ASBAREZ GLENDALE—The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western USA celebrated the 30th Anniversary of its establishment as a separate entity with weekend-long events. The Empowering Generations Seminar was the second of those events, which was held on May 3, 2014, at the Glendale Hilton Hotel, with 125 participants.
Speakers talked about how they personally engaged in order to gain empowerment, how they facilitated empowerment of their peers or shared examples of exceptional people who influenced their lives, who felt empowered to do the kinds of things that changed not just perceptions, but lives.
Emcee of the dynamic seminar, Aleen Postoyan of the Regional Public Relations Committee, made opening remarks and set the tone of the event, encouraging all to “motivate us to empower not only ourselves, but each other.” The ARS-WUSA Regional Executive’s chairperson Lena Bozoyan made welcoming remarks, acknowledged the presence of the ARS Central Executive Board chairperson Vicky Marashlian and the liaison to the region, Annie Kechichian, asked that each of the participants become catalysts in their respective spheres, and thanked Haigoush Keghinian Kohler for sponsoring the seminar and for “empowering all of us, all these years.”
The morning session was moderated by Ara Khachatourian, Asbarez English Editor. He started out by pointing out a “basic and fundamental reality that none of us would be here today if it weren’t for the women bringing us into this world. Our identities and our personalities have been formed because of the immense influence the women in our
lives have had.” Khachatourian noted that the ARS has become a critical aspect of our Armenian reality and it must persevere by the inclusion of young women from all walks of life. Hence, the session started on “Armenianism in a Changing World: Cultural Burden or National Identity.”
Alice Petrossian, a retired educational administrator from the Pasadena Unified School District, who is now an activist, spoke about “Empowering Women Through Service”. She remarked that growing up the only organization with women leaders was the ARS, but today organizations have realized that women can be leaders. She emphasized the shift to being role models to engaging the youth in civic duty as a way of ensuring their success. Petrossian said that she has not met an Armenian woman who was not talented; and implied that everyone has a talent to serve; everyone can find the time and means to serve; no one is invited to serve; and no one is going to stop someone from serving. Providing examples of service in Armenian organizations by Armenians-by-Choice (ABC), she challenged the audience to look for possible ways to serve and become empowered server. Her parting message was, “I’m not afraid to serve and I will make a difference for myself, for my organization and my nation.”
Roxanne Makasdjian manages Broadcast Communications at University of California, Berkeley who has been very involved in community organizations, including being a co-founder and a current board member of The Genocide Education Project, which brings Armenian Genocide instruction into American high schools. Makasdjian gave credit to her own upbringing to her mother and grandmother, who were ARS members and activists. She described why the project was needed after a whole decade had passed by the California legislature mandating the instruction of the Armenian Genocide curriculum in high schools, noting lack of funding and resources. So, they developed lesson plans, published posters, conducted workshops during conferences and utilized technology to allow students and teachers to do their research on-line. Makasdjian emphasized how parents and students can demand the subject to be taught at their public schools, how they find ways to relate Armenian history to the youth growing up in the United States, why it is important for them to take action.