A vibrant group of Scituate High School students went on a field trip last Thursday, November 30, to the Armenian Historical Association of Rhode Island (AHARI) and the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial Monument of Rhode Island, culminating with lunch at Armenian-owned and operated Sonia’s Near East Market & Deli in Cranston. The trip, the first of its kind for the high school, was funded by the Armenian Cultural Association of R.I.
I had the opportunity to accompany the students, along with their teacher Tara Seger, who was recognized as the R.I. Genocide Educator of the Year in April this year. The experience was a tangible reminder of the importance of both genocide education and accurate, reliable journalism. Seger’s students, from her U.S. History II Honors class, were fully engaged and inquisitive, asking insightful and thoughtful questions, challenging me to provide proper answers. Their questions ranged from asking about my ancestors’ experiences during the 1915 Armenian Genocide to information about the exhibits at AHARI and details about the monument in the North Burial Ground cemetery in Providence.
As part of her Armenian Genocide unit of study, Seger screened Aurora’s Sunrise for her students. The film resonated with the students, who enthusiastically shared their connection to the combination of real-life interviews with Aurora Mardiganian and the artistic animation illustrating the Genocide and Mardiganian’s experiences. The students also had questions about the current events in Artsakh, which they had learned about from Seger, including queries about the displaced Armenians of Artsakh, their status and the security concerns in Armenia proper.
The field trip concluded with an Armenian lunch at Sonia’s Near East Market & Deli, generously served to the group in the midst of a very busy lunch rush. The students dived into the new food experience. Several students even went shopping for delicacies to bring home to their families.
Interacting with the students, their teacher and a parent who attended, reinforced for me the significant impact educators have on the world view and global information that students ingest. Additionally, the students’ questions and breadth of understanding about the Armenian Genocide and the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh were a tribute to their teacher and the information garnered from this historic publication.
The following day, Seger and her students shared some of their feedback about the field trip:
“Students will always remember the Armenian Genocide, because they had the opportunity to talk to descendants of survivors and interact with historical artifacts. This hands-on experience will be something that will always resonate with them…Students were really impressed by the monument and the importance of remembering the Armenians that have been lost. In particular, students expressed true empathy for the Armenian people…Finally, the students had a blast at Sonia’s Near East Market and Deli. All of the students had the opportunity to try some new and authentic food that they never tried before. This cultural experience is something that they will always remember…We cannot thank you enough.” — Tara Seger, Scituate High School teacher
“Yesterday was filled with interesting facts and stories about the Armenian Genocide. I like the story about Pauline’s grandmother. It was a story that showcased perseverance and showed how strong she was. The imagery your foundation has is terrific. All the photos in your gallery portray the Armenian Genocide for what it was, an event that should be remembered and never forgotten. The Armenian Memorial at the cemetery was beautiful…Sonia’s Deli had a bountiful selection of Armenian dishes. The ones we tried were delicious and flavorful.” — Julienne
“Thank you so much for the opportunity for me to be able to learn more about Armenian history. The museum was amazing…Pauline Getzoyan was so informative about the issues happening in Armenia today along with being able to tell her grandmother’s story. Hearing this story in person made it much more touching. Seeing the different front pages of newspapers in the museum was one of my favorite parts, as you could see how different countries brought people the news of the Genocide.” — Jessica
“The monument was beautiful, and one of my favorite parts of the trip was learning about it. I loved looking at the sculpture of the village [Palu] in the museum. The details of the sculpture were incredible…I learned more about the Armenian Genocide from the trip and want to thank you again for making the field trip possible.” — Bella
“Thank you for a wonderful experience and an informational adventure into the depths of the events during the Armenian Genocide. It was like a walk back through time when I stepped into each room…The monument dedicated to the families affected by the Armenian Genocide was a beautiful piece of architecture…Lastly, as if the trip wasn’t amazing enough, we were spoiled with Armenian delicacies which were some very tasty dishes.” — Austin
“Before I took this class I had never heard about the Armenian Genocide, and I didn’t expect this subject to stick with me as much as it has. Entering the museum was exciting because I saw physical newspapers and articles about what happened. I think the main thing I took away from this part of the trip was Miss Pauline’s story. Hearing about her grandparents gave me another perspective on how things affected people even after the Genocide…Afterwards, we went to the Armenian Martyrs’ Memorial, and it was gorgeous. I loved learning about the meaning behind the design elements.” — Maya
“The sculptures and models inside the museum were super interesting, and my personal favorite exhibit was the sculpture of the town inside the immigration history room. It was cool connecting with Pauline and talking about the film we had watched before coming, which was Aurora’s Sunrise.” — Matthew
“I would like to thank you for giving me and my class the opportunity to learn about the Armenian Genocide. Your Grandma’s story is amazing, and every detail was described flawlessly. I am very inspired by her perseverance. I would also like to thank you for the amazing food that we were given. It was delicious.” — Tristan
“It was by far the best school field trip I have taken. In the museum, I loved the detail of the sculpture of the city. It broke my heart to see the pictures of all the orphans. I will forever remember being told the secret hidden in the monument.” — Shiloah
“This field trip was one I will never forget. I am so grateful to have furthered my education and learned more about the history of Armenians. Pauline, your grandmother’s story is sad but also inspiring, and it is one I will share with those around me so an event like it never happens again. The museum expanded my understanding of the Armenian Genocide with all the different artifacts and interesting posters.” — Emma
“I was shocked to learn about your grandmother’s experience and the horrors she faced during her escape from the Turkish forces. The historical pictures and artifacts displayed throughout the museum were such vital pieces to expand on our understanding of the Genocide. The addition of the Memorial was truly a sight to see with the monument’s carvings and details. I found the stone and designs to be stunning.” — Ella
“Thank you so much for the opportunity to visit, hear your stories, and become even more informed regarding the history of the Armenians and their culture. I found all the art by Donabed Cheteyan to be fascinating. Hearing about how the Armenians in Rhode Island gathered and made a long-lasting community is inspiring. The most important part of that story is the resilience of the Armenians. They stood strong after such a tragedy and continued on. They did not falter. All the injustices Armenians are faced with will not erase the deep roots they have planted throughout the world. The monument commemorating the Armenian Genocide is an example of this. The food from Sonia’s Near East Market and Deli was delicious. That was my first time eating Armenian food, and it hopefully will not be the last. I cannot thank you enough for providing me and the rest of my class with such an unforgettable experience.” — William