As a student at Hovnanian School, I had always envisioned the perfect eighth grade year. Up until March 2020, I had imagined walking the halls, passing all the other students, from the youngest grades to the oldest, and the feeling of superiority that being an eighth grader comes with. Eating the freshly-made mante that was being prepared by volunteers for the school’s annual Mante Dinner Night, which would later fund the eighth grade trip to Armenia. Sitting in the back of the bus on our way to yet another field trip, pounding on the windows for a nearby truck to honk at us. Crumbling up a note during class and throwing it to a classmate, awaiting a response. Getting to school early to decorate each other’s lockers for birthdays. Traveling all the way across the ocean to Armenia together, a moment we’ve waited for our entire lives. Finally, walking up onto stage, receiving our diplomas.
Then Covid happened.
All of a sudden, our school was shut down in March, in the middle of my 7th grade year. Overall, after the first haze that lasted the rest of that school year, Hovnanian was prepared when the new school year approached. Thanks to the new Head of School, Mr. Chris Sarafian, and the rest of the staff’s hard work, the school was able to remain open while many others were shut down. While we were able to attend school in person, there were many changes made. Every desk was placed six feet apart from the others in the classroom, in order to keep social distance. Masks were mandatory, and locker rooms were closed. Covid tests were randomly given to make sure that no one who was sick spread it to others. Anyone in quarantine attended school online, just as if they were in the classroom. I myself was required to quarantine for a few weeks in February when I came into contact with someone who tested positive, and I was able to keep up with all of my schoolwork. Despite the difficulties caused by Covid, the school did a great job of keeping the spread to a minimum.
When I came to school on the first day of eighth grade, to say that it was very different than I had imagined would be an understatement. We wouldn’t be sitting in the lunchroom with the entire middle school or playing contact sports in gym class. Although the COVID-19 restrictions did pose slight challenges socially, the academics were unaffected.
Then, on September 27, 2020, the war between Artsakh and Azerbaijan began. I remember hearing the devastating news and hoping it would be short lived. However, I was completely wrong: my country and its existence were in jeopardy. During those 44 days, which felt like an eternity, no one could’ve predicted the amount of land lost during the war, land that I had the privilege of visiting with the Shushi dance group in 2015. During those dreadful days, I came to realize that all of my problems were nowhere near as important as this. Our school was able to take action immediately and organize multiple fundraisers to raise money for those affected by the war. Hovnanian truly came together, every student displaying a strong Armenian spirit. Although we were all saddened by what was going on in our motherland, we gathered as a community and helped however we could. My classmates and I joined in on many protests against the war.
Due to the war and the pandemic, my class and I received the heartbreaking news that we would not be able to go on the long-awaited trip to our homeland. We had waited almost our entire lives for this trip, and you can imagine how difficult it was to process that it just wasn’t going to happen. However, our teachers and Head of School did everything they could so that we could still have our eighth grade trip. Although we didn’t go to Armenia, I will forever treasure the memories I made.
Hovnanian School was established in 1976 in New Jersey by Vahakn Hovnanian, along with other prominent members of the Armenian community. It has been teaching young Armenians how to become strong, independent leaders in the Armenian community for nearly 45 years. It is a place that I will forever call home.
I will never forget my last day as a Hovnanian student. After preparing for our graduation and practicing our speeches, Mr. Chris and Digin Hera, the Armenian teacher for middle school as well as our homeroom teacher, took us out to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory. It was one of my last memories as a student at Hovnanian, and it was truly a wonderful experience to have before graduating, as it provided my friends and I the chance to spend our last day as eighth graders together.
The day of our graduation was one of the best days of my life and one of the saddest. While I was extremely excited to receive my diploma and throw my cap into the air, I also knew that I was going to miss being a student at Hovnanian very much. The entire ceremony was very surreal to me, and I didn’t truly realize that I was a graduate until I was walking into high school in September. I am so grateful that, despite the coronavirus, my classmates and I were able to have an amazing graduation ceremony and celebration. I will always hold my memories of Hovnanian close to my heart, and I will never forget the wonderful opportunities it provided for me in life, especially the ability to get into the high school of my choice.
I have truly been honored to be a part of the loving and nurturing community that Hovnanian provides for its students, and I hope that I will be able to give back as much as I received from that lovely institution. I also hope that I will be able to enroll my own children when I grow up, so that they can have the wonderful experiences that I did.