There was no coffee hour after badarak at St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church on Sunday. That’s because its longstanding and well-loved Saturday School was hosting its annual traditional luncheon in the church hall. At least 100 guests, including Saturday School family members, teachers and board members, attended the fundraiser luncheon, designed to support the Western Armenian language program.
Established in 1936, St. Stephen’s Armenian Saturday School, which currently enrolls 115 students, has made the instruction and preservation of the Western Armenian dialect its primary mission. Principal Mayda Melkonian told the Armenian Weekly the money will advance enrichment materials and other educational opportunities, like the students’ recent trip to New York City to visit Armenia! Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum.
Some of the students attending Sunday’s event arrived early with their families to perform ahead of a catered lunch by Noor Mediterranean Grill. Dr. Marine Margarian Kavlakian accompanied on the piano, while the students, as young as four years old, sang several songs in Armenian.
The highlight of the afternoon featured performances by Armenian-American pianists from Connecticut— Jacqueline Lucine Schmeizel and her mother Houry Yapoujian Schmeizl.
Armenian vocalist Mary Galstian, an alumnus of St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School and Saturday School, also took the stage in a series of rousing performances. “This Armenian education has had a big impact on me,” said Galstian in an interview with the Armenian Weekly, “especially in a multicultural environment where an individual can easily deviate and get carried away by many influences.”
Galstian is a freshman at Harvard University, double-majoring in music and government. She believes it’s important for young children to have a formal education in the Armenian language because it establishes a strong identity and a sense of self-awareness.
“They say being a teacher is a thankless job,” said a proud and emotional Melkonian to her guests after Galstian’s stirring vocal performance of Cilicia. “It’s not a thankless job. When you create this type of generation, you feel a great sense of pride because our future generation is going to preserve our culture.”