which are memories for a lifetime.”
The Glendale AYF extends its invite to all youth in the community to come and visit the new youth center. As members constantly emphasize, this center should be for all Armenian youth what it is for them: a home and a place that welcomes all.
For more information about the Glendale “Roupen” AYF or how to get involved with the chapter or activities at the new youth center, you can contact Roupen@AYFwest.org.