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ACYOA General Assembly & Sports Weekend

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Young people attending the ACYOA General Assembly in the Boston area last month had the opportunity to hone their leadership skills and to learn about ways they can become more actively involved in organizations at their local parishes.

Meetings were held on May 27 and 28 at St. James Church of Watertown, Mass. The General Assembly was followed by Sports Weekend activities on May 29-31, hosted by the St. James Church ACYOA chapter in downtown Boston. The weekend coincided with the annual Hye M'rtsoom event, which the St. James Church hosts for ACYOA Juniors every year.

More than 100 delegates and observers from 29 parishes, including members of the clergy, took part in the ACYOA General Assembly - setting an attendance record for the past decade. The assembly was chaired by George Macarian of St. David Church in Boca Raton, Fla.

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), outlined ways young people can take up leadership roles in the Church and encouraged participants "to bring your own voices, your own creativity, your own sense of vision to the mission of your local parish, our Diocese, and the Armenian Church as a whole."

"This is your moment to shine as leaders of the Armenian Church of America," the Primate said. "Our Diocese is committed to giving you the tools you need as church leaders. And I am committed to supporting you as leaders of your parishes: to encouraging our pastors and parish councils to open their doors to you, and to recognize your voice and responsibility in the parish."

Archbishop Barsamian called on young people to think of initiatives they might support outside typical ACYOA activities and asked them to consider "lasting efforts that will make our church stronger." As examples, the Primate spoke about possible outreach efforts to the broader community, and projects to expand membership and facilities in local parishes.

The Primate also challenged ACYOA members to come up with "spiritually-uplifting projects to undertake in our homeland," and to work with the Fund for Armenian Relief to realize such efforts in Armenia.

Randy Sapah-Gulian, chair of the board of directors of the Fund for Armenian Relief, gave participants an overview of the organization's programs and shared stories of individual beneficiaries who have received opportunities through FAR, ranging from scholarships and job placement to medical assistance and programs for the elderly.

Mr. Sapah-Gulian stressed that in the 20 years since its establishment following the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, FAR has transitioned from serving the immediate needs of the Armenian people to creating long-term development programs. In the past two decades, FAR has allocated $280 million in humanitarian assistance and developed more than 220 programs in Armenia, including initiatives to bolster education, infrastructure, and medicine.

Also representing FAR at the General Assembly were Garnik Nanagoulian, the organization's executive director; Arto Vorperian, projects director; and Andre Berg, director of development. Together they invited young people to consider how they might play a role in Armenia's growth.

This summer, the ACYOA's Armenia Service Program is partnering with FAR to focus volunteering efforts on FAR projects in Gyumri, Armenia. During the trip, scheduled to run from June 29 to July 20, the ASP group will work at FAR's Ounjian School, which is undergoing renovations, and at the FAR Soup Kitchen, which serves Gyumri's elderly community.

Inspired by Sapah-Gulian's presentation, ACYOA members at the General Assembly passed a proposal to work with FAR to adopt outreach projects in Armenia. In the coming months, the ACYOA Central Council will select a project and appoint a committee to develop and implement an action plan by the end of the year.

"We are very excited to work with the Fund for Armenian Relief," said Central Council vice chair Danny Mantis. "This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from a well-established humanitarian organization and to explore fresh outreach approaches that ACYOA members might pursue in Armenia in the future."
Inspiring new leaders

During the meeting, members of the ACYOA Central Council delivered an organization-wide report, highlighting the success of activities such as the Young Adult Leadership Conference, which was held in Tarrytown, N.Y., in March, and the formation of new ACYOA chapters, which has brought the total number of chapters across the Diocese to 26.

Delegates at the assembly also heard Jennifer Morris, Youth Outreach coordinator at the Diocese, speak about Diocesan Summer Camp programs, where many ACYOA members serve as counselors. The Rev. Fr. Stepanos Doudoukjian, director of Youth and Vocations at St. Nersess Seminary, spoke about summer conferences and deacons' training seminars scheduled at the seminary.

In this Diocesan year of "Vocation: The Call to Serve," the assembly passed a proposal calling on individual ACYOA chapters to donate 10 percent of their income this year to St. Nersess Seminary on a voluntary basis. The proposal is intended to support the seminary's mission and the larger Diocesan-wide effort to recruit you men to serve as priests in the Armenian Church.

Delegates also elected new members - George Macarian of St. David Church in Boca Raton, Fla., and Alex Ouzounian of St. Mesrob Church in Racine, Wis. - to the ACYOA Central Council. They thanked outgoing chair Alex Derderian and vice chair Talin Hitik for their dedication and hard work. Delegates also expressed their gratitude to the Primate and to ACYOA Executive Secretary Nancy Basmajian for their support of the organization's initiatives.

