On Sat., March 2, New York University’s Kimmel Center was the venue for the Armenian Relief Society Eastern USA’s (ARS) Youth Connect Program (YCP). The ARS began the educational program in 1971 at Boston University and has, through the years, developed and changed it to meet the changing needs of college students. The latest YCP was a one-day educational seminar that concluded with an “opportunity fair” with representatives from several different Armenian organizations, who spoke to the students about internships available both in Armenia and the United States.
The 2013 YCP drew more than 30 participants from various geographic locations, universities, and academic disciplines. After welcoming remarks, the participants were divided into smaller groups to discuss the challenges that Armenians, Armenia, and Armenian youth in general face in modern times. The group discussions were led by Professor Asbed Kotchikian, a senior lecturer in the global studies department at Bentley University and director of the YCP. The discussions identified several key challenges, including lack of coordination among students, the demands of academic life that takes the youth away from their communities, as well as a disconnect in terms of information and awareness between Armenians in Armenia and the diaspora. In subsequent group discussions, some concrete suggestions were made to narrow the gap and keep young Armenians engaged in community life and in Armenia.
“The ARS Youth Connect Program this year brought to light multiple topics of importance in the global Armenian community as well as solutions to current issues we as Armenians experience. It was a great opportunity to learn and connect with other Armenians!” said participant Daniel Chakmakjian.
In the afternoon, the participants had an opportunity to have an interactive discussion with Haig Kayserian, the CEO of KAYWEB Angels, an internet business expert, Angel investor, blogger, and public speaker. Kayserian has founded two international companies, invested in six U.S.-based tech startups, spoken before thousands in New York, San Francisco, Sydney, and Melbourne, and has been quoted by mass and tech media in the U.S. and Australia. In the talk, he shared his experiences as an internet consultant and gave invaluable insight on how to use various social media tools for youth activism. He also talked about how social media will continue to change interactions among people and redefine the parameters of future social and community activism.
The opportunity fair at the end of the day provided students with information from such organizations as the ARS, Birthright Armenia, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Assembly of America, Armenian Youth Federation, and Armenian General Benevolent Union. Students had the chance to approach each organization’s representative to gather more information about their internships and opportunities.
Later that evening, the students were treated to dinner at the Al Mayass restaurant, and continued their conversations. Thus, an educational and social event was concluded and, hopefully, served as inspiration for our future leaders.
“This year the Youth Connect Program was as excellent as ever,” said Vazrik Chiloyan. “Although the theme of modern Armenian issues and the common goals and problems of the diaspora and Armenians from Armenia is present each year, the method of engaging the members and the lectures presented never ceases to be amazing.”
“With the video conference discussion by Kayserian on using modern technology and social media to reach our political goals and Kotchikian’s wonderful ability to lecture and moderate discussions, the academic aspect of the program was excellent,” he continued. “The social outing was also a wonderful way to meet Armenians from throughout the country with various backgrounds with the common desire to come together and connect.”
The event was underwritten by the Norian Fund, whose funds are earmarked for education. An investment in our youth is truly an investment in our future. The ARS, founded in 1910 in New York City, is an international organization dedicated to providing education, culture, and humanitarian aid. To learn more about ARS Eastern USA programs and projects in the United States, Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk, visit www.arseastusa.org.