By Juliette Ezgilioglu
New Jersey “Arsen” Chapter
Since 1971, AYF members from all over the East Coast and Midwest have gathered for the most educational event of the year, Junior Seminar. Like any other AYF member, it was devastating to know that it would not take me one long bus ride, many snacks and bug spray to get to Junior Seminar this year. Being able to see your friends and counselors and making new friends is what Junior Seminar is all about. However, the Junior Seminar Committee (JSC) did not let the pandemic stop us from having a memorable weekend. For the first time ever, this year’s seminar went virtual. Any member would know, as a junior you are a camper and divided into your age group from the younger, middle and older groups. Seniors were known as the counselors who made sure everyone got to their lectures on time. But what about the 17 year-olds? The ones who had just become seniors, but still felt like juniors? We are called LIT’s (Leaders in Training). We are transitioning to find ourselves, where we belong and how we can help in the AYF. Junior Seminar grants us this opportunity to learn.
Our virtual lecture started at 11 am, and Ara Sarajian from New Jersey was the guest speaker. He currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works with the Washington Nationals. Not knowing anyone else on this call, U. Ara asked all of us to introduce ourselves. After getting to know my fellow ungers and ungeroohis, U. Ara began his lecture and it was almost like he knew exactly what we were feeling. As he started to talk and express what we might be going through, he was checking off everything I was thinking. Not knowing where we stand and what we are capable of doing, I guess you would call this a transition phase. I feel as though we are trying to finish high school, figure out what college we will like and what we want to do in life. He also told us that it was okay not to know either, that we can try many things and it might take a while to figure out what we are meant to do. U. Ara told us his story and everything he went through to find his rightful place in the professional world. I related so much because for a while I thought I knew what I wanted to do, but recently it has changed. Not really knowing what the future holds or what I can do, U. Ara made me feel like it’s going to be okay.
This applies to our personal lives and the Armenian community. We talked about how we can help and receive guidance from the AYF in many ways. The AYF has given me so much, and I am excited as a senior to be a good role model for the juniors to follow, because after all, they are the future. I learned that we can always help the juniors with their meetings, socials and educationals. We also learned the different regional and local committees we can be a part of as seniors. In each committee, we would learn how to organize big and small events and what it’s like to work with others. We later divided into two groups to discuss our passions and how, with our interests, we can help in the community. I am passionate about basketball, being Armenian and helping others, and I know these qualities will guide me through my involvement in the Armenian community and in the professional world.
Ara and the LIT program taught me so many important lessons that I needed to hear to motivate me, not only during quarantine but for my future. There are many opportunities offered through the AYF. Next summer, I hope to apply to the Camp Javakhk Program, connect with another diaspora and be part of the best summer the kids in Georgia can have. I can already imagine seeing a huge smile on so many kids’ faces while dancing and singing with them. Knowing the joy these kids have because of Camp Javakhk overwhelms me with happiness.
I also will become a senior in high school this fall, and I hope to acquire an internship I am passionate about just like U. Ara. I plan to use what I learn from this internship and apply it to my Armenian community through my chapter or a committee. Even though this year’s event was virtual, I was fortunate to meet and talk to the entire Central Executive (CE) and Junior Seminar Committee (JSC). Taking advantage of this opportunity and being able to talk to them and ask questions was something I will never forget. It was a great way to end my LIT program at seminar.
I am very proud to be a member of this amazing organization, and I’m very lucky to have been part of the 2020 LIT program. A huge thank you to the JSC for making Junior Seminar still possible! Thank you AYF for showing me that no matter the circumstance, we are all stronger together.