May 1, 2018
On Saturday, April 7, 2018, AGBU Hye Geen and the Young Circle hosted its 12th International Conference: How the Youth Needs to Impact Our Future. The conference was held at AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Center and attracted close to 100 attendees. Distinguished speakers and youthful panelists discussed important topics to empower, inform and engage the youth, the ultimate owners of the Armenian heritage.
The conference chair, Elizabeth Kabayan, opened the conference by announcing a new pilot program, which Hye Geen launched in the Pregnant Women’s Centers in Armenia. The program, carried out in collaboration with Yerevan State University’s Sociology Department and headed by Professor Lyudmila Harutunyan, is meant to prepare girls between the ages of 16 to 23 for marriage and motherhood.
Following Ms. Kabayan, the first speaker Daniel Fittante, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Near East Languages and Cultures at UCLA, set the stage for topics to follow and explained the causes of the late 19th and early 20th century waves of Armenian emigration to California and the evolution of the Armenian population in Los Angeles.
The second speaker, Gegham Mughnetsyan, Research Associate at USC Institute of Armenian Studies, spoke on identity and citizenship issues that the Armenian population is faced with in the diaspora, specifically in the United States. “Upholding your identity only becomes important when you are removed from the country which you identify with,” explained Mughnetsyan.
The third speaker, Gregory S. Krikorian, Vice President, Board of Education at Glendale Unified School District (GUSD), continued speaking on the topic of identity and related it to a personal story as a grandchild of a Genocide survivor. In reference to the Armenian identity and how it has survived over the last century he said, “Armenian women played a critical role in keeping the Armenian identity alive through sacrifice. The youth needs to realize the sacrifices that were made for them, in order to have the opportunities they have available today.”
After the speakers, a group of youthful panelists moderated by Victoria Amran, from the Clinical Research department at USC, took center stage to have an open discussion about hot topics facing the youth today. The panelists were Armand Nareg Yerjanian, Arvin Demerjian, Lori Pogarian, Marina Serobyan and Vahe Yacoubian. Among the important discussion topics were, preserving national identity at a time of globalization and the dominance of mass media, the crucial choice of a life partner, the role of the church in the life of the youth, and preserving the Armenian language.
Richard Chambers, a Videographer and Lecturer at California State University Northridge, was invited to speak on “Finding and Adjusting to the Reality of One’s Identity.” Chambers created a 23-minute documentary following the enriching journey of eight Armenian-American volunteers for the 2015 Land and Culture Organization’s campaign. The moving and impactful documentary was presented to the audience.
Closing the conference was AGBU Western District Chair, Talin Yacoubian. She commended the speakers for stressing the role of institutions in maintaining cohesiveness in widespread communities. “I applaud all of you for being here today and I’m very excited to see what the youth will do next,” expressed Yacoubian, showing that she is optimistic and hopeful that the new generation would both celebrate diversity and preserve the national identity.