Kids learn about Armenian culture

NORTH GLENDALE — Unified Young Armenians held a grand opening Sunday for its new Youth Center, the first permanent site for the nine-year-old nonprofit aimed at offering free educational and enrichment activities for children and teenagers.

The group — most widely known for its grass-roots organization of annual Hollywood marches in commemoration of the Armenian Genocide — is run by students who banded together two years ago to begin offering language and cultural classes for youth, in addition to its other community efforts.

Its new youth center, at 1110 Sonora Ave., along with adjacent offices, will serve as a home base for the organization, which plans to begin Web-casting its class sessions by the end of the month. Organizers will also launch an online video station aimed at engaging young Armenians in “intellectual dialogue,” said Aroutin Hartounian, president of the group.

The group previously held its free youth classes at the Montrose-Crescenta Library, but planned to rent a space in Glendale because of its proximity to more residents from low-income families who might want to take advantage of the free lessons, Hartounian said.

“We’re just closer to the heart of the Armenian community by being in this location,” Hartounian said.

ABCTV and the Armenian Media Group of America, which broadcast shows targeting the Armenian community, film within walking distance of the new center.

Although the group is trying to locate closer to the Armenian community, it hopes its efforts can help to educate any young resident interested in learning about Armenian culture and language, he said.

Through lessons about culture and language, youths who attend the center’s classes will know more about Armenian culture and will be able to more fully add to the mix of cultures that “makes America great,” he said.

City Councilman Ara Najarian said the new center was an important step for Unified Young Armenians.

“I think it fills a need in the community,” Najarian said of the free classes. “Many young people of Armenian descent that have been born in the United States and gone through the public school system often don’t have the opportunity [to learn about their culture and language].”

A mix of children, ranging in age from 8 to 18, attended a session Saturday at the center, which began hosting lessons three weeks ago, ahead of its opening ceremony.

Each class session lasts about an hour, with the center’s schedule including an introductory session for younger students, followed by a mixed session with older students and finally an advanced session for teenagers who have progressed through the program in recent years.

“Since some families can’t afford to send their kids to schools where you pay, it’s very helpful during this economic time,” said 18-year-old Roobina Barseghian, a member of the advanced class who was assisting with a mixed class Saturday.

Students learned about Armenian history, although they had previously engaged in a series of activities influenced by other cultures, where they made Japanese-inspired origami flowers as presents for Mother’s Day, students said.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education, business and politics. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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