From left, Marina Gejekoushian, Primate Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan, Rev. Mardiros Chevian, and Sevag Boyadjian

Two Students from Jerusalem Enjoy Summer High School Conference at St. Nersess Seminary

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By Florence Avakian

ARMONK, N.Y. — Sevag Boyadjian, 15, and Marina Gejekoushian, 17, two gifted students from Jerusalem’s Sts. Tarkmanchatz School, were chosen to participate in this year’s Summer High School Conference at St. Nersess Armenian Seminary. This program was initiated and organized by seminary Dean Rev. Mardiros Chevian, and funded by several 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), Steven and Karen Nargizian (Franklin Lakes, NJ),Gregory and Meline Toufayan (Saddle River, NJ), Glen and Kristin Dabaghian (Ramsey, NJ), Keith and Karyn Bilezerian (Wrentham, MA), Jonathan and Therese Najarian (Hillsdale, NJ), and Paul Derderian (Rye, NY).

Both students are proud Armenians who “love our history, our people, and our friends who are mostly Armenian.” They attribute these feelings to their families, and to Sts. Tarkmanchatz School which has taught them “our language, culture and history, as well as how to be a good Armenian.” The school that includes kindergarten to the 12th grade, has been applauded for its highly rated academic standards.

The school has approximately 150 students, the vast majority of which are Armenian. The few non-Armenian students are enrolled because of the school’s reputation in the community of having a safe environment and a high level of education.

Its principal for the past 11 years has been the Very Rev. Norayr Kazazian. “He is very caring, funny and knows how to take care of the school,” says Gejekoushian, adding that he fixed the walls, had the new classrooms painted, and hired new highly experienced teachers, including Arabs and Jews, though most of the teachers are Armenian.

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Sts. Tarkmanchatz “is our second home,” Boyadjian chimes in. The classes are small in student number, and though the teachers are strict, personal attention is given to each student. Sts. Tarkmanchats “is special because it teaches those don’t know much about Armenians to learn the treasures of our rich heritage,” says Marina whose mother graduated from the school.

The students residing within the area of the Patriarchate also participate in their own clubs. “We always do things together in our two clubs. We have several activities and games. The clubs teach us how to be good scouts, good people,” says Boyadjian who at 6’ 2” tall, is a proficient basketball player.

Boyadjian loves mathematics. He hopes to attend college in Jerusalem, and become a tour guide “in three languages” in the city. The Armenian Quarter is a well-known part of the Old City. The St. James Armenian Cathedral with its legendary windows that glow with the oiled lamps and the changing hues of daylight, was built with no electricity. The traditional all-male choir is made up of seminarians, Boyadjian points out.

Gejekoushian said the sciences, in particular, biology and psychology are her favorites. Her goal is to attend Hebrew University, and become a doctor “so I can help people.” She points out that there are many doctors in Jerusalem hospitals from the West Bank. Gejekoushian, who is a fifth-generation Jerusalemite, loves this city because “my family is here, as well as a majority of my friends. This is an historic city. Every stone has its own story.”

Both students are also talented musicians, playing drums. Boyajian, whose father is a bus driver in Jerusalem, also plays the guitar, and Gejekoushian, the viola. Her father is a musician and plays multiple instruments and performs in a Christian band. Her family’s business is in ceramics and pottery.

“Being Armenian is special. Armenia was the first country to accept Christianity,” Boyajian states with obvious pride of the well-known fact. “Even if they put a gun to my head, my deep pride in my heritage would never be lessened,” Gejekoushian adds enthusiastically. “Our culture, language and history are rich and beautiful, and very unique.”

Both students have been to Armenia. Boyajian has visited twice. “I saw all the churches in Armenia. Many looked the same, but Tatev and Echmiadzin were so peaceful. You felt like you were in heaven. Armenia is my country,” he comments thoughtfully.

Gejekoushian who visited Armenia two years ago, brought holy water from Sts. James Cathedral for the visit of Pope, saying to him, “I’m from Jerusalem.” Her favorite church in Armenia is Oshagan. “When I left Armenia, I felt like I was leaving my home. I want to return very soon.”

While at St. Nersess, both young students visited St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral and the Diocesan Primate, the Very Rev. Daniel Findikyan. But it was the 10 days at St. Nersess that was indelible in their minds. They especially loved singing the Armenian songs which they knew well with the other students. Gejekoushian, whose sister, Sarin, was a recent recipient of the Sts. Tarkmanchatz trip to St. Nersess said that Sarin when she attended the extraordinary program “fell in love” with all her compatriots.

“Everyone was like one big family,” both students said with emphasis. Friendships were made for a lifetime. For both students who learned many new things, both spiritually and for every-day life, it was a unique and deeply rewarding experience that will last a lifetime.

 

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