YEREVAN—Education has been called the bedrock for a country’s future. For Benjamin Franklin, it was “an investment in knowledge that pays the best interest.” And for Nelson Mandela, he wrote that it has been “the most powerful weapon which one can use to change the world.”
The wisdom of these legendary leaders has been incorporated in the ten scholarship programs of the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) since the late 1990s.
“We give opportunities to pursue a dream of higher education to more than 460 young people annually,” said Margarit Piliposyan, FAR Armenia Programs Director. “No one comes closer to this record of giving this kind of opportunity than the Fund for Armenian Relief.”
Generous philanthropists have donated up to $400,000 a year. Ninety percent of the scholarships have been given to students from families living below to, or close to the poverty level.
The goal has always been to provide education to the talented youth of Armenia to live a dignified life, and to influence them to live and contribute in their homeland.
Every year, 50 to 75 students are selected after a rigorous selection process, following widespread publicity in Armenia’s media, said Mane Khachatryan, the scholarship program’s Education and Science Program Coordinator.
Heading the FAR Scholarship Program is the tireless and dedicated Eduard Karapetyan, FAR Armenia Deputy Director who arrives daily at the FAR Armenia office in the early morning, and doesn’t leave until late at night.
Applicants go through an intense selection process which includes an admission exam, the economic standing credits of the family and an interview. In just one of the multiple FAR’s Scholarship Programs, ten out of the final 25 candidates on the short list are selected for each scholarship. This whole process lasts two months.
After each six-month semester, the Selection Committee comprised of FAR members and one or two alumni from previous years, evaluates the results for both undergraduate and graduate students.
Seventy-five percent of these scholarship recipients have found jobs in Armenia. In the Information Technology field, 100 percent of FAR’s Gyumri IT Center students have found positions. In the course of their studies and upon graduation, FAR scholars must engage in volunteer work in Armenia for the rest of their lives.
Students pursuing majors in international relations, political science, finance, management, economics, linguistics, journalism, law, engineering, public service and information technology are recipients of FAR Scholarships. They study at various state universities in Armenia, like Yerevan State University, Yerevan State Institute of Economics, Yerevan State Engineering Institute and the National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia.
During a visit to the FAR headquarters in Yerevan, this writer spoke with four worthy recipients of different scholarship projects offered by FAR.
The first of these noteworthy programs has been the Matevosian Scholarship Program named after longtime FAR benefactor Anoosh Matevosian. It covers tuition costs on a need-basis throughout the four-year undergraduate curriculum for outstanding students admitted to a university.
Twenty-year old Julieta Hovhannisyan, a current Anush Matevosian scholarship student at Armenian State University of Economics, is in her third year studying accounting and auditing. She has always “loved dealing with numbers.”
Like her parents and grandparents, she was born in Armenia. “Thanks to the Matevosian scholarship, I got financial support (starting from her second student year), which would have caused many difficulties for my parents to afford. The program also afforded me to find new friends,” she said. “Together with them, I am engaged in different volunteer activities.”
Another Matevosian Scholarship recipient and alumna, 27 year old Anush Mkhitarian, who was born in Yerevan and was motivated by her family to study mathematics, shared her experiences at Yerevan State University where she studied mathematical methods of economics.
“During my two years of studying, 50 percent of my tuition was covered by the Anoush Matevosian scholarship.” Achieving excellent grades, she continued studying without fees, but she still received FAR grants for the next two years. The scholarship enabled her to complete her master’s program. Concurrent with her studies, she worked at the analytic center Amberd as a math modeler and researcher.
She now works as an administrative assistant in Yerevan’s FAR office. In the future, she hopes to find a position in an international organization.
Besides the Matevosian Scholarship, the lists of grants include Ester Ajemian Scholarship Program, Armine and Garabed Zambak Scholarship Program, Jerar Matevosian Scholarship Program, Gulamerian Scholarship and Vocational Training Program, Antranig Berberian Scholarship Program, Edna Galo, Scholarship Program, Avedis and Arsho Baghsarian Scholarship Program, Niksarli Scholarship, Halajian Scholarship and many more.
Ani Minasyan graduated from Yerevan State University in journalism. In 2016, the 24 year-old started her master’s degree financed by the Esther Ajemian Scholarship Program. “Within the FAR framework, I have participated in several social programs, including the Vanadzor old age home, and participated in apricot harvesting in Yervandashat,” she said.
Currently, she works in the news department of Public Radio of Armenia. Her interests include new technologies, social and cultural events. “Since working in this field since I was 18, I conducted interviews for the Youth Foundation of Armenia relating to youth and student life. Later, I worked for the TV project Unknown Yerevan as a scriptwriter.”
Minasyan says she prefers radio over television because it “conveys what you want, what you see and feel since you have only one means on the radio – sound.”
In September, Minasyan will start teaching radio journalism to second year students at Yerevan State University. She hopes to improve her professional skills abroad and be an international journalist for a period of time, but that does not mean “migrating from Armenia.”
Eighteen-year old Mary Mkrtchyan, an Antranig Berberian Scholarship recipient, is in her first year studying informatics and applied mathematics at Yerevan State University.
Originally gravitating towards the humanities, law and international relations, Mkrtchyan became attracted to the technologies when after attending the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies.
“In the 21st century, the tech sphere is becoming more and more important,” she explained. “Specialists in this sphere are in high demand.” But it was not the high demand or high salary that attracted Mkrtchyan. She wants to do her part in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and lend crucial information with the aid of technology.
“Because of the conflict with Azerbaijan, the Armenian soldiers who defend our state borders will probably need assistance from experts who are specialized in unmanned aerial vehicles.” Her future includes working either in the TUMO Creative Technologies Center or PicsArt Armenian organization.
“Without this scholarship, I would not be able to study and have the profession of my dreams. Besides the financial support, it has given me an opportunity to do good deeds,” she said.
In the future, she said she might explore new methods of teaching abroad with every intention of coming back home. “I love Armenia—its unique nature, culture, food and especially its courage in the struggle. I am so proud to be an Armenian!”