Four Students from Sts. Tarkmanchatz Join St. Nersess Summer Conferences

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ARMONK, N.Y. — Once again, for the 12th year, outstanding students from the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s Sts. Tarkmanchatz School (http://ststarkmanchatz.org/) joined their counterparts at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. This year, the St. Nersess Summer Conferences for youth, afforded four Jerusalem students unique opportunities to interact with their Armenian-American peers, strengthen their Christian faith, and experience the special New York environs and flavor.

This project was initiated by Rev. Mardiros Chevian, dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, and has been realized by contributions from donors. This year, the main benefactors of the project were Russell and Susan Kashian (Muskege, WI), with support by George and Lorraine Marootian (Franklin Lakes, NJ), Vicken and Rosette Arslanian (Englewood, NJ), Joseph and Kristine Casali (Ramsey, NJ), Gregory and Meline Toufayan (Saddle River, NJ), Glen and Kristin Dabaghian (Ramsey, NJ), and Keith and Karyn Bilezerian (Wrentham, Mass.).

The four exceptional students included 17-year-olds Ike Demirjian, Hagop Hagopian, Sevana Hekimian, and 15-year-old Serena Karin Bush, all of whom praised their student life at Sts. Tarkmanchatz and its principal, the Very Rev. Norayr Kazazian.

Several comments about Kazazian reflected the love and admiration they felt for him and his leadership of the school which Ike called “very supportive.” He was praised for advancing the school’s its educational programs and its facilities, and for being “close, friendly, kind, caring and principled” with the students. “Sts. Tarkmanchatz has been a beautiful flower in our lives,” declared Hekimian.

Ike Demirjian, who grew up in Tel Aviv and moved to Jerusalem two years ago with his family, said he “loves Jerusalem and Sts. Tarkmanchatz” where he has served a Student Council president, and started a basketball team which he coaches. He has decided to study either engineering “because I love making things and am very creative,” or medicine “in order to help people.”

Born in Jerusalem, Hagop Hagopian comes from a family of Genocide survivors. His paternal grandmother escaped from Eskishehie and his maternal grandparents from Marash. He sees medicine as his future work. He plans to stay in Jerusalem, attend Hebrew University, then go to the Medical University in Yerevan. Having family in Armenia, and a sister studying medicine there, he has visited Armenia nine times, and especially loves Artsakh, “its nature, endless green mountains and its weather.”

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Sevana Hekimian’s family came to Jerusalem through a journey that involved her paternal grandfather and his uncle from Musaler, escaping the Genocide, going to Syria, Jordan and finally an orphanage in Jerusalem’s Armenian Convent. There, he met his future wife at the Homenetmen Club.

She plans to study economics and accounting management at Hebrew University, then live and study in Armenia “because it’s time that our generation should be the ones to make the country brighter.” She traveled to Armenia in 2013 with the Ari Tun (Return Home) program where young Armenians from around the globe stay in local volunteer homes and interact with the local population. “When I got to Zvartnotz Airport, something touched my heart. It was comfort,” she revealed.

Serena Karin Bush, whose father is German-American, hopes to be a psychologist, or work at the United Nations. “I want to make a difference in the world and help mankind advance in peace.” Her mother’s family is from Marash, Caesarea, survived the Genocide and came to Jerusalem through a long trek through Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. In summer 2015, she traveled to Armenia “to see my homeland. It was extremely overwhelming. Artsakh was just beautiful and breathtaking, but anger brewed inside of me when I went because my people are getting killed over what is rightfully ours.”

Rekindling Faith

“Before coming to the St. Nersess program, “my faith was not so strong,” confessed Bush. “Here I have been going to my room, talking to God and feeling comfortable.” For her, “it has been so refreshing, being more exposed to the outside world from the “very traditional atmosphere” in Jerusalem. Though she still has questions, she has become “more strong” in her faith.

For Demirjian, it has been an experience of “thinking out of the box, being more open. Everyone is so energetic, so enthusiastic, so Armenian. You can feel it. I have made so many friends.” He said he had attended many programs before this experience at St. Nersess that have helped him in life. This new exposure “will stay with me forever. I am now more confident, more social and more independent.”

Hagopian, who had a “burning desire” to come to the St. Nersess summer program “to learn more deeply about Christianity,” said the experience has “greatly strengthened” his faith. He plans to stay in Jerusalem because he “wants to be helpful to the next Armenian generation in Jerusalem.”

He expressed a strong desire that Armenian-American youth also deepen their knowledge of the Armenian language. “In our history, we have fought for this. Christianity and our language are integral to our survival.”

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