Winners of the Campership Essay Contest
Detroit “Kapernik Tandourjian” AYF Chapter
At first that’s easy. The AYF means my friends, seminar, camp, and AYF meetings. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that the AYF is all bigger than that. The AYF is really my past, present, and my future.
The AYF teaches me about my past. It teaches me my history about Karekin Njdeh and the Fedayis who fought for our freedom. The AYF teaches me to remember and honor the victims of the genocide. The AYF also connects me to my past as a 3rd-generation member.
The AYF is my present. It is AYF meetings and socials. It is Camp Haiastan, Seminar, and Olympics. It is the AYF that I have the best friends who will be with me for life.
I know that the AYF is my future. All that I have gotten from the AYF I hope to give back one day. I hope to be an active and important member of our Senior chapter. I hope to teach the younger kids all that I have learned from so many dedicated Seniors. I also know that when I have a family one day, the AYF will be just as an important part to them as it is to me.
Providence “Varantian” Chapter
I am an anomaly. Not in the typical way of a high school outcast, sitting alone at lunch. Not like a head of rainbow-colored hair in a sea of brown and black. On the outside, I am the same as everyone else. What sets me apart, my incongruity, is a part of my inner being, who I am; it always has been and always will be. It is something I can neither change nor alter, even if I wanted to. I am an Armenian.
When I tell people that I am Armenian, I get different reactions. Some know and understand my nationality, while others have never even heard of it. When I was younger, even I did not understand my people. Why did I not have a First Communion like all of my friends? Why didn’t I go to CCD? The answers to these questions confused me, and all I wanted was to be like everybody else. I envied them. Naturally, this led me to become skeptical of my religion. I resisted attending Sunday School, though I was forced to go every week. I groaned and moaned when my mother would pull me out of bed on a Sunday morning to go to church. Any hopes my mother had of sending me to Armenian School were quickly doused by my immediate defiance. When asked if I wanted to attend Camp Haiastan, a camp for Armenian youth, I would answer with a quick and firm refusal. So how did this change? How was I coaxed back from the brink? The answer is simple: the Armenian Youth Federation.
In November 2011, I was approached by an older girl from my church. She was looking for new members to join the Providence AYF Chapter, and she wanted to know if I would give it a try. After much convincing from my mom and friend, who would be joining at the same time as me, I decided to give it a shot. I asked myself, what’s the worst that can happen? I am so glad that I decided to take that leap of faith, because it has paid off for me in so many ways. The AYF has provided me with many opportunities to meet Armenian youth from around the country, and some of the best experiences of my life have come about because of it. Before, I thought I was a needle in a haystack, one in a million. I thought I was one of the few people left of my kind. Attending AYF events has allowed me to meet so many people just like me, and I’ve realized that there are many of us. In addition, I have formed many great friendships through the existence of this organization. I know that these people are my friends for life, and I feel that my bond with them is stronger than that of many other bonds I have with my other friends. They are my blood, and we treat each other like family. However, I would not know any of them had it not been for the Armenian Youth Federation.
The AYF has spurred the dawn of a new age for the Armenians—one that is cultural yet modern and driven by the power of the youth. I’m excited by the potential that my peers and I hold, and the power to change the lives of our successors. We continually fight for recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and we will not quit until recognition is given. Fighting side by side, I feel very close to these people. They come from miles and miles away. They have different accents. They have different personalities. However, at the end of the day, we are one. We are like the snowflakes of a New England winter. Individually, we are frail. One snowflake cannot do much, and it melts very quickly. However, a snowball will hold up very well against the elements, and it is strengthened by the combined force of a million snowflakes. To me, the AYF is a symbol of unity, resilience, strength, and hope. Armenians have united under one front, continue to fight the battles of the Armenian nation, and pray that the Armenian population will one day be as robust as it once was.
Because of all this, I am eternally indebted to the AYF. It changed my life, and I don’t know where I would be without it. It gave me the ability to love my nationality and my people. These days, I look forward to attending church every Sunday. Forced extraction from my bed is no longer needed. I happily answer any questions people may have about my religion, and I’m no longer envious of the so-called “normality” of my friends’ churches. To this day I wish I had gone to Armenian school to learn the language of my people, and this summer I’ll be attending Camp Haiastan, making one last run at my chance to go to an Armenian camp. I regret not making these decisions earlier in my life, but I’m glad that the AYF has finally given me the relief I was seeking. I may not have the Italian temper, and I surely don’t have the luck of the Irish. However, what I do have is the Armenian pride.