Wilmington Students Study Armenian Genocide

WILMINGTON, Mass.—Efforts to introduce an Armenian Genocide curriculum throughout high schools north of Boston is gaining impetus.

The latest schools to take part are Wilmington and Tewksbury whereby students have immersed themselves into the education process and, in return, acquired the knowledge and understanding of countries like Armenia that endured massacre and hardship throughout their history.

At Wilmington, juniors and seniors under the tutelage of Maura Tucker and Lisa Lucia are utilizing the text “Facing History and Ourselves.” The semester was launched by a guest appearance from 101-year-old survivor Ojen Mazmanian, who rendered a personal account of her escape from Ottoman Turkish hordes.

Tewksbury is just as motivated by the Armenian story. Included in its curriculum will be an entire school day (six hours) dedicated to genocide education.

Planting the seed are members of the Armenian Genocide Curriculum Committee of Merrimack Valley, headed by Dro Kanayan, who laid out the groundwork at the schools.

Thirteen other high schools in the area have been contacted by letter. Programs have already been initiated in North Andover and Haverhill with return engagements planned.

“Students who participate in this interdisciplinary course will achieve academic, personal, and social growth,” said Lucia. “Using the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide as case studies, students will examine the origins of these atrocities, the role ordinary students played, and what we can do today to prevent these crimes from happening again.”

According to Tucker, “Students will have the opportunity to reflect not only upon the universality of racism and social injustice but also upon the importance of global awareness.

“They will use inquiry, analysis, and interpretation in order to confront moral questions imbedded in history and literature,” she pointed out.

Appearing before the students were committee members Tom Vartabedian and Albert S. Movsesian, who covered everything from the genocide to history, geography, literature, the Armenian community in America, and contributions to world civilization.

The students were also given a lesson on how to interview a survivor. One project, which will be activated, is an appeal to the U.S. Postal Service to commemorate a genocide stamp reflecting “man’s inhumanity toward man.”
“We will make an appeal to the postmaster general and even President Obama if necessary,” said Lucia. “The Armenians deserve to be recognized with a stamp and we shall empower our youth to step forward in this mission.”
Among the questions raised from the student body were how Armenian villagers were able to arm themselves, what instigated the genocide, and if any of those who fled their native soil ever return.

“As Armenians, do you put your heritage before your citizenship?” another asked.

Posters promoting the genocide program were found on the walls of the school while a small library of related textbooks were seen in the classroom.

The session ended with students from different ethnic backgrounds writing a message of goodwill on the blackboard in their native tongue.

“The response we’ve gotten from the outside community has been extremely positive,” said Kanayan, a grandson to famed Armenian freedom fighter General Dro. “We’ll continue to push forward until all the schools have been contacted.”

The newly formed curriculum committee has the support and endorsement of area churches and organizations, including Armenian legislators and noted educators.


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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