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Another Year of Learning: ARS Detroit Zavarian Armenian One-Day School Kicks off New School Year

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Old 18 Sep 17, 17:10   #1 (permalink)
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Post Another Year of Learning: ARS Detroit Zavarian Armenian One-Day School Kicks off New School Year

Story and Photos By Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan


[Armenian Schools] are the light of our eyes. If your eyes cant see, you are blind. Our schools are our eyes. Thats how we need to look at our schools.”

– Archbishop Shahan Sarkisian, Prelate of Aleppo, Syria on the cultural importance of keeping Aleppos Armenian schools open as related in an October 2014 Armenian Weekly interview with then-editor Nanore Barsoumian


Special to the Armenian Weekly


A child clinging to her mother at the classroom door. Two girls whispering secrets and giggling with glee. A group of boys laughing and sharing stories and jokes. Parents and teachers conferring over classroom logistics and expectations.

A scene before the start of class (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

These typical scenes animated the first day of a new school year at Detroits ARS Zavarian Armenian One-Day School. Starting on Friday, Sept. 15 and running through the end of May 2018, nearly 30 children from ages 5 to 14 will attend classes most Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Although most of the children were segueing from a full American school day to attend Armenian school, both students and parents had their reasons for making the extra effort.

A scene before the start of class (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

Its so we can learn Armenian, said 8-year-old Katia Mirachian. We want to hear how our ancestors were, added classmate Zabel Kazarian, also 8.

Those are words that fuel the ARS Detroit Mid-Councils drive to keep the school operating year after year. Founded 74 years ago, the Mid-Council is comprised of metro Detroits five ARS chapters: Maro, Shakeh, Sybille, Tsolig, and Zabel. The Mid-Council oversees the Zavarian school and recruits staff and students in an Armenian diasporan environment where many view Armenian language learning as an unnecessary and emotionally painful litmus test for being Armenian.

A scene before the start of class (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

Parent Talin Derderian knows the school-to-home dynamics her newly enrolled 5-year-old daughter Sevana and she and her husband Armen will face in the weeks ahead. Talin is a graduate of New Jerseys Nareg Armenian School, starting as a three-year-old. Armenian was spoken in her home and she speaks the language, eliminating the main reason many Armenian American-born parents dont enroll their children in Armenian school. Armen doesnt speak Armenian and the language is not the main one in their household. Language doesnt define the familys commitment to the Armenian nation and drive to instill in their young children the perpetuation of their Armenian identity.

Nevertheless, the Derderians want Sevana to have the experience of attending Armenian school and learning whatever she can.

I want Sevana to learn the language, the history, Talin Derderian said. I just want her to get familiar with the language so we dont lose it in the family for future generations.

Classmates Katia Mirachian and Zabel Kazarian (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

Its hard when you have a parent who doesnt know Armenian, she acknowledged. Its not the language in the house. TV is in English. Her friends are speaking English. We spoke Armenian in our house. Its different for these kids.

Knowing the challenges of keeping Sevana comfortable and interested in continuing to attend Armenian school, Derderian has a game plan.

Principal and teacher Sona Vandervelde explains a lesson to students on the first day of school (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

Well make doing homework together a routine to reinforce what she learns and speaking the language more in the home. Im going to tell her that this is your Armenian language and we cant forget it.

Thats exactly the parental support teachers want and need for the students, said ARS Mid-Council member Ani Attar, also a member of the ARS Eastern USA Regional Board of Directors.

Mid-Council members Ani Attar (L) and Sirvart Telbelian (R) discuss a classroom workbook with teacher Taline Margosian (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

Its so important for the parents to review what the kids did in the classroom, Attar noted. We cant stress the importance of the parents enough.

School principal and teacher Sona Vandervelde, teachers Taline Margosian and Sara Vosganian, and aide Silva Tufenkjian agree and are buoyed by the energy of the students and the high hopes of their parents on the first day of school.

Teacher Sara Vosganian goes over a lesson with student Patil Jamgotchian (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

We have more students and parents want their children here, said Vandervelde.

Mid-Council chair Sirvart Telbelian agrees that the Zavarian school is off to a good start.

We have so many students who returned and its a great sign, Telbelian noted. And we have great teachers. These children are our future.

The ARS Mid-Council expects more families to enroll their children at the next class session and are always encouraging parents to give the school a try.

Teacher Sara Vosganian goes over a lesson with student Ariana Eurdekian (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan)

Enrollment has been our biggest challenge, said Attar. Unfortunately, Armenian school is the last thing on the list of things to do for the kidsand the parents. Once theyre here, theyre very happy and the parents are very satisfied.

Parents can contact Mid-Council chair Sirvart Telbelian for more information about the Zavarian school at (248) 661-8145. Enrollment is $100 for the first child, $75 for the second child and $50 for the third child.

Whatever the enrollment number, Attar said the ARS Mid-Council will provide Armenian language instruction in metro Detroit.

As long as we have interest and students, Zavarian School will never close, she said. ARS will have Armenian school for our children.




Story and Photos By Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan   [Armenian Schools] are the light of our eyes. If your eyes cant see, you are blind. Our schools are our eyes. Thats how we need to look at our schools.” – Archbishop Shahan Sarkisian, Prelate of Aleppo, Syria on the cultural importance of keeping Aleppos Armenian schools open as related in an October 2014 Armenian Weekly interview with then-editor Nanore Barsoumian Special to the Armenian Weekly A child clinging to her mother at the classroom door. Two girls whispering secrets and giggling with glee. A group of boys laughing and sharing stories and jokes. Parents and teachers conferring over classroom logistics and expectations. A scene before the start of class (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan) These typical scenes animated the first day of a new school year at Detroits ARS Zavarian Armenian One-Day School. Starting on Friday, Sept. 15 and running through the end of May 2018, nearly 30 children from ages 5 to 14 will attend classes most Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, Mich. Although most of the children were segueing from a full American school day to attend Armenian school, both students [...]
Story and Photos By Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan   [Armenian Schools] are the light of our eyes. If your eyes cant see, you are blind. Our schools are our eyes. Thats how we need to look at our schools.” – Archbishop Shahan Sarkisian, Prelate of Aleppo, Syria on the cultural importance of keeping Aleppos Armenian schools open as related in an October 2014 Armenian Weekly interview with then-editor Nanore Barsoumian Special to the Armenian Weekly A child clinging to her mother at the classroom door. Two girls whispering secrets and giggling with glee. A group of boys laughing and sharing stories and jokes. Parents and teachers conferring over classroom logistics and expectations. A scene before the start of class (Photo: Georgi-Ann Bargamian Oshagan) These typical scenes animated the first day of a new school year at Detroits ARS Zavarian Armenian One-Day School. Starting on Friday, Sept. 15 and running through the end of May 2018, nearly 30 children from ages 5 to 14 will attend classes most Fridays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield, Mich. Although most of the children were segueing from a full American school day to attend Armenian school, both students [...]
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