Ninth Successful Year of Jerusalem Students Attending St. Nersess Summer Conferences
BY FLORENCE AVAKIAN
On the lovely grounds and in the serene atmosphere of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, two bright and enthusiastic 16-year old students from the Sts. Tarkmanchatz School of Jerusalem’s Armenian Patriarchate took part in the annual summer conferences.
“Our two weeks here has been a deeply enriching experience,” said Nanar Nakashian, and Dikran Enoyan, speaking almost simultaneously. “We made friends and bonded with the 36 other students. They believe the same as I do,” says Nanar. “We made friends quickly. We related to each other quickly,” adds Dikran.
This is the ninth year that this unique program has been in successful operation. It was created, and continues to be organized by Rev. Fr. Mardiros Chevian, Dean of St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, to enable promising students from Sts. Tarkmanchatz to enhance their spiritual life and knowledge, and meet their counterparts in America.
This year’s program was made possible by major benefactors Russell and Susan Kashian (WI), and Neil and Renee Ferraro (MA). Also supporting the program were Gabriel and Sophia Ovanessian (NY), Gregory and Meline Toufayan (NJ), Vicken and Rosette Arslanian (NJ), Stephen and Kristina Findikyan (NY), Keith and Karyn Bilezerian (MA), and Glen and Kristin Dabaghian (NJ).
ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE AND FAMILY ATMOSPHERE
Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School which includes kindergarten, elementary and high school education, follows the British system, and is known for its academic excellence and warm family atmosphere. With its small classes (118 students in all the grades), it enhances personal attention to each student.
“The school brings together Armenian students of all the organizations and political persuasions,” Nanar points out. “We all joined to go together to go to Armenia in the Aridoun (Come Home) program,” says Nanar who has been to Armenia twice. “Armenia is the only safe haven for Armenians,” Dikran notes, voicing his patriotism. “It is our homeland”.
The school has played “an instrumental role in shaping us,” notes Dikran. “It has ensured the educational value, and conserved the Armenian identity. Many of the teachers, the majority of which are Armenian, have PH.Ds, and relay the content of the subjects with knowledge and authority,” he relates.
Nanar’s favorite subject is history. “It’s interesting how people lived in the past, compared to how life is today.” She comments that the principal of the school, the Very Rev. Fr. Norayr Kazazian is “serious, funny, and understands the students. He tries to keep up with the modern life.”
Dikran praises the principal for the advancement of the educational direction, and the many renovations he has instituted in the school with the help of the Faisal Hussani Foundation, including new academic subjects, especially in the sciences, as well as the new rooms, furniture, doors, painting of the classrooms, etc.
Dikran who is interested in all aspects of science, hopes to advance his education following graduation next year in the field of oceanography, possibly at the University of Rhode Island, he adds. He would like to return to the Patriarchate in the future. “I can’t imagine life outside of that place,” he declares with emphasis.
Nanar, who like Dikran will be a senior, is gravitating to biology for future studies. Having made a video of life in the convent which is now on Facebook, she notes that it will be hard to leave. She calls Jerusalem “a cultural crossroads. There is so much culture in a small space, and we all know everyone, like one big family. I’m lucky to have been raised there where I could be assured to receive the proper education in an atmosphere of safety. It’s incredible how a mother can leave her child outside with no fear of the child’s safety,” she gushes.
They both pay enthusiastic tribute to the founder of the school, Bishop Guregh Kapikian, who was the Principal until his death. With obvious admiration, they relate how a year ago a group was set up to organize a documentary in his memory entitled “Vigilant Guardian. A bronze sculpture of him is now in the school auditorium.
Dikran calls the Bishop “the engine” that brought about the new chapel in the Holy Sepulchre Church. “Bishop Guregh was responsible for two new sections in the school through his fundraising efforts, including the high school,” he reveals, and adds that the clergyman was very interested and active in pursuing his interest in church architecture. “He made replicas of the churches in Armenia and Jerusalem, of which there was a mini exhibition in Jerusalem.” They are now housed in Armenia.
CHILDREN OF THE CONVENT
Nanar was born in the Jerusalem’s Convent. Her father Saro is the CEO of the EFE Company (Education for Employment), and her mother Nora has been employed at the Sts. Tarkmanchatz School for 25 years. Her grandfather Hrant Nakashian was a photojournalist working for the United Nations.
Born in Beirut, Dikran came with his family to Jerusalem at the age of three. His father Kevork is the bookstore manager in the Armenian Patriarchate, and his mother Micheline a ceramicist. His grandfather was a petroleum engineer in Syria.
Both Nanar’s and Dikran’s great-grandparents were survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Dikran strongly supports recognition of the Genocide by the international community, and compensation in the form of land and money to the survivors of the victims. “I know no amount of money can compensate for the suffering and loss of life,” he adds.
TWO WEEKS IN A DIFFERENT WORLD
Returning to their participation in the summer program at St. Nersess, both Dikran and Nanar again repeat the enriching experience, and the commonality of interests they felt among their fellow students.
For Nanar, the religious atmosphere was a revelation “where I learned so many things about Christianity. When I return, I will always pray before eating. If I don’t pray, I will feel something is missing. Now I know what the prayers mean. I can now say them with my heart.”
Dikran emphasizes these feelings. “Even though there are morning and evening services at the Sts. James Armenian Cathedral, I never knew what they meant. Now I know what they do in church. And equally, our experiences of bonding together were special. This was two weeks in a different world.
“I don’t know what I’ll do without my new friends. Of course we will stay in touch,” he says, proudly pointing to his book filled with new phone numbers and e-mail addresses.
And with his typical enthusiasm, Fr. Mardiros notes, “It is always such a pleasure for me to witness the growth and excitement that the students of Jerusalem’s Sts. Tarkmanchatz Armenian School experience by participating in the St. Nersess summer conferences. They leave here inspired and having gained news friends. The relationships begun here between American-Armenian and Jerusalem-Armenian young people will last a lifetime.”