From February 24th-26th, 2012, the Confederation of All-Armenian Student Associations hosted the 4th annual Leadership Seminar at AYF Camp. The weekend retreat was attended by students from UCSD, UCLA, Cal Poly Pomona, CSUN, CSULA, SDSU, GCC, UCSB, Woodbury, Loyola Law School, AEO, AYF, and ARF Shant Student Association. The purpose of the weekend was to give the students attending necessary tools to be effective leaders in their respective schools and organizations. Students were given the opportunity to delve into the various reasons why they were involved in Armenian organizations. This allowed them to connect their Armenian identity with the organizational work they carry out. The weekend provided a venue for the exchange of ideas and inspiration, creating a collaborative environment of talent and energy. Through a series of inspirational presentations and educational lectures, attendees were able to fine tune their leadership skills while connecting with their peers.
The weekend started off with a series of presentations that were geared towards honing the leadership skills and potential in the students. Vache Thomassian, Chairperson of the ARF Shant Student Association, lectured the students on the proper methods of running an effective meeting and organization. William Bairamian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee-Western Region, stressed the importance of effective campus activism and the need for students to build strong coalitions within their respective spheres. Allen Yekikian, former Assistant Editor of Asbarez and current Chief Technology Officer of Operation Hope, led a presentation on social marketing and effective strategies for promoting within an organization. After the morning presentations the attendees took part in an educational on the importance of activism and environmentalism, led by Vrej Haroutounian, member of the All-ASA Leadership Planning Committee, and Gohar Khachatryan, an environmental activist from Yerevan, Armenia. Students were informed of the current situation of the protests against development in Mashdots Park and of the “Save Teghut” movement geared towards preventing the destruction of Armenia’s Teghut forest. Afterwards, students were able to connect with nature on an afternoon hike that was followed by an open conversation about activism in the Armenian community. Mourad Topalian gave the final keynote presentation, informing the students about the importance of conviction and how it ties into our identity as Armenians.
On Sunday morning, students were presented various opportunities to volunteer and intern in Armenia, as part of the Tebi Yergir movement. Throughout the weekend students were encouraged to think of the reasons behind their work and dedication to their respective organization. They were asked to connect their experiences to what they learned over the weekend and establish a mission statement for themselves, a concise declaration of what each person hopes to accomplish for their organization, the Armenian community, our homeland, and our Armenian identity.
Here are two mission statements from the weekend:
Raffi Missirian (SDSU ASA)” – The beauty of being Armenian can be seen by the immediate social connections we establish with one another. Throughout the weekend, I was inspired to act on the wishes of my collective people. The All-ASA Leadership Retreat provided me with the means to carry out my goals. The stories provided by Unger Mourad, Arek, William, and Serouj have provided me with the conviction, inspiration, and determination to take action. The youth of the Armenian Diaspora have been stagnant for long enough, and it is time to take the first step and act on the morals, values, and emotions instilled in us by our ancestors.
Hovhannes Mkhitaryan (CSUN ASA)” – Nothing is more powerful than a united people that strive for the same goal with the utmost conviction. This weekend has helped me to break down the barriers that would otherwise hinder communications and relationships with other people of the same culture. The love for our Hayastan is what brings us together, and no difference in dialect, political affiliation, or place of birth can sever that unity. My goal is to step outside my social bubble as much as I can, because united we are powerful, and united we will succeed.
As evidenced by the closing mission statements, attendees all left the camp with a revitalized passion to make a change in their community and to strive to create a better Armenia through coalition building, networking, and activism.
Attendees were also asked to submit any inspiration they got throughout the weekend via short statements written on a post-it. The post-its were then gathered and compiled into a collage that can be found here: http://all-asa.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/posts.png
Article By: Nare Kupelian & Hovhannes Mkhitaryan