: Group shot of the Spotlight on Culture committee

Holy Martyrs Day School Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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By Taleen Babayan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

PORT WASHINGTON, NY — The Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School (HMADS) celebrated its Golden Anniversary through the artistic presentation, “Spotlight on Culture,” held on Sunday, December 3 at Landmark on Main Street.

Alumni, teaching staff, students and supporters gathered to honor 50 years of academic excellence while appreciating the cultural riches of the Armenian heritage.

The delightful and diverse program consisted of dance, song, violin and piano from notable alumni and musicians along with a special performance by the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston.

Ani Djirdjirian, class of 2006

The concert highlighted pieces from Komitas and Aram Khachatourian to the contemporary Nune Yesayan and Lilu, and also included a repertoire of classical pieces by Rachmaninov, Bach and Piazzola. A talented mix of performers took to the stage, including Seta Karakashian and Diana Vasilyan along with alumni artists Ani Djirdjirian, the Arminstring Ensemble, Nevart Zeronian, Deborah Agopian and Hooshere, who all embodied the school’s cultural mission through their performances.

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“We owe this school and this milestone to the visionaries and founders of HMADS and now to the current generation,” said Zarmine Boghosian, Principal Emeritus of Holy Martyrs Armenian Day School and concert co-chair.

Current principal Seta Megherian, an alumnus of HMADS herself, said it was “an honor to be back home.”

“This New York gem has been the strongest foundation and part of my life for as long as I can remember,” said co-chair Megherian, a graduate of the class of 1989. “Serving as principal brings me great joy and happiness, to be able to spread and share that part of my life that was so near and dear to me.”

Founded in 1967, HMADS is the first and only Armenian Day School in the New York metropolitan area. The school has made a significant impact to the Armenian Diaspora over the past five decades as a full-fledged elementary school, chartered by the Board of Regents of the New York State Department of Education. Located in Bayside, HMADS not only provides bilingual education, but also teaches Armenian cultural values and prepares students to become productive members of their surrounding American society.

Hooshere, class of 1987

“Each day our goal is to strengthen and perpetuate the Armenian language and culture,” said Megherian, who notes that students are involved both in the school and the community by serving the church and other cultural organizations. “By teaching and learning our Armenian language we allow for our culture to strengthen and grow and stay alive for the next generation.”

Portraying the strong bonds forged between HMADS and its graduates, the “Spotlight on Culture” concert brought former graduates back to the stage to perform in honor of their alma mater, including Ani Djirdjian, class of 2006, who said performing on stage was “nothing short of surreal and heart-warming.”

“I’m eternally grateful to HMADS for instilling our Armenian language, culture, and community in me and my friends, making me fall in love with who we are as a people and always reminding us of our resilience,” said Djirdjirian, a singer and actress who performed Haireniks by Lilu. “I hope the generations of Armenian youth to come are given the same opportunities I was fortunate to have through HMADS.”

Throughout the decades, HMADS has been a home away from home for its students, under the guidance of the teaching staff and leadership, including principals Sara Anoushian Dadourian, Mae Bedrossian Kazandjian, Zarmine Kalayjian Boghosian, Sophie Djanece Kerbeykian and Seta Tavitian Megherian, who all established everlasting ties to their students, including Natalie Gabrelian, class of 1988.

“For 50 years, HMADS has stood as a pillar of the New York Armenian-American community, embracing generation after generation into its welcoming arms,” said Natalie Gabrellian, Director of Alternative Education at AGBU and the concert’s co-chair. “I am forever indebted to this school for all that it has done, and so the best way I can show my gratitude is doing all I can to ensure the legacy lives on and that this amazing opportunity is available to generations to come.”

In the spirit of promoting and preserving the Armenian culture, the Sayat Nova Dance Company of Boston performed graceful and energetic dances reflective of their heritage. The group recently celebrated its 30th anniversary and, according to director Apo Ashjian, the Sayat Nova dancers were “honored” and “humbled” to participate in the 50th anniversary concert of the HMADS.

“We understand the perseverance that is required for an organization to grow and prosper in the diaspora,” said Ashjian, noting the importance of educating and inspiring the youth to keep the Armenian tradition and culture alive. “We pave the way for the future generations to maintain their love for their Armenian culture while also making sure that the world understands who we are as a nation.”

Over the last 50 years, HMADS has created a fruitful and connected network of close to 300 students and graduates who have become successful in many fields, from finance to education to the arts.

Boghosian remarked how proud she is of the achievements of the students and graduates who, “always shine and elevate the name of our school.”

“It’s been an honor to have a role in their education and to watch them grow from nursery into hard working bright sixth grade students,” said Boghosian. “And it’s even more delightful to see them coming back after graduating.”

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