Students and GUSD Come Together to Commemorate Armenian Genocide

Audrey Josephbeg is a Glendeale High School alumna and sang the Armenian national anthem.

By Lori BODNAR, intern

Glendale Unified School District held the 19th annual Armenian Genocide commemoration virtually via livestream on Monday. The Armenian Genocide was the systematic expulsion and mass murder of 1.5 million ethnic Armenians by the Ottoman Government from 1915 to 1923. The Turkish government has refused to recognize the actions as genocide. On Oct. 29, 2019, Congress passed a resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide. Thirty-two country parliaments also recognize the Armenian Genocide.
GUSD is one of the first school districts in the nation to pass the resolution “Remembering the Armenian Genocide and Reaffirming a Better World.” GUSD Board of Education President Dr. Armina Gharpetian said that the GUSD resolution affirms its commitment to “the teaching of tolerance, understanding the peaceful resolution of problems, and the strength of diversity in our schools and in our community so that these qualities may help instill in today’s young generation, the optimism and hope for a better world and strengthen our great nation.”
GUSD board member Jennifer Freemon said, “We are the first school district in the country who has closed schools on April 24th to commemorate the Armenian Genocide. We are also national leaders in creating and providing curriculum to teach students about the Armenian Genocide. We provide training to teachers across the state in Armenian Genocide education. We annually pass a resolution affirming our recognition of the Armenian Genocide and support for using education to ensure a better world through the teaching of the lessons learned from genocides throughout history.”

Katrina Manor is from Hoover High School and she sang the American national anthem.

To commemorate this day of remembrance, in addition to the virtual livestream meeting, GUSD also had a non-instructional school day on April 24.
“The commemoration and remembrance affirms our commitment to teaching tolerance, understanding, and diversity. This year, due to school closures from COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the Armenian Club presidents from all GUSD high schools enthusiastically decided to do a virtual commemoration,” said Gharpetian. “GUSD board member Greg Krikorian, who has been leading this event for the past 18 years, asked me to join the committee to assist the students to make this event a reality. The club presidents first created a beautiful video message to let the community know about the event via social media platforms. The committee met several times via Zoom meeting to share ideas and discuss how the program would look. Mr. Krikorian and I decided to run the program live at the district office on the evening of April 20.”
Freemon said students were able to present in new ways that increased the number of participating high school students.
“While we missed being together in person, the virtual nature allowed more people to access the event, either live or at their convenience,” Freemon said.
Many students from GUSD schools sent in videos for the live commemoration. Katrina Manor from Hoover High School sang the American national anthem to begin the meeting followed by UAudrey Josephbeg, a Glendale High School alumna, who sang the Armenian national anthem in Armenian. Other students also presented their works in art, dance, poetry, and song reflecting their Armenian culture. Among these was a piece created of Mount Ararat, a snow-capped dormant mountain volcano in the Armenian Highlands in Turkey. CVHS student Andre Guillan performed a piano tribute elegy.
Audrey Brown, a member of the CVHS Armenian Club, commented that although she wasn’t born into the Armenian culture, she has passion for it and her Armenian friends within the club who have taught her to respect and stand up for others.
Janet Louis is a senior at Glendale High School and a student member representative on the GUSD board.
“The presidents of the Armenian Clubs at Clark Magnet, CVHS, GHS, and Hoover High put the commemoration event together,” said Louis. “The commemoration was done beautifully, as it is every year, despite the social-distancing circumstances. The event carries important lessons and messages that are extremely powerful in our district.”
In addition, GUSD showed videos of past performances of a traditional Armenian cross dance. R.D. White Elementary School, an Armenian FLAG school, made a video for the virtual commemoration this year. Teachers Christopher Short and Narine Shakhramanyan said a few words then over 30 children from their elementary school individually recited lines from a famous Armenian poem. Due to the stay-at-home measures, all of the children were recorded in their homes. The presentation was very impactful, especially since many of the elementary students held Armenian flags during their poetry line recital.
Clark Magnet HS presented a video that included piano, singing, and poetry reading. The Glendale HS presentation ended with a soul-touching “Light a Candle for Peace and Unity” which involved many students lighting a candle, then passing it to another student and another, so visually it appeared as if all of the students were passing on a candle in remembrance of the 1.5 million souls who perished in the Armenian Genocide. The community was encouraged to light candles as well and on April 23 from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. the Foothill Communities Armenian Genocide Commemoration Task Force encouraged community members to light a candle then place it in their front window, balcony, porch or yard.
The Armenian Club presidents from all GUSD high schools also all shared their thoughts through pre-recorded messages. The Armenian Club presidents are Emily DerAvanessian from CVHS, Ani Anmahouni -Eulmessekian from Hoover, Aleen Soghomonian and Larisa Assadourian are co-presidents from Clark Magnet, and Suzana Bareghamyan and Mariam Hagopian are co-presidents from the GHS Armenian Club.
California 28th District Congressman Adam Schiff submitted a video for the Armenian Genocide commemoration at GUSD. He has attended commemoration events each year.
“Today we stand united,” said Schiff. “We will not bow down to their demands to cover it up. We still have survivors among us. We can never undo these atrocities, but we can remember.”
Superintendent Dr. Vivian Ekchian added, “Hate when allowed to linger can create atrocities. We must stand together because our diversity is our strength. The consequences of our own actions can affect many more generations to come. Armenian Club students came together with this program and created the videos.”
Added Krikorian, “Be kind and loving to each other. We are blessed to have different backgrounds and different religions. Someday, together as one nation we will have justice. Our nation, community, and state are coming together during this COVID-19 crisis. We are blessed to be in America and in the community of Glendale. We need to work together as one nation.”
Anyone who missed the livestream event can watch the full coverage of the commemoration by clicking on “learn more” to access the YouTube link on the GUSD website at