By Areknaz Khaligian
Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) junior members from Chicago and Racine gathered in Racine on Nov. 5, for the annual Midwest Junior Conference. Their day began at 10 a.m. with a lahmajun cooking educational; almost 100 delicious lahmajuns were made from scratch and eaten for lunch.
In the afternoon, the juniors began the conference by discussing three pertinent topics: chapter meetings, chapter events, and regional events. Both chapters found that meeting attendance was roughly two-thirds of the total membership and that meetings usually lasted under an hour. Attendees considered both meeting attendance and length to be acceptable, but identified a significant issue of members failing to remember what was discussed at meetings.
First, the chapters described their local AYF events, which gave good insight into how other chapters operate. Then, working together, the juniors discussed the positive and negative aspects of the various regional events that take place throughout the year. AYF Junior Seminar was a favorite event, with mostly positive aspects: seeing/making friends and learning from interesting lectures. Some suggestions members had for improvement included having better food and focusing on making lectures as interactive as possible.
Junior Summer Olympics also received mostly positive feedback—juniors enjoyed seeing their friends from other chapters and competing in events. Not only did they like competing in events, but it was also noted that there is always excellent sportsmanship displayed, as athletes are not judged by their level of performance. There were mixed feelings regarding track practices leading up to the event, with some attendees suggesting that track practices should begin earlier and others calling for less track practices. Furthermore, it was suggested that additional sporting events be incorporated into the weekend, such as tennis, soccer. or baseball. One negative aspect that everyone agreed on was diminished attendance by chapters who are not hosting.
To give some background, the Midwest Junior Summer Olympics event usually takes place in July, and is hosted by a different Midwest chapter each year. Attendees of the conference concluded that two main factors of the decrease in attendance for non-host chapters is primarily due to traveling distance as well as reluctance to attend if close friends are not attending. While attendees acknowledged that traveling distance is sometimes difficult to address, they concluded that being a member of the AYF should be sufficient motivation to attend AYF events and that seeing friends is an added bonus, not a determining factor.
The final two events that were discussed, the Junior Winter Olympics and Junior Conferences, received similar feedback. Both events have the positive aspects of seeing friends and participating in the weekend’s activities. One suggestion they had for Junior Winter Olympics was to incorporate more chapter competitions similar to Junior Summer Olympics in addition to the inter-chapter games that are usually organized. The main negative aspect of these two events was also attendance. In addition to traveling distance and reluctance to attend based on other friends attending, conference attendees identified another major factor. They concluded that since both Junior Conferences and Junior Winter Olympics are smaller events, it is less of a priority for Midwest juniors. Furthermore, events taking place in local communities often take priority over these two events. Conference attendees concluded that it is difficult to solve these types of issues, but since the events are rewarding for those who do attend, it is important to continue to organize them.
After these discussions, attendees learned more about procedures and components of the official AYF Convention, which is attended by seniors in their local chapters. First, they went over different types of votes and the general protocol for resolutions. To practice these procedures, they read through resolutions, which were written based on their previous discussions and voted on them. Though none of the resolutions were passed, attendees learned the importance of asking questions and making informed voting decisions, practiced using different types of votes, and realized the benefit of discussing positive and negative aspects of a resolution and whether they actually solve the problem that is being addressed.
At the end of the conference, the members were able to see the Family History books that they created. At last year’s Junior Conferences, it was decided that the Midwest juniors would submit their family stories to be compiled in a book, and this year they were able to see the final product.
After a hard day of work, attendees were able to enjoy the beautiful fall day with outdoor games. The event concluded with a toasty bonfire and s’mores.