11 educators and supporters honored during ANCA-WR Education Committee’s Virtual Awards Ceremony

Over 400 people tuned in to the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) Education Committee’s Armenian Genocide Virtual Awards Ceremony, where it recognized 11 educators and champions from various public schools and universities who have uniquely provided instruction, support and education about the Armenian Genocide. 

Kicking off the event was ANCA-WR Board of Director and Education Committee liaison Anahid Oshagan, Esq. who welcomed the guests to the virtual ceremony and introduced them to the ANCA-WR and its relentless pursuit of the Armenian Cause. 

Following Oshagan, ANCA-WR Education Committee chair and lifelong educator Alice Petrossian highlighted the litany of projects that the members of the Education Committee have been engaged in for years, including teacher workshops, preparations of teaching resources about the Armenian Genocide, as well as their continued advocacy to include Armenian Genocide in various educational curriculums.

Then, ANCA-WR interim executive director Verginie Touloumian introduced the newest Education Award, the Amb. Henry Morgenthau Sr. Courage Award, named after Henry Morgenthau Sr. who served as the US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913-1916. The award is presented to extraordinary public servants who embody courage, strength, leadership and compassion. The first award was presented to LAUSD Board president Kelly Gonez. In her acceptance speech, Kelly Gonez said, “As we look around the world today, the work of remembering the past, reckoning with the pain and working towards the healing is more important than ever. I look forward to continuing our work together to support our Armenian community.”

Touloumian also thanked Esmeralda Marcial, Director of Community Engagement; Charity Castro, Advocacy and Policy Deputy; and Michael Menjivar, Deputy Director of Community Engagement for working closely with the ANCA-WR and promoting Armenian Genocide Education across Los Angeles. 

Then, committee members Lucy Martirosyan, Laura Gaboudian and Zarik Hacopian presented the Zaruhi “Sarah” Chitjian Armenian Heritage Award to Thomas Jefferson Elementary School principal Armineh Alexan, Clark Magnet High School’s social science teacher and department chair Patrick Davarhanian and John Burroughs High School math teacher and Armenian Club advisor Shake Jacqueline Balian. 

Alexan, who has had the privilege of being colleagues with Chitjian, said that she has “taken every opportunity to teach them [my students] about mutual respect, acceptance, kindness, empathy, tolerance and perseverance.” She thanked the ANCA-WR for creating curricula to help educators incorporate the Armenian Genocide in their instruction. 

“When our youth are provided with educational opportunities – they have the most powerful tool in their arsenal to combat injustice, which is why sharing the history and universal lessons of the Armenian Genocide has been so important for me,” remarked Davarhanian. 

In her acceptance speech, Balian recalled how she had made it her “mission to educate Armenians and non-Armenians students and educators about our rich culture, tradition, and history, and specifically the Armenian Genocide.”

The Armenian Genocide Education Award was presented by the committee’s vice-chair Sedda Antekelian and committee member Katia Karaguezian to Dr. David Harms, who teaches US government, US history and world issues at Penta Career Center in Ohio, and to Michael Cunningham, who teaches legal studies, political science, debate, and world history at Del Valle High School and serves as the director of Global Scholars Diploma Program for the World Affairs Council of Austin in Texas. 

Dr. Harms explained how he incorporates The Promise movie into his classroom as his students learn about Dr. Gregory H. Stanton’s “Ten Stages of Genocide.” He then instructs his students to create museum displays and teach about the Armenian Genocide to others. Cunningham, who explored his genealogy and traced his roots back to Armenia, thanked the committee for honoring him and explained why he teaches this crime against humanity. 

Committee member Arpi Krikorian presented the Richard G. Hovannissian Armenian Genocide Higher Education Award to Dr. Matthew Jendian, a professor and Sociology Department Chair at California State University Fresno. Dr. Jendian who is the author of several books and the grandchild of genocide survivors expressed his gratitude by stating “I teach my students that knowledge is not power, but potential power, for it’s when we act upon that knowledge that it becomes power.”

Then, Oshagan presented the Armenian Genocide Education Legacy Award to Dr. Alfred De Zayas, professor of international law and history at the Geneva School of Diplomacy. Expressing his gratitude from Switzerland, Dr. De Zayas remarked, “Sustainable peace cannot be achieved as long as injustice prevails. Justice entails truth and a commitment to live according to the norms of international law, the United Nations Charter, and the constitution of UNESCO. Indeed, among the intangible culture heritage of humanity we must consider the preservation of the memory of all victims of genocide, including the Armenians.”

At the end of the awards ceremony, a special presentation about the ANCA-WR Education Committee’s website was showcased to the public to help those interested in accessing fact sheets, films and documentaries, book lists and lesson plans with teacher guides and presentation slides on the Armenian heritage, Armenian Genocide and Artsakh. 

Each honoree received a special package from the ANCA-WR Education Committee which included: a certificate of recognition, Vegan Armenian Kitchen Cookbook, Arpi Krikorian’s bookmarks (donated by the designer), a book titled Under the Light of the Moon (donated by author Laura Gaboudian), a book titled My Mother’s Voice (donated by author Dr. Kay Mouradian), Alfred De Zayas’ Building a Just World Order, America We Thank you and the Orphan Rug and Aintoura Orphanage DVDs, a pomegranate keychain and tote bags prepared by displaced women from Artsakh (donated by the Armenian Education Foundation).

At the conclusion of the Awards Ceremony, the subcommittee’s chairperson Taline Arsenian congratulated the honorees and thanked members of the Education Committee and Government Affairs coordinator Ruben Karapetian for assisting with the event. She also recognized those who donated to support the activities of the committee: In Memory of Vartan A. Thomasian, Vahik & Alice Petrossian, Hermineh Pakhanians, In Memory of Vahe Oshagan, Auto Alex, Code 3 Life and Pierre & Katia Karaguezian. She also stressed the importance of genocide education within the school curriculum and requested community members to nominate educators from their local districts who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to teach about the Armenian Genocide in the context of crimes against humanity within their classrooms for the next Awards Ceremony. 

ANCA-Western Region
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential nonpartisan Armenian-American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues in pursuit of the Armenian Cause.

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