AKHOURIAN, Armenia—In the early morning of Sept. 15, an ARS Eastern USA tour bus departed from Yerevan to the historic city of Gyumri, where time was allotted for an hour of self-exploration before the next stop, the Nigol Aghbalian School in Akhourian, just a short distance away.
Some may recall that the devastating earthquake of Dec. 1988 hit Armenia’s Akhourian region hard. In an effort to help bring normalcy to the area, the ARS Eastern USA built the Nigol Aghbalian School and supported it for years. Today, 101 proud high school students attend Nigol Aghbalian.
As the bus approached the school, its dedicated principal Khanoum Babikian could be seen waiting outside to greet everyone. So were the students, who had been waiting in anticipation of the arrival. Over 30 visitors from the Eastern Region were warmly welcomed with choral recitations and songs, much to the delight of everyone. Standing at the entryway, many ARS members could be seen wiping their tears as they were overcome with emotion.
Upon entering the school building, ARS members paused in the foyer to view the photos of proud young soldiers displayed there. They were graduates of the school and were being acknowledged for their service in the army. Graduates who died fighting for the defense of Artsakh were remembered as heroes.
Students then trickled in and sang in unison as they marched toward the large assembly room.
When all, including the staff, had gathered together, ARS members and guests had a chance to enjoy a cultural program presented by the students. It was then that Principal Babikian formally addressed the guests, emphasizing the close relationship that had been established over the years between the two entities and reminding the students that the ARS Eastern Region had founded their fine school.
Principal Babikian took pride in saying that the students are held to high standards and that they are performing well. The school houses a well-equipped computer lab, and the principal’s office has access to a classroom monitoring system.
ARS Eastern USA Chairperson Talin Daghlian was then invited to address the students. Ungerouhi Daghlian said she was glad to have had the chance to visit the school for the third time and to enjoy the cultural program of the students. “We can’t express how proud we are of your achievements, your Principal Khanoum, and your staff,” she noted. Daghlian went on to announce that the students’ counterparts in the U.S.—Armenian-American students—sent their best wishes and the gifts of pencil cases, which were distributed to each student. She concluded by saying that the ARS wished them well and supports them in their future endeavors.
During the remainder of the afternoon, guests had the opportunity to mingle with the students and staff. Some joined together in a classroom and listened to one of the students play pieces on the piano, which then lead to an impromptu singalong. Many students also had the opportunity to express their hopes and dreams for the future.
The ARS members were impressed with the school, the students, and the staff, and wished them luck in reaching their aspirations. It was a very exciting afternoon. And though it was difficult to say goodbye, everyone remained hopeful for a chance to meet in the near future.