BY ARA BOYADJIAN
The Visit Armenia, It is Beautiful” project (“VAIIB”) proudly reports the results of its Fifth Essay Contest.
In October 2017, high school students attending various Armenian and Public schools in the Greater Los Angeles area (a total of 20) were invited to participate in the “VISIT ARMENIA, IT IS BEAUTIFUL” essay contest – the fifth contest held in the past ten years. The purpose and goal of the contest is to get young Armenians, living in the Diaspora, to show interest in visiting Armenia. Awakening and encouraging the students’ awareness of the importance of visiting Armenia and how Armenia can benefit, strengthening their urge to visit, transforming that urge to a realization and ultimately creating a lifelong relationship with Armenia is the ultimate mission of the VAIIB project.
Also, while preparing for writing the essay, these high school students have the opportunity to better learn, understand, recognize and acknowledge their roots, heritage and identities and directly connect to their motherland.
Students presented their essays of “Why I want to visit Armenia” in either English or Armenian so that the participants could freely express their thoughts, feelings and reasons why a visit to Armenia is important. This year’s contest required that certain topics be incorporated into the essays. These included two of the following:
Whether you would attend higher education in Armenia – why or why not; What business would you open in Armenia – where, and why; You are part of an architect group – what attraction would you build and where; You are asked to invite two non-Armenians to travel with you to Armenia – who would you take, why and what sights you will show them; You need to create a tourist App – how would you build the App and navigate it.
Over 94 students registered for the essay contest, and 54 submitted essays. The essays were judged by five judges: Capt. Garo Esguijian, Eileen Keusseyan Esq., Bianca Manoukian, Lena Melkonian Esq., and Glendale Council Member Zareh Sinanian, whose identities were first revealed at the awards ceremony held on March 14, 2018.
Over eighty guests attended the award’s ceremony at the “Raffi” Cultural Association. The program started with the National Anthems of the United States of America and the Republic of Armenia beautifully performed by Savannah Minassian, an 11th grade student at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School. A moment of silence followed in memory of February 14, 2018, Parkland Florida tragedy.
Special thanks were extended to all the attending school principals, teachers, educators, as well as the participating students and their parents. The press and media covering the VAIIB events and utilizing the project’s slogan/ logo were also commended. Additionally, the VAIIB Project is thankful for the continued support of Mr. and Mrs. Yeprem and Varsenig Baghboudarian, Mrs. Seta Boyadjian, Capt. Garo Esguijian, Dr. Mrs. Garo and Galia Kassabian, Mrs. Tsolig Khachadourian, Mr. and Mrs. Harout and Vicky Marashlian, Lena Melkonian Esq. of Lena Law, APC., and Mr. and Mrs. Viken and Vartouhi Tavoukjian. This year’s major sponsor the Margarian Law Firm generously provided the monetary awards to the winners. The VAIIB project is also lucky to be supported by Shahe and Sahag Melelian of Arka Photography for documenting all of its events, the “Raffi Cultural Association which has hosted the award’s ceremony for the past 5 contests, and the Western Diocese and Western Prelacy. Gifts were presented to the winners donated by Stepan Partamian of Armenian Arts, Asbarez Newspaper, Sardarabad Book Store, Seeroon Yerertzian-Artist, Harout Pamboukjian, Silva Khatchiguian – Author, California State University of Northridge and Woodbury University. This year, for the first time, the top three winners received scholarship certificates to the American University of Armenia for its summer program.
Savannah graciously expressed her thoughts and feelings about how her family members work diligently in promoting Armenia, the VAIIB project and essay contest, as well as congratulating her fellow students for their accomplishments.
Following the judges’ presentations of their thoughts regarding this year’s essays and encouraging words to the winners to work toward and marshal their ideas and dreams into reality, the authors of the top 4 winning essays read their essays – in no particular winning order. Once the eight honorary mention winners were presented with their certificates, awards and gift bags, the three top winners were revealed for the first time. The first place winner was Vachag Voskian, of AGBU Manoogian Demirdjian School, written in Armenian. The second place winner was Marinor Balozian of Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian School also written in Armenian, Michael Pesnilian from GUSD – Glendale Unified School District, written in English, won third place.
The eight Honorary Mention winners included Anthony Antonyan and Talia Boyadjian from Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School; Ovsanna Avetisian, Sevoulig Bastilian and Ani Tchorbajian from Holy Martyrs Ferrahian Armenian School; Alexandra Yaralian from AGBU Manoogian Demirdjian School; Eliza Balian from Burroughs High School in Burbank; and Elizabeth Sexenian from Clark Magnet High School.
It is our belief that the essay contest participants are the future travelers and Ambassadors of Good Will of Armenia, who will also work toward facilitating the goal of the “Visit Armenia, It Is Beautiful” project’s mission and commitment to promote tourism to Armenia thus stimulating and boosting the country’s economy. In doing so, not only will Armenia benefit economically, but this can open doors to encourage reforms and social advancements.