The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern USA hosted its first-ever Youth Connect Program virtually on February 27, 2021. The program included experts from three different countries who engaged in discussion with university students on a variety of topics.
The program kicked off with opening remarks by program director Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, who welcomed the students to the virtual seminar. Mouradian, who has been program director and moderator for the past eight years, noted that this year’s program, happening under challenging circumstances for the Armenian people after the Artsakh War and in the midst of a global pandemic, aimed to foster a conversation on the future of Armenia, Artsakh and the Diaspora.
Sandra Vartanian, vice chairperson of the ARS of Eastern USA spoke next, offering an overview of the organization’s activities and its humanitarian work over the past year, specifically in Lebanon and Artsakh. She also highlighted the different programs and opportunities that the ARS offers the youth and encouraged them to utilize those opportunities.
The first conversation was with Marie Lou Papazian, director of TUMO Center for Creative Technologies. The conversation between Mouradian and Papazian encompassed Armenia’s current challenges, its future outlook, education in the homeland and beyond, and Tumo’s role in empowering Armenia’s youth with the best technology and multimedia training. During the discussion, Papazian also encouraged the attendees to move to Armenia or spend time there, contributing both to their own self-actualization and the country’s development.
Joining the program from Portugal, Dr. Razmik Panossian, director of the Armenian Communities Department at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, discussed Armenian identity in the Diaspora, the role of the Armenian language and culture and the foundation’s vision for the future. He talked about the ways in which the Foundation balances between the immediate needs of Armenian communities worldwide with a longer-term vision of supporting Armenian language, culture and education.
Simon Maghakyan, a lecturer of International Relations at the University of Colorado, Denver discussed his research on the historical erasure and cultural destruction of Armenian heritage Azerbaijan has carried out in recent decades. His exploration of Azerbaijan’s erasure of Nakhichevan’s Armenian heritage in light of the Artsakh War engendered a conversation about the fate of Armenian cultural heritage sites that have come under Azeri control after the ceasefire agreement and what can be done to prevent further destruction.
The Norian Youth Connect Program is sponsored and organized by the ARS of Eastern USA, with the generous endowment from the Norian Fund. The program is typically held twice a year at Yale University in the fall and Columbia University in the spring, though these locations may change, depending on the interest of students at their respective universities. Under the leadership of Dr. Mouradian, the program has expanded in scope, versatility and student participation, attracting hundreds of students from across the United States.