By Jason KUROSU
The Armenian clubs from four local high schools sponsored the 100 days to 100 years kickoff event Wednesday night, hoping to shine light on the events of the Armenian Genocide close to a century after an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed.
Prominent members of Glendale’s Armenian community gathered at the Glendale Unified School District board room, including the presidents of the Armenian clubs from Clark Magnet, Crescenta Valley, Glendale and Hoover high schools.
Among those present was GUSD Board President Greg Krikorian, who shared his family’s journey, shaped like so many others by the Genocide. His grandmother, the only one of 13 children to survive the Genocide, came to America at 8 years of age.
Krikorian praised the Armenian people for enduring and continuing to speak about the Genocide, particularly in the face of denials of the Genocide’s occurrence from the Turkish government.
“I stand now almost 35 years later and they’re still saying the same thing, the same denials,” said Krikorian. “The one thing they’ve failed on is that we’re still here. We’re educating ourselves, becoming leaders in the community.”
Education and awareness of the Armenian Genocide have become a focal point for the state and the school district. The recent Genocide Education Act mandates incorporation of Armenian Genocide survivor testimony into Californian textbooks and GUSD also recently declared April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, a school holiday.
Speakers at the kickoff highlighted this awareness initiative as something they hoped to see over the next hundred days until April 24, as well as into the future.
GUSD Superintendent Richard Sheehan emphasized the duties of the school district in educating “not only our students, but also the community.”
“As we are unfortunately aware, history does repeat itself. You would think we would have learned from the Armenian Genocide, but we have seen this in other parts of the world, rearing its ugly head,” Sheehan said. “It’s a tragedy that it has never been recognized, because it is something that we must learn from.”
Students shared their perspectives on their cultural history and the importance of maintaining a legacy which very easily could have been erased a century before.
“The same perseverance that allowed those Armenians to survive the Genocide 100 years ago now flows in our veins,” said Mary Aghajanian, Clark Magnet senior and GUSD student board member. “We are their blood, and we will not stop until we have achieved the recognition they deserve. Let the strength of the Armenian spirit show against all those who attempted to crush it in 1915.”
“Turkey wanted to eradicate our race,” said Tina Keshishian, Clark Magnet Armenian Club president. “Yet today, all of us here are living proof that they failed.”
Glendale City Clerk and California State Assembly candidate Ardashes Kassakhian praised the many teachers, students and school administrators in attendance for their role in spreading and increasing recognition of the Genocide.
“It’s no coincidence that on April 24, when the Genocide was being organized, the first thing that the Turkish government did was shut down the schools, arrest the teachers, put them in prison and execute many of them,” said Kassakhian. “It’s very touching to see that a hundred years later, although thousands of miles away from where this tragedy happened, you as teachers and students, [are] ready to take that next step to spread this knowledge to the community outside of your schools.”
The Armenian clubs that hosted the kickoff will also be participating in a student-organized assembly on April 21, to be held at the John Wayne Performing Arts Center at Glendale High School.