As I reflect back on my years as an AYF-YOARF member, I can undoubtedly say the AYF is the greatest youth organization in the world. What other organization can give you a fraction of what the AYF has given for nearly 90 years and continues to give its members? The AYF has given me everything. It’s made me who I am today—personally and professionally.
The AYF has given me lifelong friendships across the country…friendships that have turned into family (special shoutout to the Khachatourian family for being my home away from home during those countless weekend trips to Boston).
The AYF afforded me the opportunity to serve on the first female-majority Central Executive, an honor I share alongside three young women I am proud to call my ungerouhis.
The AYF gives you role models like U. Yeghisapet Chouldjian, the ANCA’s communications director, who is unmatched in her dedication to the Armenian Cause…an ungerouhi we all aspire to emulate. It gives you people like Leeza Arakelian, the Armenian Weekly’s assistant editor, who provide you with a safe space to explore and develop skills that you’ve never pursued before.
No matter what one’s passion, the AYF offers every Armenian a place in the organization, whether it be Hai Tahd, Armenian language, culture, history or athletics. The AYF encourages new ideas and takes steps to implement them, contributing to the evolution and growth of the organization. A number of ungers had a passion for the Armenian language and a desire to focus on its preservation, and now, the AYF has a newly-formed Central Language Council.
The AYF has taught me everything I know about my homeland, from Hayastan to Artsakh, from Javakhk and Western Armenia. No other Armenian youth organization prioritizes our ancestral lands the way the AYF does. Through educationals, fundraisers, organized demonstrations, internships in Armenia and invaluable opportunities to build relationships with Artsakhtsis and Javakhktsis, the AYF ensures its members contribute to the future of the homeland in every way possible. The AYF gave me something bigger than myself to work towards. It has taught me how to contribute to my homeland, even from the diaspora. The AYF shows us the path to achieve a free, independent and united Armenia.
To the parents of prospective AYF members (ages 10 – 26):
- Put your kids in AYF. Send them to every Junior Seminar, Armenian Cultural Educational Weekend (ACE), Junior Athletic Games (JAG), and Junior Winter Olympics (JWO). You will be giving your children the greatest gift. Take them to every meeting, even if it’s a long drive or if they don’t want to go. I am forever appreciative that my parents used to drive me two hours to attend meetings in Washington, DC.
To my current AYF ungers:
- Be the resistance. We all have a role to play in the future of Hayastan. The AYF is the leading youth voice in the US and across the world, and now more than ever, we need to make our voices even louder to ensure the traitorous regime hears us. Their divisive policies cannot silence us. We will not tolerate the loss of land in exchange for “peace.” The fate of our nation is at stake. Let’s continue our fight, together, for our people and our homeland.
- Serve on Central Councils and Chapter Executives. These leadership roles will help you find your passion and grow your skill sets that can be used in your career. Take advantage of all the AYF has to offer. Make the AYF a priority in your life, and it will give you so much more in return.
Thank you, Karekin Njdeh, for being a visionary and giving generations of Armenian youth a place of comfort in this crazy world. It’s impossible to put into words all that the AYF has given me over the years, but the best thing of all has been the number of ungers that came into my life. I am surrounded with like-minded people who I can turn to, even during our nation’s darkest of days.
Thank you, Armenian Youth Federation – Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation. I am eternally grateful.