Senior Seminar 2021: Menk Mishd Gank

AYF-YOARF Senior Seminar 2021, Franklin, Mass.

Since the launch of the 2020 Artsakh War, I have been struggling with dampened energy and light. When I learned of the 2021 Senior Seminar theme “Menk Mishd Gank,” I knew it was exactly what I needed. I signed up for my first seminar and eagerly awaited the first weekend of October.

If I had to describe the feeling of Senior Seminar in one word, it would be home. When I arrived on Friday evening, I was greeted with both familiar and new faces on the basketball courts of Camp Haiastan in Franklin, Massachusetts. With each introduction, I felt as though each unger I met was an old family friend.

 I immediately gravitated toward my fellow Hai Tahd Council members, dedicated individuals who I have been working with for the past several months but never met in-person. That’s why this moment felt beyond surreal.  In our meetings leading up to Seminar, we had decided that we were going to begin our Sunday morning educational by defining Hai Tahd. Throughout the weekend, I continually thought about this concept and what it meant to me.

As I reflect now, I realize that the weekend itself is a force that reignited our fire in pursuit of Hai Tahd. Every single moment during Senior Seminar culminated to make up my definition of Hai Tahd: whether it was meeting new Armenians, engaging in post-educational conversations, developing creative initiatives to invest in Armenia, or brainstorming ways to overcome challenges we face as a community. From learning the lyrics to our revolutionary songs around the campfire to understanding their origins and meaning, it became evident that every unger in attendance was there for the same purpose: to deepen their connection to their identity and their dedication to Hai Tahd. I came to realize that my fellow Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) members knew how to put my thoughts into words in ways better than I could. Their contributions helped me understand what Hai Tahd means to me.

Senior Seminar 2021 left me with a greater understanding of our history and present, newly learned yarkhushta steps and a stronger bond with my ungers. But most importantly, it helped shape my understanding of my role in furthering Hai Tahd, my “Sardarabad moment” as U. Yeghso so eloquently explained.

And now, for the big question, what does Hai Tahd mean to me? Simply put, it is the essence of being Armenian. It is fighting for the prosperity of Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk. It is about striving to live in a country where the government combats all forms of inequity – including speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide. But, it’s not about advocacy alone. Hai Tahd is Armenian music, dance, language, history, traditions – preserving our past and creating a better future. It’s honoring the ideals of our ancestors and starting new traditions for generations yet to come. To me, it is being involved in any way possible, whether it be with your local Armenian National Committee chapter, AYF, Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society, Homenetmen, Armenian Relief Society, or any other group which advances our heritage and culture. Earlier this month, it was about attending Senior Seminar. And thus, my definition of Hai Tahd is the pursuit of proving that “Menk Mishd Gank.”

Nairi Diratsouian

Nairi Diratsouian

Nairi Diratsouian is a rising senior at Ramapo College of New Jersey. She is pursuing a degree in psychology with a triple minor in public policy, political science, and crime and justice studies. On campus, Nairi serves as the vice president of the Psychology Affiliation and the Armenian Students Association. Currently, she works as the communications specialist for the ANCA-Eastern Region and serves on the AYF Central Hai Tahd Council as well as the New Jersey “Arsen” Executive. Nairi’s passion for her heritage is evident through her participation in the Hamazkayin of New Jersey Nayiri Dance Ensemble, Homenetmen of New Jersey, ARS “Shakeh” Chapter, ANC of New Jersey and the Hovnanian School Alumni Association.

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