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ACYOA hosts first Chapter Workshop in Boca Raton

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Youth group holds its first “Chapter Workshop” in Boca Raton

By Danielle DerAsadourian

Sunny Florida skies provided an inviting backdrop to the Armenian Church Youth Organization’s latest gathering. ACYOA’s inaugural “Chapter Workshop,” convening over the weekend of January 9 to 11, brought together 31 group leaders from 14 parishes in the Eastern Diocese.

The workshop, hosted by Boca Raton’s St. David Armenian Church, allowed for members of the Armenian Church youth group—representing both fledgling as well as long-established local chapters—to interact and share ideas. ACYOA Central Council members Johnny El Chemmas and Talin Hitik planned the weekend’s activities.

The workshop began on Saturday morning with a worship service, followed by a seminar session titled “ACYOA 101”—a nuts-and-bolts overview of the ACYOA’s current structure and scope, led by Mr. El Chemmas.

Participants shared their own ideas and experiences in a second, peer-led session. Two members of the Providence, RI, ACYOA chapter—which won last year’s “Chapter ‘A’ Award” for the group that best exemplifies ACYOA’s ideals—gave their insights into the keys to building a successful ACYOA chapter. Ara Janigian emphasized communi¬ca¬tion, persistence, and energy in recruiting and maintaining ACYOA members; he gave practical outreach suggestions like offering new members rides to and from church.

Mr. Janigian and Gevork Vartanian also suggested planning events that incorporate members’ specific interests, such as cooking or playing basketball. “The ACYOA will find a place for everybody,” said Vartanian. “Once you bring them in, you’ll find something that piques their interest.”

Subsequent activities included a personality quiz, administered by ACYOA executive secretary Nancy Basmajian, to help participants recognize their personal leadership qualities. The quiz identified individual strengths and shortcomings, and helped clarify how these traits might affect interactions within ACYOA chapters.

ACYOA alumna Roseann Manoogian-Attar, from St. John Armenian Church in Southfield, MI, spoke about her leadership experiences in the ACYOA and in her home parish.

Ms. Attar—who advised the local ACYOA committee planning the 2007 General Assembly and Sports Weekend in Detroit—said that her most valuable experience in serving the church has been her involvement in the Sunday School. She emphasized that her activity in the ACYOA and Sunday School would have been impossible without faith, love, hope, and belonging—four elements that are imperative for leadership and service in the church, she said. “You only receive respect if you give it out,” she added, challenging the current ACYOA members to “keep love and respect in your heart, go forth, and serve.”

Another quiz—this one on the ACYOA handbook—tested knowledge about ACYOA rules and regulations. Participants were amused to learn about policies that have gone out of practice in the youth group’s 63-year history—such as the provision that ACYOA members should carry membership cards.

The final session of the day had members identifying concrete challenges they have been facing in their respective local chapters. Armed with the knowledge and strategies they had learned throughout the day, they broke into groups to generate a list of solutions for each of those challenges.

Bethanie Mangigian, an ACYOA member representing New York’s St. Vartan Cathedral chapter, said, “The best thing about this workshop was having the opportunity to learn from the experiences of other chapters and brainstorm new ways to help us to grow in our own local communities and as an organization as a whole.”

In the evening, ACYOA members from the hosting parish joined workshop participants for a night of fellowship and dancing at a local Middle Eastern restaurant. The following morning, they attended Badark at St. David Armenian Church.

Christine Royland, an ACYOA member from St. Leon Church in Fair Lawn, NJ, called this first Chapter Workshop “extremely beneficial.”

“It brought Armenian youth from different parts of the country together for the purpose of becoming better ACYOA leaders,” she said. “I hope we do this again.”