ACYOA has shaped me into the person I AM
By: Karen Dardarian, Central Council Vice Chair
St. John’s Church, Detroit, MI
A couple of weeks ago during a job interview, I mentioned that I would need one weekend off every month because I was involved on a national level with my church youth organization. The interviewer looked at me like I was crazy. At the end of the interview she asked me how important my involvement in the organization was and if it meant a lot to me. I gave her that same look she gave me—I thought she was crazy for asking me the question. I looked at her and in three words I said, "It's my life."
On the way home I reflected on my involvement in the ACYOA and its impact on my life. Since I was a young teenager I have been active in the organization. Throughout the years I have gained memories, achieved many goals, and built long lasting friendships. Being part of the ACYOA has shaped me into the person I AM.
In my family, the ACYOA goes back three generations, and I want to carry on that worthy tradition. My grandparents were actively involved in the ACYOA when it was organized in 1946. My great aunt and uncle both served on early Central Councils, helping build the structure of the organization. My parents, aunts and uncles followed suit and were active as young adults. My own mother was honored with the Sam Nersesian Award, which is given to an individual who has displayed the Christian values of love, patience, and understanding. Just last year, I was also privileged to receive that same award. Following in my family's footsteps is an amazing feeling and gives me a sense of pride.
My strong connection with the Church is because of the ACYOA. It has shaped me into the person I AM. It has brought me closer to God, to my Church and my Armenian community. I also believe it is very important to connect with the older generation. One special individual in my life was Araxie Andonian, who passed away last year. I called her my grandma, my Foxy Roxy. It all started during our ACYOA Juniors Fish Dinners where we would have short meaningful conversations; these turned into a grandmother-granddaughter-like bond. From then on, every Sunday after church, we would sit together and talk, thus building a friendship in which her wise words spoke to me.
ACYOA has been a huge part of my life for many years. The experiences I have encountered have and will continue to be very rewarding. I have learned so much about myself and about my relationship with God. I always look forward to the next program or event, not only to see my friends, but to build new relationships. Serving on Central Council has blessed me with the opportunity to spread God's love to the youth; helping bring Armenian young people together in conjunction with the life of the Church. There are so many factors in the outside world that pull our youth away, but the ACYOA brings the youth back to the Church. Being on Central Council and setting an example for the youth is very important to me. It is a big responsibility, making decisions and trying our best to improve the organization.
Thanksgiving is a time to remember and give thanks for the blessings in our lives. I truly do not know what my life would be like without ACYOA. One of my favorite quotes is from Archbishop Sion Manoogian who, in 1950, said: "Remember your fore-fathers suffered many persecutions to make possible the Christian privileges and opportunities you now enjoy. Let them not have suffered in vain. Take the torch of your ancestors and strive onward with it. It is a precious heritage." Let's give thanks for our ancestors for they have set an example that has been passed down for many years, they have been an influence in my life decisions.
This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for what the ACYOA has done for my life;
It has shaped me into the person I AM.
I AM ARMENIAN.
I AM CHRISTIAN.
I AM THANKFUL.