An inside look at AGBU's programs and educational impact on youth

AGBU is the largest Armenian non-profit in the world—established in 1906 in Cairo, Egypt.

The western region encompasses California, Texas and Arizona.

In California, the programs service the largest Diaspora in teaching Armenian history, heritage, education, culture, humanitarian relief and socio-economic development.

At Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)Western Region there are a wide variety of programs for youth and adults alike. From STEAM education—to scouting--  athletics--- dance—professional development – and even a state-of-the-art concert hall where the biggest names in Armenian entertainment have graced the stage.

"Our main mission is humanitarian and educational programs. It brings the whole community together and it continues to instill the Armenian values and heritage in our future generations. And we hope to continue to do that for many years to come," Krikor Demirjian, Chair, AGBU Pasadena-Glendale Chapter.

"Wherever there are Armenians anywhere in the world, there is an AGBU very much active. There is truly something for everyone and we have several chapters and committees that work tirelessly throughout the year to organize special events," said Dr. Maria Akopian, AGBU Western Region Marketing Communications Strategist.

The athletics program – both the San Fernando Valley Chapter and the Pasadena-Glendale chapter have their own respective programs.

For many, this is the beginning of their social lives.

Maral Voskian is the chair of the San Fernando Valley chapter—she has been part of AGBU since she was a child back in Egypt.

She credits her development to the organization.

"Organization like ABGU to help the Armenian youth learn about not only about their culture, but to help them be the good citizens of the countries they are living in. They help these youth have the leadership skills and help not only the Armenian community, but the world at large," said Voskian.

About one year ago, the newest program launched-- AGBU Innovation Studios.

It is a creative space for kids to have access to cutting edge technology, tools and the latest software to bring their ideas to life.

"It's STEAM education which stands for science, tech, engineering, art and math. Middle and high school students have a unique opportunity to create projects in architecture, robotics, game design, just to name a few, and we know an education how important steam is for every child, no matter their field of pursuit," said Dr. Akopian.

"It's for anyone. It's really the skills that are important to the future, skills that the students, the participants acquire throughout the process of brainstorming, researching, prototyping, creating, using the different tools laser cutters, 3D printers.  We emphasize the change in mindset. We say fail stands for first attempt in learning," said Nare Avagyan.

The AGBU Scouts group is an Armenian based organization chartered by the Boy Scouts of America.

"I think that sets our group apart is that our scout leaders have all been grown from our group. Our first leadership is youth ran," said Vahn Voskian.

Aren Mirzaian has been a scout for 8-years now. He loves how he can preserve his Armenian heritage and give back to the community through service.

"It has been such a big part of my life. It's taught me so many things, such as leadership skills, essential life skills for the future, and it's just shaped me as a human being," said Mirzaian.

"I was actually involved in scouts since the age of 5, all the way through 16, and it was some of the most special experiences of my life, especially camp. I still keep in touch with those friends. I still remember the songs that we learned and all the different elements of Armenian culture," said Dr. Akopian.

It is that spirit of sisterhood—brotherhood—friendships—family—tradition--- culture – and identity that brings everyone together.

AGBU: Innovation Studios is currently working on collaborative efforts with numerous school districts and the LA Unified school district-- everyone is welcome to go check it out.