ANDOVER, Mass.—Thanks to some vigilant action by students of Armenian descent at Andover High School, an Armenian flag is now flying from the rafters and new books portraying their history and culture are found inside the library.
Their actions coincided with a recent genocide presentation at the school in commemoration of the 1.5 million martyrs lost in 1915 at the hands of Ottoman Turkey, and another million uprooted from their homes.
Noticing there was no Armenian tricolor represented in the library’s “League of Nations,” the students moved forward, secured a flag, and were part of a presentation ceremony before their peers.
The books were donated by Lucine Kasbarian, author of Armenia: A Rugged Land, an Enduring People—a perfect read for students.
“Flags from every other country were displayed in our library and we wanted to be included, especially this year with the anniversary,” said junior Ani Minasian. “Turkey was there. Afghanistan was represented. But not Armenia. It could have been an oversight, but not anymore.”
Brendan Gibson, a social studies teacher, regularly engages his students on genocide history and awareness. More than 100 filled the library for a presentation earlier this spring.
“It was an honor having members of the Genocide Education Committee [of Merrimack Valley] here to educate students,” said Gibson. “This tragedy is still relevant today. We hope that greater awareness will result toward a shift in United States policy. It’s critical that Armenia is recognized by the League of Nations. By having the flag and books here, it’s one more vital step toward universal recognition.”
John Berube, a library media specialist at the school, was surprised by the missing Armenian flag, noting that one was displayed many years ago, but “somehow disappeared.”
“I knew we were missing some but didn’t realize that one was an Armenian flag,” he said. “This presentation could not have occurred at a better time, with the Centennial observance. The students must be commended for bringing this matter to our attention.”
A computer check showed only three Armenian books on file. Given the number of students taking genocide and human rights classes, more could be used.
“It’s a hugely important subject in our curriculum,” Berube added. “Because we operate on a fixed budget, we cannot afford a lot of books and rely on outside contributions. Many students do take advantage of the library.”
Joining Ani Minasian in the presentation was her brother Richard, Michael Mahlebjian, Anna Shahtanian, all of St. Gregory Church, North Andover, and Christopher Berberian, of the Armenian Church at Hye Pointe, Haverhill.
Earlier this year, Noah Aznoian of North Andover donated an Armenian flag to the Pingree School in Hamilton, where he’s a freshman, and helped organize a program for Armenian Martyrs Day on April 24.
“Our mission is not only to educate students on the genocide but to get them involved in moments like these,” said Dro Kanayan of North Andover, chairman of the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley, which has been delivering programs to local schools over the past seven years.
“We want them to become young ambassadors for the Armenian Cause and use what education they are taught to benefit their communities,” he added.
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