The new Central Council was blessed by the Primate after the Divine Liturgy on Sunday, May 30.

Lydia Kurkjian, of St. Gregory the Enlightener Church in White Plains, N.Y., will serve as chair; Danny Mantis, of St. Mesrob Church in Racine, Wis., as vice chair; Danielle DerAsadourian, of St. James Church in Evanston, Ill., as secretary; George Macarian as treasurer; Gevork Vartanian, of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob Church of Providence, R.I., as programming coordinator; Ara Janigian, also of Sts. Sahag and Mesrob in Providence, as public relations coordinator; and Alex Ouzounian as chapter relations coordinator.

"I am looking forward to serving the church in a new way and hope to continue the tremendous work done by previous ACYOA Central Councils," said Alex Ouzounian.

Other proposals approved by the assembly include a move to distribute quarterly reports submitted by each chapter to all chapter chairs, and a proposal to convene a meeting prior to next year's assembly to adopt amendments to the ACYOA bylaws, as suggested by the Bylaws Revision Committee.

During the annual Primate's Luncheon on Friday, May 28, the Rev. Fr. Dajad Davidian was presented with the "Fr. Haigazoun Melkonian Award" in honor of his leadership and dedication to the youth of the Armenian Church. Following his ordination to the priesthood in 1960, Fr. Davidian served as the executive secretary of the ACYOA. Later he served as pastor of St. James Church of Watertown for 30 years until his retirement in 1999. Most recently, he has been working in Armenia to help organize new parishes and direct youth centers across the country.

The Central Council also announced that the "Fr. Haroutiun Dagley Award" has been renamed the "Fr. Haroutiun and Yn. Patricia Dagley Award," in memory of Yn. Patricia Dagley, who passed away in 2009. (No recipient was named this year, but the award will be presented again in 2011.)

Additional awards were presented later on the floor of the General Assembly. Arpi Paylan of St. James Church in Evanston, Ill., received the "Gregory Arpajian Award" for her leadership and contributions to the Armenian Church.

Karen Dardarian, of St. John Church in Detroit, Mich., received the "Sam Nersessian Award," given to individuals who display the Christian values of love, patience, humility and understanding. Dardarian said the honor was especially moving because her mother, Mariann Housepian Dardarian, received the same award in 1979, when it was first conceived by the ACYOA Central Council.

"The Chapter ‘A' Award," given to the best all-around chapter, went out to St. Mesrob Church of Racine.

Also this year, delegates welcomed Fr. Anton Sabha and Christine Najarian as observers from St. Matthew Syriac Orthodox Church of West Roxbury, Mass.

Next year's General Assembly and Sports Weekend will be hosted by St. Sahag and St. Mesrob Church in Wynnewood, Pa.

"It was clear this year at the General Assembly that the delegates are greatly invested in the future of the ACYOA and the Church, and are committed to doing whatever they can to strengthen this organization," said the new Central Council chair Lydia Kurkjian. "We are looking forward to strengthening the programming that already exists and developing new service and worship-oriented programming."
Showcasing the best

Sports Weekend competitions were held at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. In addition to athletic events, the weekend featured a presentation by the Rev. Fr. Dajad Davidian about opportunities for young people in Armenia, as well as a "Duck Tour" of Boston. Special events also included dances and a gala. On Thursday, May 27, during the General Assembly, delegates gathered for a reception at the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown.

On Sunday, May 30, the Rev. Fr. Arakel Aljalian celebrated the Divine Liturgy at St. James Church, with Archbishop Khajag Barsamian presiding.

"We made a big effort to showcase the city and the best of what Boston has to offer," said Mark Giragosian, who with Sarven Ipek co-chaired the local committee organizing the weekend's activities. "Participants got a chance to embrace the city and to enjoy the events we had planned for them outside the hotel venue."

Other committee members include Michelle Kostikian, Janelle Yildizyan, Alexa Diranian, Anais Hachikian, Jbid Ipek, Alicia Antreassian, Anais Hachikian, Talene Tarvezian, Derenig Kostikian, Alex Yildizyan, Garen Jarkian, Marc Khederian, and St. James Church youth minister Maria Derderian. Advisors include Yn. Natasha Aljalian, Tom Gengozian, and Ben Saraydarian.

"It was a great pleasure for us to host over 600 youth and young adults in Watertown and Boston over Memorial Day Weekend," said Giragosian. "It is evident to me that the spirit of the youth in our Diocese is strong, which speaks volumes for the future of the Armenian Church."

THE WEEKEND'S SPORTS CHAMPIONS

Co-Ed Volleyball:
St. James Church, Watertown, Mass.

Men's Basketball:
St. Leon Church, Fairlawn, N.J.

Babayan Cup Winner:
St. James Church, Watertown, Mass.