BY FLORENCE AVAKIAN
YEREVAN — Education has been called the bedrock for a country’s future.
For Benjamin Franklin, it was “an investment in knowledge that pays the best interest”.
And for Nelson Mandela, he wrote that it has been “the most powerful weapon which one can use to change the world.”
The wisdom of these legendary leaders has been incorporated in the scholarship programs of the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR) since the late 1990’s. It is one of ten different scholarship programs managed by FAR.
“We give opportunities to pursue a dream of higher education to more than 460 young people annually. No one comes closer to this record of giving this kind of opportunity than the Fund for Armenian Relief,” declared Margarit Piliposyan, FAR Armenia Programs Director.
Generous philanthropists have donated up to $400,000 a year. Ninety percent of the scholarships have been given to students from families living below to, or close to the poverty level.
The goal has always been to provide education to the talented youth of Armenia to live a dignified life, and to influence them to live and contribute in their homeland.
RIGOROUS SELECTION PROCESS
During each year, 50 to 75 students are selected after a very tough selection process, following a widespread advertisement in Armenia’s media, said Mane Khachatryan, the scholarship program’s Education and Science Program Coordinator.
Heading the FAR Scholarship Program is the tireless and dedicated Eduard Karapetyan, FAR Armenia Deputy Director who arrives daily at the FAR Armenia office in the early morning, and doesn’t leave until late at night.
Applicants go through a vigorous selection process which includes an admission exam for the selected outstanding short student list, the required economic standing credits of the family, and an interview. In just one of the multiple FAR’s Scholarship Programs, ten out of the final 25 candidates on the short list are selected for each scholarship. This whole process lasts two months.
After each six-month semester, the Selection Committee comprised of FAR members and one or two alumni from previous years, evaluates the results for both undergraduate and graduate students.
Seventy five percent of these scholarship recipients have found jobs in Armenia. In the Information Technology field, 100 percent of the FAR’s Gyumri It Center students have found positions. In the course of their studies and upon graduation, FAR scholars must engage in volunteer work in Armenia for the rest of their lives.
Mostly, students pursuing majors in international relations, political science, finance, management, economics, linguistics, journalism, law, engineering, public service and information technology are recipients of FAR Scholarships. They study at various State Universities of Armenia, like the Yerevan State University, the Yerevan State Institute of Economics, the Yerevan State Engineering Institute, National University of Architecture and Construction of Armenia, etc..
This summer, this writer visited the FAR headquarters in Yerevan, and spoke with four worthy recipients of different scholarship projects offered by FAR.
The first of these noteworthy programs has been the Matevosian Scholarship Program named after the long-time FAR benefactor Anoosh Matevosian which covers tuition costs on a need-basis throughout the four-year undergraduate curriculum for outstanding students admitted to a university.
Twenty-year old Julieta Hovhannisyan, a current Anush Matevosian scholarship student at the Armenian State University of Economics, is in her third year studying Accounting and Auditing. She has always “loved dealing with numbers”.
Like her parents and grandparents, she was born in Armenia. Following her graduation, she wishes to climb the accountant job ladder, eventually working either in “banks, large companies or big factories.”
“Thanks to the Matevosian scholarship, I got financial support (starting from her second student year), which would have caused many difficulties for my parents to afford. The program also afforded me to find new friends,” she said. “Together with them, I am engaged in different volunteer activities”.
Another Matevosian Scholarship recipient and alumna, twenty-seven year old Anush Mkhitarian who was born in Yerevan, and was motivated by her family to study mathematics, related her experience at Yerevan State University where she studied Mathematical Methods of Economics.
“During my two years of studying, 50 percent of my tuition was covered by the Anoush Matevosian scholarship.” Achieving excellent grades, she continued studying without fees, but she still received FAR grants for the next two years. The scholarship enabled her to complete her master’s program. Concurrent with her studies, she worked at the analytic center “Amberd” as a math modeler and researcher.
She now works as an Administrative Assistant in Yerevan’s FAR office. In the future, she hopes to find a position in an international organization.
ROSTER OF SCHOLARSHIPS
Besides the Matevosian Scholarship, the lists of grants include Ester Ajemian Scholarship Program, Armine and Garabed Zambak Scholarship Program, Jerar Matevosian Scholarship Program, Gulamerian Scholarship and Vocational Training Program, Antranig Berberian Scholarship Program, Edna Galo, Scholarship Program, Avedis and Arsho Baghsarian Scholarship Program, Niksarli Scholarship, Halajian Scholarship, and many more.
Ani Minasyan, graduated from Yerevan State University in journalism. In 2016, the 24-year old started her Master’s degree financed by the Esther Ajemian Scholarship Program.
“Within the FAR framework, I have participated in several social programs, including the Vanadzor old age home, and participating in apricot harvesting in Yervandashat,” she said.
Currently, she works at the Public Radio of Armenia news department. Her special interests include new technologies, social and cultural events. “Since working in this field since I was 18, I conducted interviews for the Youth Foundation of Armenia relating to youth and student life. Later, I worked for the TV project, “Unknown Yerevan” as a scriptwriter.”
She prefers radio to TV because it “conveys what you want, what you see and feel since you have only one means on the radio – sound.
In September, she will start teaching Radio journalism to second year students at Yerevan State University. She hopes to improve her professional skills abroad, and be an international journalist for a period of time, but that does not mean “migrating from Armenia.”
Eighteen-year old Mary Mkrtchyan, an Antranig Berberian Scholarship recipient is in her first year studying Informatics and Applied Mathematics at Yerevan State University.
Originally gravitating towards the humanities, law and international relations, she became attracted to the technologies when she started attending the TUMO Center for Creative Technologies.
“In the 21st century, the tech sphere is becoming more and more important. Specialists in this sphere are in high demand.” But it was not the high demand, or high salary that attracted her.
For her, “because of the conflict with Azerbaijan, the Armenian soldiers who defend our state borders, will probably need assistance from experts who are specialized in unmanned aerial vehicles. Also, technology provides very crucial and needed information.” Her future includes working either in the TUMO Creative Technologies Centre or PicsArt Armenian organization.
“Without this scholarship, I would not be able to study and have the profession of my dreams. Besides the financial support, it has given me an opportunity to do good deeds,” she revealed.
In the future, she may want to be acquainted with new methods of teaching abroad, “but not for more than a year. I love Armenia, its unique nature, culture craft, food, and especially its courage in struggle. I am so proud to be an Armenian!”