Camp Haiastan: What are Your Plans for the Summer?

Camp Haiastan is Seeking Additional Staff Members to Accommodate Growing Enrollment!

By Hrach Mikaelian

So, here is a question for you: How many of you remember your first Camp Haiastan Counselor?  Mine was unger Vahe Dombalegian—1992, Session 3, Cabin 6. That year, my cousin and I went to camp our first and only year as campers. We did not know or have very strong relationships with many kids at camp.  But even though we did not know many people, unger Vahe and all of the other staff members there that summer gave two boys from Racine, Wis. an unforgettable Camp Haiastan experience.

So, here is a question for you: How many of you remember your first Camp Haiastan Counselor?

Fast-forward four years.  It was late April 1996. I was in my dorm room my freshman year at college and I was trying to decide what I was going to do for the summer. I wanted to maintain my soccer eligibility so I was considering taking summer courses to bump up my grades and get a couple more credits under my belt.  I also wanted to go back to the summer job that I had worked previously where I had made pretty good money—enough to cover my personal expenses at college for at least a semester.

Baron Peter Buchaklian called me up, told me that he was going to be the summer director at Camp Haiastan and that he needed some additional male counselors.  As soon as he said the words “Camp Haiastan,” I began reminiscing about the unforgettable summer that I had at camp back in 1992.  Although I do not remember much more about that conversation, I remember that he asked me if I wanted to be on staff that summer.  Without hesitating, I told him “yes” and shortly after hanging up, I began calling travel agents to book my plane ticket to Franklin, Mass. (via Boston).

Back then, I thought that the best part of that summer was forging new relationships with fellow Armenian ungers and ungerouhis.  Yes, while that was a very great experience and the friends that I made that year are still some of my closest Armenian friends (and wife), I did not understand the real importance of being a counselor until after the summer was over.  I cannot tell you how many times a former camper has come up to me and said “unger Hrach! unger Hrach! Do you remember me?  You were my counselor at camp: 199X, Session Y, Cabin Z.  You were the best!”  Then they would stand at attention, shout “Ooghigh Gats!” and then proceed to act out the flag raising/lowering ceremony.  We would talk about their summer at camp.  They would remind me about how all of the staff members that were there that year contributed to their unforgettable summer.

Now, like many of you before me, I am serving on the Board of Directors and I am trying to assist in preserving this treasure of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and Armenian community.  This year has opened my eyes to the reality of how difficult it is to keep Camp Haiastan a place that all Armenian children consider as their second home.  While I am not this year’s Summer Director, I see myself in similar shoes as Baron Pete back in 1996.

Camp Haiastan is still seeking additional staff members to accommodate the growing enrollment.  So, to all Armenian young adults that are of staff age, I encourage you to keep this tradition alive.  I urge you to become staff members at Camp Haiastan.  I understand that all of you have several other opportunities at your fingertips—internships, sports camps, school, etc.  However, you will never get another chance at the opportunity to make a difference in a camper’s summer like I did, my counselors did, and their counselors before them.


Hrach Mikaelian is a member of the Camp Haiastan of the AYF Inc. Board of Directors

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