By Bella Ishanyan
NEWTON, Mass. — Newton South High School hosted an Armenian Awareness Day on May 12 in order to bring light to the Armenian Genocide and exhibit Armenian culture. The four online programs had over 1,000 viewers.
Newton South hosts awareness days to provide a better understanding of topics often related to human rights. Led by rising sophomore, Charles Kouspakian, the Armenian Awareness Day was among the few student-initiated programs.
“We have these webinars every Wednesday, and I was really interested and I wanted to pretty much talk about Armenia, since Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day was coming up,” he said.
After a few weeks of planning, Kouspakian, Robert Parlin and Joana Chacon, teachers and faculty chairs on the South Human Rights Council, organized a program with six total speakers: Anais Astarjian, Martina Harutunian, Isabella Ishanyan, Kouspakian, Roxanne Makasdijian and Tsoleen Sarian. Collectively, they spoke about analysis of the genocide, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and shared personal stories and photographs.
Astarjian, co-chair of the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Committee and active participant in many other Armenian organizations, gave an overview of the genocide and analyzed the politics behind it, saying that her goal was to inform students about genocide, a topic not commonly discussed.
“It’s very important for students to learn this early on, and it’s an extremely difficult topic to cover,” she said, “Yet, people whose ancestors have faced genocide typically hear their families’ stories early on. Given the generational trauma that often exists, I would say high school is an optimal time to more formally learn about genocide.”
Sarian said that she decided to make her presentation more lighthearted. As executive director of Project SAVE Archives, she selected photographs of Armenian culture, with the intention of showing a different side of Armenia.
“I wanted it to be positive. I knew that there was going to be discussion of genocide and genocide is a difficult, sad topic. We talk about survival, but it’s also this idea of being victims,” she said, “I wanted my presentation to be about not just survival, but thriving and choosing to keep our Armenian culture.”
Ultimately, Kouspakian said that his main goal of the awareness day was to inform the school about Armenia, but also said that his interest extends to proving that lesser-known countries are still important.
“Apart from Armenians in South as well, other people with backgrounds from not-well-known countries, it helps them also understand that every country matters,” he said, “Even though my country may not be well known, it’s still allowed to have a voice, and people should still know about it.”