On Thursday, March 29, 2018, AGBU Generation Next (GenNext) held its open house celebration in its newly renovated community center located at the YWCA in Glendale, CA. GenNext welcomed nearly 150 members of the community including, current and past volunteer mentors, mentees, their families, Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) Board of Education members, elected officials from the City of Glendale, Assemblymember Nazarian, and representatives from the offices of Los Angeles Councilmember Krekorian, Senator Portantino, Assemblymember Friedman and Congressman Schiff. Also, in attendance were GUSD teachers and administrators, representatives from the Glendale Teachers Association, the Glendale Council PTA, the Glendale Fire and Police Departments, Glendale Youth Alliance, ARK Family Center as well as dozens of other community-based organizations.

The evening began with a short reception during which visitors toured the center and viewed the interactive installations, including the “GenNext Family Tree,” a stunning mural painted by local artist, Arpine Shakhbandaryan. Saro Ayvazians, the GenNext Program Director, opened the evening with a heartfelt welcome, followed by an inspirational video message from Father Vazken Movsesian of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church. The evening proceeded with moving and profound sentiments by all the guest speakers; AGBU Western District board member, Tzoler Oukayan-Sagherian; YWCA Executive Director, Tara Peterson; Glendale Mayor, Vartan Gharpetian; Board of Education President, Nayiri Nahabedian; Glendale Council PTA President, Neda Farhoumand; and Glendale Unified School District Superintendent, Winifred Roberson. Each speech was powerful and made one thing very clear, GenNext is an exemplary and outstanding program that is necessary for the youth of the community to thrive.

The highlight of the evening was the graduation of 14 mentees from the program. “This ceremony is very much like a ritual that both honors the achievements of our mentees and recognizes their progression from one stage in their lives to the next,” explained Mr. Ayvazians.

“Generation Next is my second family. All of my teenage years were spent here. It’s a part of me. I eat, live, breathe, sleep GenNext. I was a mentee years ago and without GenNext, I don’t know where I’d be today. This is why I give my time back to the new generation as a mentor,” expressed Arthur Khamtrashyan when asked why Generation Next is important to him.

Reflecting on how far the program has come, Nayiri Nahabedian, founding member of GenNext and now the President of the Board of Education for the GUSD expressed, “The fact that the GenNext program has survived and thrived for 20 years, speaks volumes about its power and impact. I am very content to see how far the program has come from its earlier days.”

Closing out the momentous evening, Levon Moradkhanian a current mentee, alongside AGBU Vice President Sinan Sinanian, cut the traditional red ribbon, marking the official opening of the center.

The Generation Next Mentorship Program is a non-profit organization and was created in 1997 under the auspices of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU). The primary goal of the Generation Next Mentorship Program is to assist Southern California youth of Armenian descent by providing them with adult role models in order to help them become successful, contributing members of society at-large. To learn more about the program and get involved, please visit agbugennext.org.

For more information about AGBU Western District and its programs, please visit www.agbuwd.org.

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