'Only the beginning'

Gary Moskowitz

Harout Gagulyan won't graduate from Hoover High School until 2005,

but the 16-year-old did graduate as a certified computer technician

from Mashdots College this weekend.

Harout started taking computer courses at Mashdots last summer

and, during his junior year of high school this year, he took enough

night classes in computer technology at Mashdots to earn a

certificate from the college.

Harout was one of 250 students to walk at Mashdots College's 2004

graduation ceremony Saturday at Calvary Presbyterian Church, 610 N.

Glendale Ave. Approximately 372 students were eligible to graduate

this year, but 60 graduated last semester and some graduates could

not or chose not to attend the graduation ceremony, officials said.

"I wanted to get started early," Harout said. "So I just went to

Hoover and Mashdots at the same time. I thought it would be good to

get ahead before I graduate from high school. I want to get into

business management eventually."

Mashdots College, which opened in 1992 in Glendale, is the only

four-year Armenian institution of higher education in the United

States. The independent, non-sectarian college offers undergraduate

degree programs in subjects like Armenian studies, bilingual teacher

education, computer science, early childhood education and 10 foreign


This year, the college added community service and leadership,

church service and leadership and computerized video editing to its

class roster.

"This class is unique in that our students were born in 21

different countries," said Garbis Der-Yeghiayan, the college's

president. "But right away, from the beginning of the year, this

year's students bonded together as members of the same family."

The college's 2004 class, at 372 students, was its largest yet.

In 2003, 356 students graduated from the college. About 70% of

Saturday's graduates were women.

"When I entered the college, I just wanted to take one class in

Microsoft Word, but then I realized the first class was only the

beginning," said Arsho Petrossian, who received a certificate in

office management on Saturday. "I started taking more classes, and I

plan to take more in the fall. I respect them here. It's like a big

Armenian family here."

This year, Mashdots joined an international Internet university

program, one that allows students from around the world to take and

complete courses from Mashdots, Der-Yeghiayan said.

Mashdots also established sister university programs this year

with two universities in Armenia.

Mashdots plans to establish a branch school in Gyumri, Armenia,

next month. Gyumri falls within a recovery zone in an area that was

hit by a catastrophic earthquake in 1988.

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