More than 250 community leaders, dignitaries, educators, and supporters attended the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region Education Committee’s fourth annual Armenian Genocide Education Luncheon. The event was held on Saturday, March 7 in Burbank, CA. Held since 2016, the Luncheon seeks to honor K through 16 public school educators who have gone above and beyond to incorporate a comprehensive lesson plan on Armenian Genocide studies within their classroom curriculum.
The event opened with the singing of the United States and Armenian national anthems, performed by Sosie Haboyan and Sose Hovannisian, respectively.
Education Committee Chairwoman Alice Petrossian then led a moment of silence for former Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian, who had unfortunately passed away a few days prior to the event.
Following Petrossian, Event Committee Chairwoman Sedda Antekelian welcomed the attendees and thanked them for making the sold-out event a success. She then opened the program with a clip of testimony from Armenian Genocide survivor Hagop Asadourian, who is one of 400 interviewees from the testimony collection of the Armenian Film Foundation, that have all been integrated and digitized into the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive and used for educational purposes via USC Shoah Foundation’s online website for teachers and students, IWitness.
Following the testimony presentation, KTLA 5 News Reporter Ellina Abovian, who served as the Master of Ceremonies, took the stage to recognize the dignitaries and educators who were present at the luncheon. The list of dignitaries included Congresswoman Jackie Chu, Glendale Councilman-Elect Ardy Kassakhian, Glendale Community College representatives, including Superintendent David Viar, Board of Trustees President Vahe Peroomian, Clerk Yvette Vartanian Davis, Board Member Armine Hacopian and Trustee-Elect Sevan Benlian, Los Angeles Unified School District Board Member Scott Schmerelson. From Glendale Unified School District representatives included, Superintendent, Vivian Ekchian President, Jennifer Freemon, Board Members, Armina Gharpetian, Shant Sahakian, Nayiri Nahabedian, Greg Krikorian and Glendale Teachers Association President, Taline Arsenian. From Pasadena Unified School District, representatives included, Assistant Superintendent, Eric Sahakian and Board Member Michelle Richardson Bailey. From Burbank Unified School District, representatives included, Board Members Armond Aghakhanian, Roberta Reynolds, and Steve Ferguson, as well as Burbank Teacher Association President, Diana Abasta.
Following Abovian’s remarks, Congresswoman Chu took the stage to thank the organizers for their tireless efforts to advocate for the education of the Armenian Genocide.
Next, filmmaker Ani Hovannisian- Kevorkian, who served as the Keynote Speaker of the event, presented a trailer of her newly featured documentary “The Hidden Map,” which depicts the gripping encounters of Hovannisian-Kevorkian’s travels through Turkey in search of her forbidden ancestral home along with a solitary Scottish explorer that she met along the way.
Following the keynote speech by Hovannisian-Kevorkian, ANCA-WR Board Member Anahid Oshagan, highlighted the litany of projects that the tireless members of the Education Committee members 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.
The program also featured talented musicians from Lark Musical Society, who performed “Adagio” by Aram Khachatryan and “Haberban” by Komitas, as well as a beautiful dance performance of “Vagharshapat” by AYAC Areni Dance Group.
Master of Ceremonies Ellina Abovian presented the Armenian Genocide Education Award, awarded to educators teaching in K through 12, who have gone above and beyond to educate their students about the Armenian Genocide and are committed to teaching about it in classrooms. Three Armenian Genocide Education Awards were presented to Jennifer Davis, Clark Magnet High School (GUSD), Michelle Herczog, EdD, Los Angeles County of Education, and Susan Quintana, Pojoaque Valley School, Pojoaque Valley School District (New Mexico).
Education Committee member and Genocide Education Project Executive Director Roxanne Makasdjian presented the Zaruhy “Sara” Chitjian Armenian Heritage Award, named after educator Sara Chitjian, who was also the daughter of Genocide survivors, which is awarded to educators of Armenian descent who have gone above and beyond to teach and preserve the Armenian heritage through the prism of the Armenian Genocide. Two Zaruhy “Sara” Chitjian Armenian Heritage Awards were presented to Saakanoush Markarian, R.D. White Elementary School (GUSD), and Nancy Nazarian, Glen Hammond Curtiss Magnet Middle School (LAUSD).
Master of Ceremonies Ellina Abovian presented the Armenian Genocide Higher Education Award, awarded to college professors who are dedicated to highlighting the history of the Armenian Genocide and its impact in students’ lives today in higher education institutions. The Armenian Genocide higher Education Award was presented to Dr. Maria Armoudian, Senior Lecturer of Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland in Auckland, New Zealand.
Dr. Rubina Peroomian, Lecturer and Research Associate at the University of California, Los Angeles, presented the prestigious Armenian Genocide Education Legacy Award, of which she was also a past honoree. The Award is presented to educators who have dedicated a lifetime of efforts aimed toward educating and providing resources for their students and other educators about the Armenian Genocide and its lasting legacy for humanity. The recipient of 2020 Armenian Genocide Education Legacy Award was presented to Dr. Richard G. Hovannisian, Professor Emeritus, UCLA.
ANCA-WR Treasurer Hermineh Pakhanians, as well as ANCA-WR Education Committee Chairwoman Alice Petrossian partook in the ceremony of presenting the awards.
At the conclusion of the luncheon, ANCA-WR Education Committee Chair Alice Petrossian announced the renaming of the Armenian Genocide Higher Education Award to the Richard G. Hovannisian Higher Education Award. Petrossian concluded by stressing the importance of genocide education within school curriculum and requested the attendees to nominate educators from their local districts for next year’s luncheon.
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.