Editor’s Note: Meghri Aguilian shares how the AYF has positively impacted her life during her formal remarks at this month’s joint anniversary celebration of the AYF DC “Sevan” Junior Chapter and the AYF DC “Ani” Chapter.
I’ve been a proud member of the AYF for four years since I was 11 years old. I’m also a member of the DC Homenetmen Scouts and a graduate of Hamasdegh Armenian School.
My parents raised me with the Armenian language, culture, traditions and values. Growing up, I loved singing Armenian songs, learning poems, reading Armenian books and cared deeply for our people and our homeland.
But I wasn’t always proud of who I was.
At school, I didn’t feel comfortable with my Armenian identity. I dreaded attendance because I knew that the teachers would mispronounce my name and my classmates would make fun of me for it. I was also picked on for my Armenian features and the Armenian food I brought for lunch. It really impacted my self-esteem. I felt embarrassed to say my name or what country I was from whenever someone asked me. The other kids at school had friends from their own countries, but I didn’t because my older brother and I were the only Armenians there. Therefore, I didn’t feel any sense of community.
In the fall of 2018, my parents convinced me to join AYF. Though I was hesitant at first, I eventually agreed, and that single decision changed my life for the better. From the very first meeting, I realized for the first time that I could say my name without feeling any shame. For the first time, I felt like I belonged. I had finally found the community that I had been searching for for so long.
Being a member of AYF has taught me so much about the rich history of Armenia and the great leaders who fought time and time again for the justice and protection of our people and our homeland.
It’s so important, and I cannot emphasize this enough, for our youth to be educated not only about our past, but about the present and the future of Armenia. The more meetings I attended, the more connected I felt to my Armenian identity and the more proud I became. I spent meetings talking with my friends, talking about the future of our country, and how I can help. It has had the most positive impact on my life. I love being part of the AYF. Being an Armenian is a challenge with everything that we have gone through… oppression, injustice, genocide, the Artsakh liberation war and the 2020 Artsakh War, losing our soldiers and lands. Even now, the current situation in Artsakh is so upsetting, and we, as AYF members, need to do the best we can to help our country and its people.
Being in AYF has taught me not to be discouraged and also provides the opportunity for our Armenian youth to come together and continue the fight for the sake of our beloved Armenia and Artsakh. Through AYF, I have learned of the opportunities I can take to help Armenia directly. By listening to the experiences of the AYF interns in Armenia, I feel inspired and ready to step up and help in Armenia and in Artsakh when the time comes.
I would like to close with a quote from Armenian political activist and genocide victim Edgar Agnouni: Առաջ անցէք, երիտասարդ, ուսանող հայրենակիցներ… Պարզեցէք ձեր ձեռքերը՝ նշանակ ուխտի, եւ ուխտեցէք պատմութեան տօնին առջեւ, բայց մանաւանդ ձեր արիւնոտ ժողովուրդին առջեւ, միշտ հաւատալ, միշտ երազել, միշտ պայքարի մէջ մնալ: