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Armenian Culture, Science and Education Development Foundation

13 Merrimack Valley Schools Tune into Genocide Education

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In what was a phenomenal approach to the Armenian Genocide Centennial this year, 13 schools called upon the Armenian Genocide Education Committee of Merrimack Valley to offer presentations to its students. The number included nine high schools, two colleges, and two middle schools. In two cases, there was a return visit to stage a panel discussion with representatives from other beleaguered countries.

In addition to the schools, committee members scoured the communities to visit a number of afternoon and evening service clubs, retirement centers, and libraries. Two television documentaries were filmed and six libraries displayed photography exhibits commemorating the Centennial. The images portray vibrant country life as it remains today, and not disturbing graphic images of 1915. Of the 13 schools engaged, 6 of them came aboard for the first time, presumably due to the Centennial. All of them invited return visits over the next school year. Members agreed that although 100 years have passed, education should be an ongoing curriculum that is provided so long as denial is being fostered in our midst.

As Armenianweekly.com reports, Dro Kanayan, comittee chairman said that over the last year, they had seen a tremendous awareness of the Armenian Genocide being raised by the educational community. According to him students are taking a keen interest in understanding what happened and where our people have come since then. They wonder about its effect upon our culture and how to prevent it from reoccurring in today’s society.In order to succeed in our endeavor, we need the continued support of the non-Armenian community, Kanayan added. Participating high schools included Billerica, Tewksbury, Lowell, Chelmsford, Tyngsboro, Lawrence, Haverhill, Andover, and North Reading. Three others were also listed but withdrew due to curriculum restraints caused by this winter’s postponements. The colleges engaged were Northern Essex Community College, which offered a 3-hour block featuring the film “Orphans of the Genocide” and a presentation by Dr. Ara Jeknavorian, who has compiled a provocative slideshow on Armenian history and geography; and UMass Lowell, where Dr. Levon Chorbajian took the initiative once again with Gregory Aftandilian. Both are faculty members and joined with the committee in offering a panel on genocide. Two middle schools hopped aboard: North Hampton (N.H.) and Melrose, as teachers there combined their 7th– and 8th-grade students.

“Most all the students knew little or nothing about the Armenian Genocide,” said organizer Jean (Guiguizian) Vincent. “They came away with a sound education on human rights and the respect they should have toward people of different cultures.”

The following libraries volunteered their exhibit space for pictures on Armenia: Haverhill, Chelmsford, and Andover. Other bookings follow: Sandown, N.H., for August; Westford for September; North Andover for October; and Methuen for November. In each case, Armenian children in those communities helped to set up the display and a photo opportunity for local papers.

The Genocide Education Committee was formed seven years ago in response to the State Department’s ordinance on increased genocide education in public schools. Since then, members have taken the initiative to contact schools and present discussions. In each case the results have proven beneficial. The initiative has since been extended to libraries, civic organizations, and housing projects—wherever the desire indicates.

“New schools are constantly being added,” said Kanayan, who remains a driving force in the endeavor. “Our history must never be forgotten. The Centennial initiated some avid response this year which, we hope, will continue to accelerate in the years to come.”

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