California legislators announce scholarships to raise awareness of Armenian Genocide

First prize visual arts scholarship winner
“Helping Hands,” 2019, by Piedmont Hills High School student Joanne Wu, won the visual arts scholarship first prize.
(Courtesy of Joanne Wu)

For the sixth time, the California Armenian Legislative Caucus is awarding scholarships commemorating the Armenian Genocide.

All California high school students are eligible to apply for one of two scholarships: an essay or visual arts contest. Each contest offers $1,000 to the first-place winner, $750 for the second prize and a $500 third prize. The deadline to apply is April 6, and the Armenian Caucus plans to honor the six winners in the state Capitol during the annual Armenian Advocacy Day on April 27.

State Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, whose district includes Burbank and Glendale, released an announcement about the scholarships last Friday.

According to the criteria, the essay prompt asks students to nominate a notable Armenian American to the California Museum’s Hall of Fame located in Sacramento. The visual contest asks students to create artwork connecting to the theme of “human-to-human interaction.”


Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, who is currently the only Armenian member of the state Legislature, spearheaded the scholarship, according to his chief of staff, Daniel Savage.

“It was around the same time that we were working on legislation to make sure that the study of genocide, including but not limited to Armenia, was taught in the high schools and textbooks,” said Savage. “The scholarship started as an essay to try to engage students and get them to understand, think about or study and learn about the Armenian Genocide.”

In 2016, the California Board of Education adopted a history and social science standard to discuss human rights violations and genocide, including the Ottoman government’s extermination of more than 1.5 million Armenians during World War I.

Although assembly members who represent areas with large Armenian and Armenian American populations are promoting the scholarships, Savage said they are trying to grow the contest into a statewide effort.


“It’s not just Los Angeles or Glendale,” he said. “It’s not just the Armenian schools, but it’s schools throughout the state where the students might not know or understand the genocide.”

Savage added, “We’ve had non-Armenians win and we’ve had students from areas where there’s no large Armenian population win. I think that was what Mr. Nazarian was going for.”

For last year’s essay contest, a Hilltop High School student won first prize while two Elise Buckingham Charter Magnet students took second and third prize.

The visual arts winners included Piedmont Hills High School student Joanne Wu at first place, Notre Dame High School’s Tenny Malekian at second place and Clark Magnet High School student Anaida Haroutiunian at third place.

Haroutiunian submitted a photo of her family reflecting on stories of the genocide passed down from grandparents.

The scholarship 2020 winners will be announced on April 16.

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