BEDFORD, Mass. (A.W.)—Over 60 community members gathered at the Bedford town center on Dec. 10, 2016, to witness 17 new Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) members take their oaths at the inauguration of the Armenian Youth Federation Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern United States Bedford chapter.
The evening began with welcoming remarks from unger Stephen Dulgarian of the Boston Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) “Sardarabad” gomidehutiun, who thanked the AYF Central Executive for approving the creation of the Bedford chapter.
Unger Aram Jeknavorian, chairperson of the Lowell ARF “Aharonian” gomideh, spoke about the importance of being an unger and shared his story of how he became a member of the AYF.
“Learning how to run meetings, staying organized, getting together, winning, losing, and stepping up to take on more serious roles to help Armenia is all part of the chapter’s job,” said Unger Aram.
Ungerouhi Mimi Parseghian, chairwoman of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Lowell “Lousintak” Chapter, reminded everyone that the ARS is there to morally and financially support the new chapter. She also mentioned that she joined the AYF at 10 years old and reassured the new AYF members, that the AYF is about having fun and to not forget to have fun as a member.
Two members of the AYF-YOARF Central Executive—unger Hrag Arakelian and ungerouhi Nairi Khachatourian—were present to administer the oath. The two discussed the importance of gaining a new chapter for the region, the role of the community, the expectations that the chapter must live up to, and the challenges the chapter will have to overcome.
Khachatourian explained to the new members that the AYF was created to allow an environment for Armenian youth to stay united, remain Armenian, and learn the skills and knowledge needed to join sister organizations in the future.
Arakelian continued by discussing how the AYF provides Armenian youth the opportunity to gain leadership skills. “In school and in other communities, it may be difficult to get exposure to leadership experience because there may be a lot of competition. There may be 2000 students and only 10 leadership positions,” said Arakelian. “Now there are 30 of you and everybody has the opportunity to become a leader.”
The AYF-YOARF Central Executive members also addressed the concern of having a new chapter in a geographic region that already has four AYF-YOARF chapters within a 50-mile radius.
“In making this decision, we [the Central Executive] understood the possible complications that may potentially be create with the New England communities. We definitely took that into account. However, adding a chapter, especially in a community that really wanted one, meant that more life-long friendships would be created, more future leaders of our communities would be created, and more members would be ready to fight for Hai Tahd (the Armenian cause). These were just some of the few reasons we concluded that the Armenian community and the AYF would be better off in having a chapter in Bedford and gaining those members who would not have normally joined the organization,” said Arakelian, on behalf on the Central Executive. “It should go without saying that we want all chapters to succeed including Worcester, North Andover, Greater Boston, and Providence. We have tried starting chapters in other communities, but have not succeeded. There is a recipe for success and we want to ensure that the community understands that Central Executive’s intention is to have the Bedford chapter thrive for many years and not be short lived,” he added.
Khachatourian then elaborated on the lessons learned from the past. “Although we are very excited to have Bedford join the AYF community, it must be understood that it takes a lot of work to create and sustain a successful chapter,” said Khachatourian. She stressed that it is vital that many members of the community volunteer their time to guide the chapter because the Central Executive has seen many other chapters dissolve due to their dependence on one individual. Khachatourian also stressed that parents need to value their junior’s involvement with the AYF just as they value their child’s education.
The Bedford AYF chapter does not yet have a name. The 2017 AYF-YOARF Central Executive and the Bedford chapter members will name the chapter in unison.