It is February 7, 2015, and there are only 76 days until April 24, when we mark 100 years of injustice.
Plans from all over have flooded our communities on how to handle this occasion—whether meeting with Senators in Washington, D.C., or holding lectures with different community leaders in New York or San Francisco. Coast to coast, city to city, there are so many opportunities to make a mark on the ongoing campaign for recognition.
But how exactly is a 13-year-old supposed to make a difference?
It seems at times that as Armenian youth (10-17 years old), we have very few opportunities to help. Of course, we can join demonstrations or maybe even give a speech, if we’re on the older part of that spectrum. The rest is watching, learning, and waiting to lead, to have the opportunity to change the nation and maybe even the world. Waiting has been the ideology for youth for years…until now.
Under the umbrella of the Chicago Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, the Armenian Genocide Education Awareness (AGEA) committee has created an initiative, alongside the Chicago “Ararat” AYF chapter, for Armenian youth throughout Illinois.
The project deals with the Illinois state requirement to teach the Armenian Genocide in middle schools and high schools, and teaches Armenian students how to present an effective lesson on the genocide to their fellow classmates in history class or even to the entire school.
Walking into the workshop, I expected a short meeting that would simply give us the PowerPoint slides, and we would be on our way. I could not have been more wrong. Yes, the PowerPoint was presented and given to us, but in a way that I did not expect, which truly defined the importance of this project. The PowerPoint itself was created perfectly. The members of the committee, especially Sona Birazian who led the presentation, crafted it in such a way that each participant was able to personalize the PowerPoint, and learn how to make it understood by different age groups.
I realized half way through the workshop, after my family’s story was given—by my mother, Renee Devedjian, who is on the AGEA committee—what this workshop was really about.
While it initially seemed to be about gaining recognition through schools, a new path opened up: This was not just for our peers. It was for us. It was an opportunity for us to not only learn how to lead, but to learn what the Armenian Cause is really about.
We then broke up into smaller groups, each with a mentor (an adult on the AGEA committee). We worked in these small groups, talking about our family’s story of surviving the Armenian Genocide, and how to best present it to our classmates.
At the conclusion of the workshop, we were given the assignment to learn more about our families’ stories, because they’re key in making a meaningful project and presentation, and giving our message purpose to the greater community.
In the beginning, it seemed as if the committee’s goal for the project was for us to be a part of the Centennial, to shape leaders for the future. But the project let us take the initiative of sharing our history and relating the genocide to our world today.
This project is as much about us getting involved in the ongoing fight for recognition as it is learning on a deeper level what we are urging our country, the United States, to recognize. The youth is the future, and while we are learning how to be leaders with the push of the Centennial, we are learning about our roots that will mold our drive for years to come.
This new opportunity for the youth is one that I hope my community embraces and continues, for it truly defines the future moving forward.
Before, maybe a 13-year-old couldn’t change the world, but with this project s/he will learn about our roots. And once the fire ignites, once the drive is present, the first steps of creating a new world have begun.
This is why the initiative is so crucial, for it will truly define the future of the Armenian Cause moving forward.