LOS ANGELES — Every adolescent can benefit from a positive role model, and the AGBU Generation Next (GenNext) Mentorship Program of Southern California is ensuring that Armenian teens have not only one mentor but an extensive support network — one that was made even stronger on a recent camping retreat.
On Friday, June 22, more than 40 mentees, mentors and GenNext staffers packed their bags and headed to The Oaks Camp in Lake Hughes for a two-day trip that brought all the participants closer and advanced the program’s mission to positively influence youth and introduce them to new experiences and alternatives that will enable them to become responsible, self-sufficient and independent adults.
Together, mentors and mentees made their cabins their home for the weekend and took full advantage of the Oaks’ vast grounds and facilities. Throughout the day, they played various sports, including archery, basketball and soccer, and cooled off in the swimming pool, enjoying being out in the fresh air and surrounded by mountains. When the evenings arrived, everyone gathered around the campfire, as old friends reminisced and new friendships were initiated. Seventeen- year old Arthur, a young man who has benefited from GenNext for years, gushed over the trip, declaring, “Camp was great! It was a weekend to remember for life. The AGBU GenNext program has helped me a lot over the past five years — it’s an amazing program and these were an amazing two days. I’ll never forget how reluctant we were to go to sleep those two nights, the nicknames we gave each other and the time we spent together. I’m already looking forward to our next camping trip!”
A range of team-building exercises, ice-breakers and open discussions gave mentors the opportunity to do what they do best: direct the youth toward a promising future. In particular, the mentors impressed upon the teens the importance of maintaining healthy relation- ships that are based on mutual respect. As always, mentors drew from the extensive training they’ve received through GenNext, which has been key to the program’s success since its pilot year in 1998. Seminars and joint meetings with parents and case managers give the men- tors the resources they need to help build the youths’ confidence and self-esteem. Reflecting on the trip, AGBU GenNext Program Manager Abraham Chaparian commented, “It was nice to be able to be in a beautiful, relaxing environment and to talk to the teens and learn more about them… I love helping my community and hope others will join us in touching the lives of
our youth. We welcome more volunteer mentors who will serve as role models, and I encourage anyone who is willing to make a positive difference to contact us, so that we may work hand in hand in order to — as our slogan states — reach new heights together.”
Though everyone was disappointed when the weekend came to an end, GenNext has planned a number of activities to keep the students and mentors busy through the summer and upcoming fall. In July, mentors and mentees came together for their monthly group activity in Huntington Beach and in August for a trip to the Gene Autry Museum of Western Heritage. This September, they will have another outdoor excursion, hiking the trails of the Eaton Canyon Park in Pasadena.