BY ALEEN ARSLANIAN
More than 200 people rallied at the Western Diocese Sunday afternoon to protest the planned closure of AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian high school. Students, parents, and alumni of the high school were joined by community members, Melkonian Educational Institute alumni, and parents and students of both Sahag Mesrob Armenian Christian School and A. & M. Hovsepian School – all of whom will be impacted by the closure. The decision to assemble at the Western Diocese was announced on Friday at a Town Hall meeting held at Tekeyan Cultural Center in Pasadena. The meeting was organized by the high school’s Parent Support Group.
The rally was organized in order to publicly ask Western Primate Archbishop Hovnan Derderian to become a “hero” by taking the high school under his wing. Archbishop Derderian is currently in Armenia attending an annual clerical assembly at Holy Etchmiadzin.
The rally opened with remarks made by co-chair of the school’s PSG, Maro Najarian Yacoubian, who thanked Vatche Manoukian for his generous contributions to AGBU high school and the center as a whole. However, her expression of gratitude was followed by a plea to the Western Diocese: “Save our school.” She then invited various students, alumni, and supporters of the school to share their thoughts.
Speakers at the rally included student body president Joseph Atme, Class of 2009 alumnus Marc Balian and Vahe Boghossian, Class of 2019 alumnus Nareg Daduryan, Class of 2016 alumnus Vahe Yacoubian, as well as Jenny Pessayan Ainteblian, a parent of the school. Various Armenian songs were performed by the AGBU MHS choir, led by Armenian language and literature teacher, Norayr Dauryan – the only faculty in attendance at the rally. In her remarks, Yacoubian explained that Daduryan was present as a parent of alumni, as the faculty was advised not to participate in the rally. Who this advice was given by, and why, is unclear.
Although no one spoke on behalf of the Melkonian alumni present, a number of graduates of the school felt they were reliving history. The AGBU closed the doors of its Melkonian Institue in June of 2005. Although the school’s alumni protested the AGBU’s decision, it was ultimately out of their hands. However, they were there to remind the community that their voices matter; that, as long as they kept the “noise” going – especially in the age of social media – they will have a chance to save their school.
Since the decision to shutter the campus was announced on October 25, AGBU MHS students and parents have rallied together and created a GoFundMe for crowdfunding, and hashtags, as well as Facebook and Instagram pages, in protest of the high school closing.