My Future in the Armenian Community

By Victoria Penenian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” chapter

The Armenian Youth Federation Eastern Region is pleased to present the winners of the 2024 AYF Camp Haiastan Campership Essay Contest. The first and second place winners in each age category were announced at AYF Junior Seminar over Memorial Day weekend. Penenian’s essay, which won second place in the middle group (ages 13-14), answered the following prompt: Being an active participant in your Armenian community is crucial for preserving the Armenian Diaspora. What does your future with the Armenian community look like? What are some challenges that your community may face, and how can you utilize the AYF to overcome these challenges?

Central Junior Council with Amy Karageozian, Albany “Shoushi” chapter, and Victoria Penenian, Washington D.C. “Sevan” chapter, middle group winners

As a young Armenian dedicated to serving the Armenian cause, my future in the Armenian community may look long and difficult but is truly rewarding. I see my junior advisors, seniors and my executive come and dedicate their time and effort to preserving the Armenian cause and AYF (Armenian Youth Federation). Seeing their dedication and hard work, I feel that it is my responsibility to carry their legacy and help future generations keep our identity and culture.

There are many challenges we must face as a community to keep the Armenian cause together. One is unity. Armenians all over the world struggle to get along with each other and to connect. AYF proves vital to keep and create these connections throughout the eastern region and throughout the whole world. It is important to reach out to members in the diaspora and to pull them towards organizations like the AYF and Homenetmen so that they can become closer to the Armenian cause and learn about their own identity.

Education is also crucial to preserving the Armenian identity and community. Throughout AYF, I am saddened to hear many Armenians who know Armenian and speak it very well communicate with each other using English. If AYF and other organizations push for the speaking of Armenian and continue to provide space for people to speak and practice Armenian like Zrutsig Mrutsig, we will manage to save what is left of our beloved language.

Utilizing platforms like the AYF, when I am a senior I will push for Zrutsig Mrutsig and other similar activities to be more widely recognized and available. Unfortunately, when I log into Zrutsig Mrutsig meetings I notice that not many people participate. Some have other activities, but others are intimidated because they think their Armenian is ‘bad’ or ‘not good enough.’ I plan to change these kids’ minds and show them that any level of Armenian is welcome and that your language can only improve through practice.

When I reach the appropriate age and realize that I am ready, I am committed to joining the ARF and being a strong ARF member. I realize that AYF is a stepping stone into ARF, and I plan to join when I am able to because I completely support ARF ideologies and want to serve my nation and the diaspora. Before joining the ARF, I want to help out in the ANCA and help my country by advocating for our rights like I see many other courageous and bold Armenians doing.

As I already partake in an Armenian dance group, I am committed to continuing Armenian dance. I want to help others learn Armenian dance when I am older because it’s very important and incredibly fun. Not only that, but one day I hope to return to my former Armenian school and teach Armenian songs to the children. I’ve always had a passion for music, and listening to Armenian music is one of my greatest joys. When I become a music teacher, I hope to modernize my teaching so I will include more current songs that the children will be interested in.

In conclusion, I think my future in the Armenian community is bright and just beginning. I have so many plans for how I can improve this wonderful community and preserve it like the many ungers and ungeroohis before me. I am certain that AYF will help me overcome possible challenges like communicating with children and creating a stronger sense of identity and culture.

Founded in 1933, The Armenian Youth Federation is an international, non-profit, youth organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). The AYF-YOARF Eastern United States stands on five pillars that guide its central activities and initiatives: Educational, Hai Tahd, Social, Athletic and Cultural. The AYF also promotes a fraternal attitude of respect for ideas and individuals amongst its membership. Unity and cooperation are essential traits that allow members of the organization to work together to realize the AYF’s objectives.

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