Last school year, 55 young Armenia’s had a chance to chase their dreams thanks to one Armenian-American woman. In 1997, through the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), Anoosh Mathevosian created a highly successful scholarship program to provide access to higher education for some of Armenia’s most at-risk young people.
"Anoosh Mathevosian is a role model for many people," said Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, President of FAR and Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern). "Not only has she shown those of us here in America the power of one woman with a passion for her homeland; but she has touched the lives of countless Armenian families who have gone on to give back to their communities as Anoosh has done."
During the 2007-08 school year, 55 Mathevosian scholars studied at four universities in Armenia — 33 students were at Yerevan State University (YSU), 16 at State University of Economics, 4 at the State Engineering University, and two at Yerevan State Medical University. Only 22 of the 55 participants came from Yerevan, the rest represented most of the rural provinces of Armenia.
The students — a mixture of first-year students, undergraduate, and graduate students — study a wide range of topics, from economics and law, to journalism and computer science to math and medicine.
For the 2008-09 school year, FAR selected 12 new first-year students to join the Mathevosian Scholars program following a lengthy and intensive selection process. Most are orphans or from extremely poor families from rural Armenian. For most, the education is just part of being a Mathevosian Scholar. For the honor is also about realizing someone out there is holding out a helping hand.
"Your help is much more than financial support. You inspired us with hope and helped to view our future with greater optimism," said Mathevosian Scholar Harutyun Harutyunyan, who grew up in Yeghegnadzor and now studies at YSU with the help of the FAR program.
At the time he started school, Harutyun was unsure how he would cover tuition since his father was bedridden and his mother was unemployed.
"We almost lost our hope before I heard of Mathevosian Scholarship Program. Ms. Anoosh was the first person in my life to teach me the truth that money is not always the priority in life, and that a man can be valued for his knowledge," said Harutyun, who graduated and started working at HSBC Armenia Bank. "My future is safe. For all this, I owe you a debt of gratitude to Ms. Anoush. Now, I swear to be beneficial to my homeland and nation and do my best to justify her hopes and trust in me. I will follow her example and perform benevolence to the benefit of people needing such support, as I did."
This is the 11th year for the Mathevosian Scholars program. Through the joint effort of FAR and the programs benefactor, a total of 124 students have benefited from the program. They’ve gone on to build solid, independent, productive lives, not only supporting their families, but contributing to the continued development of the Armenian nation. The graduates of the program have become volunteers, community activists, and philanthropists, in the model of those who offered support to them when they needed a helping hand.
"Being chosen for the Mathevosian program was an indescribable event for me and became a turning point in my life. For all this, I am grateful to Ms. Mathevosian," said Haykaram Avetisyan, a third-year student at the Armenian State University of Economics. "I always thank God for giving me an opportunity to know a person like her, with such a big heart and kindly soul. Every time, when I light a candle in the church I pray to God asking to give her health, long life, and eternal life to her kind initiative."
The program is more than a check, it also includes an extended support system for the students. In 2008, 22 Mathevosian Scholars graduated from the program, and FAR organized a day-long session for the graduates to highlight current labor market trends in Armenia, discuss how to apply for a job, and go over issues like creating a resume. Over 60 per cent of the Mathevosian Scholars start working right after graduation.
"We are hopeful for the future because of these young students," Archbishop Barsamian said. "The students of Armenia recognize the value of education, indeed each year FAR receives hundreds of applicants for a few dozen openings in the Mathevosian Scholars program. And every year when I meet with the students being helped by FAR, I am amazed at their abilities, seriousness, and sense of purpose. You can see the changing future of Armenia in these young people."
Since its founding in response to the 1988 earthquake, FAR has served hundreds of thousands of people through more than 220 relief and development programs in Armenia and Karabagh. It has channeled more than $265 million in humanitarian assistance by implementing a wide range of projects including emergency relief, construction, education, medical aid, and economic development.