Community: Mentorship program kicks off for Armenian young adults

The New Connect event chairs, from left, Lusine Daglian and Deanna Nalbandian, founder Alice Chakrian, Archbishop Hovnan Derderian and Nerouj Chair Silvana Vartanian.
(Joyce Rudolph / Burbank Leader)

A new organization has been created for Armenian young adults to network and access resources that will assist them on their career paths or help them choose a career.

It’s called Nerouj, which is a compound word that originated from the Armenian words “Nerkin” and “ouj,” meaning inner strength.

Its mission is to lead Armenian young adults in reconnecting with the church through education, inner support and strengthening of their identity to keep the Armenian heritage alive and give purpose through inner spirituality and morality.

Founded in November, the group held its first event in mid-February called “The New Connect.”

It featured a panel discussion with area professionals followed by a question-and-answer period and then a breakout session that allowed members to network with each other as well as panel participants.

The three-hour program was held at the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church in Burbank.

Moderator was Brian Kabateck, a consumer attorney and founding and managing partner of Kabateck Brown Kellner LLP.

The panelists were Glendale financial advisor Raffi H. Kendirjian, cardiologist Dr. Antreas Hindoyan, Jacqueline Chooljian, magistrate judge, Central District of California; songwriter/music producer Joe Khajadourian and Wendy Bendoni, chair of the fashion marketing department of Woodbury University.

The organization wanted to create a platform for young professionals to come together and network with each other and pay it forward by mentoring the next generation of high school and college students and other emerging professionals who are still pondering a career choice, said Silvana Vartanian, Nerouj chair.

Attendees ranged in age from 18 to 30.

“It’s so important to make these connections at a younger age,” Vartanian said. “I have a great, diverse team of young professionals and college students and, through their feedback, they have been able to pinpoint exactly the best way to gather this group.”

Future events will be smaller focus groups centered around specific professions, lectures and casual mixers for networking.

“Our group name stands for inner strength in Armenian so this program is meant to bring forth their inner strength in mentoring, helping and being active participants within our community,” she added.

Other committee leaders are Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of North America; Father Khajag Shahbazian, event chair Deanna Nalbandian, and advisers Alice Chakrian and Rosette Kaloustian.

Archbishop Derderian said he was inspired to see the youth of the diocese and this community so engaged in projects and missions that guide the well-being of the community.

“There is so much destruction in today’s life and today’s community, so to see this kind of event, it gives us hope, joy and inspiration,” he said.

“I was amazed to witness the wisdom and leadership capability of our youth to organize such an event,” he added.

The archbishop marveled that the event drew close to 200 youth, and they actively participated.

“The panelists were superb, and moderator Brian Kabateck was amazing,” he said. “All of us have an inner strength. All we have to do is share it with one another.”

Gala benefits Family Promise homeless project

Family Promise of the Verdugos has landed a most unusual prize for its upcoming fundraiser that’s sure to attract collectors of Burbank TV history.

A set of two original seats from NBC’s Stage 1 — the home of “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” — will definitely be the highlight of the live auction for the fourth annual gala titled “Coming Up Roses” on March 24 at the Rose Bowl Stadium.

Proceeds will go to Family Promise programs to help homeless families regain their independence.

Providence St. Joseph Medical Center will receive the Impact Award for its commitment to the homeless population in Burbank and surrounding areas.

In addition, the Hands On, Hearts In Award will be presented to to Family Promise of the Verdugos founder Jenny Greene Smith.

This award is given to an individual or organization that has made a significant impact on homelessness.

There will be a dinner, silent auction and VIP tour of the stadium including the new 1922 Locker Room Museum.

For tickets, visit or call (818) 847-1547.

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at