2017 AYF-YOARF Junior Seminar: A Weekend with Purpose

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PROSPECT, Penn. (A.W.)—They arrived by the bus loads: 350 members, 84 years of tradition, 15 chapters, nine lecturers, with one purpose.

The 2017 Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Eastern United States (AYF-YOARF) Junior Seminar took place May 26-29 at Camp Lutherlyn in Prospect. Year after year, the event hosts lectures and activities centered around a theme for organization’s Junior members. The theme this Memorial Day Weekend was “The Power of Purpose”—searching for it, harnessing it, perfecting it, and utilizing it to both contribute to and take from the Armenian community.

Seventy Juniors attend Junior Seminar for the first time thanks to a grant from the Armenian Youth Foundation. (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

On the first day of the event, members were checked into the camp by the Junior Seminar Committee (JSC) and the AYF-YOARF Central Executive (CE). Members received their folders with itineraries for the weekend along with their cabin placements. Each cabin was dedicated to a person or program with purpose, including the likes of Diana Apcar, System of a Down, the AYF Internship, and Camp Javakhk.

After settling into their cabins, the chapters had the opportunity to set up for the night activity. Each chapter created a display that was representative of their chapter’s uniqueness and their purpose in the community. The displays highlighted each chapter’s membership, accomplishments, and goals. Some of the many stand-out displays included D.C.’s Washington Monument, Providence’s Casserta’s Pizza sampling, Philly’s “Love” sign, and New Jersey’s 50s diner and photo booth. First-timer Naire Ohanian said, “I thought it was a great experience, and it was really fun and educating.”

AYF-YOARF members proudly hold up the ARF flag (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

The lectures began the following morning. Both Juniors and Seniors were immersed in lectures and engaged in activities that highlighted “The Power of Purpose.” The lecture series included the following topics: The Power of Community Service (ungerouhi Maral Abrahamian), of Writing (unger Ara Khachatourian), of Music (Ara Dinkjian), of Education (unger Ken Sarajian), of Science (unger Anthony Deese), of Film (Taleen Babayan), of Sports (Kevork Ourfalian), of Hai Tahd (unger. Raffi Killian), and of the Armenian Community (ungerouhi Tereza Yerimyan). Each lecture examined its topic generally and then more specifically with an Armenian lens. The lecturers spoke about how their passions, careers, and purpose helped them contribute to the Armenian community and also how the Armenian community has propelled them in their lives.

Unger Raffi Killian lecturing on the Power of Hai Tahd (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

“My favorite [lecture] was the sports one. I liked hearing about [Armenian soccer star Henrikh] Mkhitaryan and [Armenian-American Olympian] Houry Gebeshian and what they changed in the Armenian world,” said first-time attendee Aren Bandazian.

Another first-timer, Sarkis Ziebari, explained, “My favorite lecture was the Power of Writing. Writing helps us to write about the Armenian Cause and to share it with other kids around the world.”

The Juniors and Seniors walked away from each lecture with a better understanding of how the Armenian community and the AYF acts as a pool of resources to both give to and to take from.

Juniors enjoying a game of basketball (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

This year’s Leaders in Training (LIT) program consisted of 24 17-year-old AYF members and was directed by unger Raffi Hovagimian and ungerouhi Kenar Charchaflian. The program focused on qualities of a leader and the AYF structure, and allowed each LIT to apply their learned skills throughout the weekend. The LIT program is always a highlight in every AYF member’s career. This year’s program was well received by the young ungers who will soon be leading the AYF-YOARF.

Saturday evening’s activity consisted of stations around the camp where members walked from station to station completing tasks and games aligned with the theme. This year’s LIT group led each station by giving direction, providing support as the groups worked, and orchestrating the transitions between stations. By the end of the night, each Junior had the opportunity to learn a new dance, create a campaign poster, construct a tower, send a secret message in Morse Code, compete in a three-legged race, experiment with oobleck, write a thank you card to someone in their community, show off their music knowledge, examine a recipe, and play a round of AYF Pictionary.

Members receiving their certificates for completing the Leaders in Training program (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

The following day, lectures continued. During free time, the Central Athletic Committee (CAC) organized basketball games and members sported track numbers for the upcoming Junior Athletic Games (JAG – June 16-18) and Midwest Junior Olympics (July 14-16). “I played hard and learned a lot at Seminar,” first-timer Lilit Estepanian said.

May 28 marked the 99th anniversary of the first Republic of Armenia. In honor of the celebratory day, all members made their way up to the large cross on the campground. There, unger Alex Ourfalian gave his closing remarks on behalf of JSC thanking everyone for attending and urging them to continuously search for purpose in life and in the Armenian community. Unger Garo Tashian spoke on behalf of CE reminding all members of their obligation to find their purpose in life and to give back to the Armenian community. Unger Ara Khachatourian then gave a moving speech highlighting the power and potential of the youth, reminding them that they hold the answers to the future. The events at the large cross concluded with 350 voices proudly singing Sardarabad on Armenia’s first Independence Day as a a thank you to the past and a promise for the future.

Charged by the weekend, members spent the entire night dancing to the music of ungers Shant Massoyan, Shant Alexanian, Alek Surenian, and Junior member unger Datev Gevorkian. Regardless of the rain, 350 Juniors and Seniors danced the Tamzara, the Pampouri, and the Haleh. Juniors Hasmig Krikorian, Arek Ourlian, Mariana Alexanian, and Hagop Alajajian won the Central Junior Committee’s (CJC) essay contest and received an AYF Camp Haiastan Campership. The essay prompt required members to write about their purpose in the AYF and the AYF’s purpose in the community. The evening ended with members arm in arm singing Armenian patriotic songs and proudly waving the Armenian, Artsakh, and ARF flags.

Early Monday morning, members said their goodbyes and rode home with members of their chapters.

AYF Junior Seminar is a representation of all the greatest AYF has to offer. (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

“I thought that the weekend was fun and the lectures were interesting. I would go again because I saw all my friends from Camp Haiastan and made new friends. I learned that there are many ways to help my chapter. I would strongly recommend that other Juniors go to Seminar,” Nishan Shamilian from the Philadelphia Papken Suni Chapter noted. Shamilian, along with 70 other first time attendees, were able to go to Seminar for free this year, thanks to a grant from the Armenian Youth Foundation.

Armen Ohanian, another first-timer, described the weekend as, “…a great experience. I would attend again because I learned so much and had fun.” Armen’s brother and fellow first timer Arek noted, “My purpose in the AYF is to explore the Armenian culture and how I can change or help it to be better.”

The weekend was a success, and acted as a reminder of one of the AYF’s purposes: unity. (Photo: AYF-YOARF)

The weekend was a success, and acted as a reminder of one of the AYF’s purposes: unity. AYF Junior Seminar is a representation of all the greatest AYF has to offer. It is an opportunity to enjoy the present and plan for the future with friends who share the past. It is fun, it is thought provoking, it is purposeful, and sadly, it is now behind us—that is, only until next year!

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: 2017 AYF-YOARF Junior Seminar: A Weekend with Purpose