Reflecting on my last Junior Seminar as an AYF member

Another AYF regional event, another reflection. In my last article, I wrote about the Junior Winter Olympics (JWO). This time, I’ll be reflecting on the premier AYF Junior event in our region, the staple that is known as Junior Seminar.

Aside from AYF Olympics, Junior Seminar is the single largest gathering for all of the regions’ Junior members. It also serves as the springboard of excitement for kids ahead of the new AYF Camp Haiastan season. It was always one of my favorite events, from the bus ride and stop at a mall on the way to arriving at the camp only to be greeted at the check-in table by dozens of my friends, all panicking to find out if we are in the same cabin.

Similarly to how I snuck into JWO at age nine, I also attended my first Junior Seminar at the same age. Maybe we could’ve used some more rigid age verification back then…I believe I have missed only one or two Junior Seminars, but definitely no more than two. My felonious activity of sneaking in early canceled out one of the Junior Seminars I missed, bringing my total to an incredible 19 or 20 Junior Seminars attended. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to attend so many throughout my AYF career.

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At this point, you know the drill — here are my reflections after attending my last Junior Seminar in Ligonier, Pennsylvania:

  • First and foremost, I would like to give a shout out to the 2024 Junior Seminar Council. They did an incredible job organizing an event with over 430 attendees, and everyone should give them a big round of applause. Without the hard work and dedication of these six ungers over the past months, this weekend would not have been the resounding success that it was: U. Emin Abrahamian (Greater Boston), U. Alex Agabap (New Jersey), U. Areni Artinian (Chicago), U. Antranig Kasbarian (Washington D.C.), U. Jero Mouradian (New Jersey) and U. Aram Najarian (Washington D.C.). 
  • I flew to Junior Seminar this year instead of taking the bus. Although my 28-year-old body will thank me for this, I did have a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) for what would have been my last ride as an AYF member. On the flip side, only so many people can say they went to Seminar with their wife. I was so lucky to have my other half with me for my last Seminar — thank you Kenar! That’s “Ungerouhi Kenar” to you though.
  • I’m a mechanical engineer, so naturally, let’s talk some numbers:
    • 431: The total number of attendees that came to the 2024 Junior Seminar. It is always incredible to see so many Armenian youth in one place.
    • 110: New Jersey sent an insane number of members. Had a guess in your head? Double it…maybe even triple it. The “Arsens” came strong with two full coach buses without a single empty seat. That’s right — 110 Juniors and Seniors total. Let’s give credit to the Junior Executive, Junior Advisors and parents for sending their kids, who made up 25% of the entire Junior Seminar.
    • 39: Everything is not always rainbows and butterflies — we have to be able to assess our shortcomings as well. Only 39 attendees from the New England district attended this year’s Junior Seminar. I remember in my Junior days, when Providence, Worcester and North Andover would share a bus, Greater Boston would have its own bus, and New England would send over 100 kids to the event. I am urging a call to action to our New England parents and Juniors. In today’s world where kids are doing so many activities by age 10, whether it be sports, the arts or other extracurriculars, we cannot compromise their opportunities to attend AYF and Armenian events. As a fellow New Englander, I am also at fault — we need to heavily focus on improving this number from our district over the next few months and into next year.
    • 4: Although there were only a few, four AYF-YOARF members at large attended the Junior Seminar, all from the Ft. Myers, Florida area. This number is significant to me, as the increasing number of members at large may be indicative of new and emerging Armenian communities in which we can establish new AYF chapters. 
    • 1: We had one applicant who stood out from the rest, and that is U. Zabelle Hamparian from the AYF Western United States, likely the first AYF-WUS attendee at Junior Seminar in many years. I hope that our Western U.S. and Canada ungers continue to come to Junior Seminar in the coming years. Interacting and collaborating inter-regionally is crucial to the continued growth of our respective regions.
  • As always, the weather looked great for the weekend, but come Sunday we had an unexpected flash rain and thunderstorm for a few hours. It never fails — it wouldn’t be a true Junior Seminar without rain.
  • I hope the 17-year-olds who went through the Leaders-in-Training (LIT) program will look back and understand how lucky they were to have such great directors. Between Kenar Charchaflian and Nairi (Khachatourian) Tcholakian, you could not have two more overqualified AYF alumni running our LIT program. They know how to get the best out of a member and show them how to take advantage of opportunities in the AYF and run with them. And I promise I’m not just saying this because Kenar is my wife…
  • The lecturers were great as always, and once again, we can give credit to the amazing Junior Seminar Council for identifying important topics and well-researched lecturers to deliver important messaging to our next generation of leaders.
  • I liked the Junior Seminar Council’s new idea of a lip sync on Friday night. Watching my fellow Providence Juniors lip sync and dance to “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind & Fire transported me back to my Junior days performing at Skit Night.
  • A Junior Seminar tradition that has stood the test of time is playing the game esheg during free time on Sunday night. It was a nice full circle moment for U. Antranig Karageozian of Albany, who along with his brother Steve first brought the game to Junior Seminar 30 years ago in 1994. I also took what really should be my last esheg leap as part of a team of alleged “veteran” jumpers. I hope the tradition of the game continues for another 30 years and more.
  • At the final dance Sunday night, we saw our Juniors and Seniors keep the cultural flame alive. Detroit, New Jersey and New York took the opportunity to showcase their dancing skills as members of local dance groups put on a show for the other attendees. I would love to see more of our AYF members join dance groups and start new ones. I also had the chance to lead the haleh one last time alongside U. Emin Abrahamian, another memory I will cherish for years. 
  • My favorite portion of Junior Seminar is and has always been the singing of heghapokhagan (revolutionary) songs at the end of the night. In my Junior years, there would be a few dozen people left by the end of the dance to sing. This year, the room was full of Junior and Senior members alike, embracing each other shoulder to shoulder, passionately singing song after song. From inspiring songs like “Bank Ottoman” to poignant ones like “Akhbers ou Yes,” the nationalistic spirit and passion of our youth were shown in full force.
    • Serving on the AYF Central Executive is an honor that comes with a lot of personal sacrifice. However, experiencing powerful moments like these makes you realize that all the sacrifice is, ultimately, always worth it. I will miss these moments as a Junior, Senior and Central Executive member.
  • I definitely hope to be back at Junior Seminar soon in the future as a lecturer, if the future organizers will have me. I hope to join the extensive list of distinguished past Junior Seminar lecturers and do my part in continuing to inspire the next generation of leaders — like my son Mshag, who will attend his first Junior Seminar in 2034. 

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Nareg Mkrtschjan

Nareg Mkrtschjan

Nareg Mkrtschjan is the current Chair of the AYF-YOARF Central Executive and a member of the Providence “Varantian” Chapter. He has held many leadership roles throughout his AYF career, participating as an AYF intern in 2017 and director in 2018, Javakhk counselor in 2016 and 2017, serving on central councils and his local executive. Nareg met his wife, AYF Camp Haiastan Executive Director Kenar Charchaflian through the AYF and even popped the question to her at AYF Convention at Camp Haiastan. They happily live in Rhode Island with their son Mshag, a future unger.


  1. Karekin Njdeh’s vision lives … generations later, the AYF Juniors secure their Armenian identity and the dynamic diasporan life in which they will contribute

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