Spreading Armenian Genocide Awareness in NJ High Schools

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By Greg Serian

Like many Armenians, I feel frustrated over the lack of movement in Armenian Genocide recognition, reparations, and restitution.

Why don’t all states in the U.S. recognize it, why not Obama, why not every single country around the global, why not Turkey? The genocide happened. It’s not a debate. It’s independent from how it may upset a current ally. Why do we have to spend so much energy to make this known?

One and a half million Armenians fell victim to the first genocide of the 20th century, committed by Ottoman Turkey. They were brutally murdered, driven from their homeland, all their possessions and land taken, women and children abused and murdered, cultural significance stripped and stolen—and no one went to jail, no justice was ever served. How is that possible?

And what about today, all those young Turkish minds getting filled with poison in the classrooms over in Turkey, being taught that the Armenian Genocide didn’t even happen and that the Armenians “still” pose a threat to Turkish national security?

That sets into motion a blanket of continued denial for all future generations to come, making this movement towards justice that much more difficult.

Then to see from a geographical perspective how much land made up “Historic Armenia” that I need permission from a Turkish border patrol guard. The feeling of outrage is monumental.

As an Armenian, I must be able to come up with some insightful way to serve this cause.

Sure, speaking live on the Gary Null Show in 2009 to more than 150 countries for over 10 uninterrupted minutes about the Armenian Genocide was a high point for me and made me feel proud, as did joining the New Jersey Armenian National Committee (ANC) chapter, but I needed to do more.

There must be some way I can push basic human morality and human rights forward and allow people to know what happened, I thought. The more people who know the truth, the more who can potentially join the fight for genocide recognition and fight alongside Armenians and other groups that have experienced genocide, right?

There is power in numbers. There is also power in education and knowledge.

So my thinking was to at least start to inform and educate as many people as I can. After all, that sense of creating awareness and informing others is what many Armenians do all year long through many initiatives and efforts, as highlighted every April 24th in New York’s Times Squares demonstration, for those of us in the NYC metro area.

This fight for genocide recognition is not new, of course. It has been going on for decades and still Turkey denies the Armenian Genocide. However, despite the ultimate goal of Turkey recognizing its past crimes and current crimes of denial and addressing the issues of reparations and restitutions, the fight for recognition has resulted in many global victories, with international legislatures adopting Armenian Genocide resolutions.

But how can I contribute and continue to make an impact?

Well, it was March 2015 and the Responsibility 2015 Conference was taking place in New York. For me it was the last push I needed to, well, do more than I had already done to date.

I started to intensively research the Armenian Genocide, going more in depth than I ever had in the past. I gathered pictures, articles, maps, historical quotes and facts, and started to organize all into a flow that would tell the story to a “non-Armenian audience.” And stories need to be told, at least this one does.

Central to this story is the life experiences of my own grandma, Anna Manoogian. Anna was the only living female in all of Ghaldee Armenia to have survived the Armenian Genocide. Her story was documented by my family. I tell her story, unedited, right from her own lips during my presentation, and I hold nothing back.

If I could tell her story within the context of who the Armenians are, what happened to them, and what continues to take place in 2015, I thought I would have something very educational and something of interest for teachers, students, and the general public—for people who want to learn the truth about this genocide and the resulting impacts it made in the world, with other genocides that followed.

At the Responsibility 2015 Conference, I met the executive director of the New Jersey Commission of Holocaust and Genocide Education. There, my vision of telling this story and presenting it to audiences started to crystalize.

I thought, if I could get access to the high schools, perhaps the commission would dedicate a real teacher to walk in and educate. As the weeks passed, and the materials and logistics started coming together, I had a bit of a strange conversation with the commission—strange in the sense that I was not expecting to hear what I heard, and it made me feel a bit, well, “uncomfortable.”

I was told, “Greg why don’t you present to the students and teachers? You know the story and its your grandma!” My reply was quick: “but I’m an IT technology business executive. I have presented many times to other executives, but what do I know about being a teacher?” Well, after some soul searching, scheduling of vacation/personal time from work, and a bit of “mojo alignment,” I decided I would do it.

I finalized my presentation and sent it to the commission. I felt good about it, but the response I received back after the executive director and others reviewed it was unexpected. “Greg, this is outstanding, you should have been an educator.” It was kind, and I do take it all with a grain of salt, as I know there are many others within the Armenian community that do more, work harder, and are “real” professional publishers, but it did help me with my confidence issue speaking to high school students.

So, I set forth on this journey. What I was about to find out was quite extraordinary for me.

I focused on just presenting at my own son’s high school, but after speaking about my agenda with other high schools, I generated much interest from five other high schools. What have I just started here? Yikes! There was no turning back.

I scheduled talks at four high schools over the course of two months. (After all, I do have a full-time job, not to mention, I manage and play in the successful and busy professional classic rock band, “Liquid Garden.”) What was about to happen made all the work worth it for me. I presented to the first school and the teachers there, as well as the students, were really impressed. Here are some unedited e-mails I received.


Hi Greg!

I am not sure about you, but I am still feeding off of the energy from this morning! What a truly great presentation and discussion with the students and teachers about the truth of the Armenian genocide. Yay!

Jaci Mayer (Social Studies teacher, JFK High School)


Hi Greg!

So a couple of pretty awesome things have happened since your visit. First, please see the two reports of student responses to your presentation, below.

Second, I was brainstorming with my students about how we could give back and bring awareness to the community about the genocide and one of my classes wants to make a documentary about it!

So we are going to spend the next 6 weeks creating a documentary!

Thought you’d want to know how much you’ve inspired them. 🙂

Jaci Mayer (Social Studies teacher, JFK High School)




I can now say, having presented to four schools with others already asking me to present during the upcoming fall semester, that perhaps I am starting to make the impact I was looking for.

Sure, it’s on a small scale, but its something. At least, I would like to think so.

I have also included others who are passionate about this topic and have helped me with the presentation, by supporting the presentation document itself, offering their own artistic expression, and helping with the management and logistics at the schools. Together we are part of a growing Armenian Genocide Society movement.

If anything, maybe my efforts will allow my grandma Anna Manoogian and all those who suffered and died during these horrific massacres to rest easier.

For more information and event scheduling, visit www.armeniangenocidesociety.com or call Greg Serian at (908) 528-7866.


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