Now in its 24th year, the highly successful Generation Next (GenNext) Mentorships, a program of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), is progressing with changing times to serve the youth of the local Armenian community of Greater Los Angeles and the Glendale Unified District. It recently announced an enhanced hybrid model of its original program and is actively inviting prospective mentees and volunteer mentors to apply for this free and ever-growing program without delay.
For at least one year, students commit eight hours per month to the program and benefit from weekly one-on-one mentorship meetings and the new benefit of monthly group activities.
The new and improved offering adds a robust Group Activities component as a supplement to the meaningful mentor-mentee relationships between teenagers and caring volunteers. These one-on-one connections allow youth in their most formative years to receive the individualized support of a positive role model who functions as an outside source of support and a friend—all with the consent of the parent(s) and the oversight of the AGBU Western District Committee and an outside independent organization specializing in mentorships. Through the experience, students find that they gain confidence and improve academically and socially. Mentors enjoy the satisfaction of sharing their experiences, practical know-how, and sensitivity to the struggles of teens while also learning about the issues and interests of a new generation.
The Group Activities overlay will offer soft and hard skill development sessions to help students learn about teamwork, negotiation, leadership, resume writing, public speaking, among other important tools for success. In addition, topic- specific seminars focused on career, mental health, civic engagement, financial literacy, violence prevention, substance abuse are also addressed. Participants will also be introduced to industries and professions they may want to explore in the process of finding their own life path, presented by members of the local community with a track record of success in a given field.
Educational Programs Manager Nare Avagyan came on board just as the Covid- 19 pandemic hit the state of California hard, forcing the decision to shut down in person learning in favor of virtual classes. She noted how the switchover to remote interaction helped inform the next iteration of the GenNext concept.
“Not only did the pandemic impact the lives of all teenage students already navigating these critical years, but also for those enrolled in mentorship programs like GenNext. So the transition to virtual was at first questionable. Fortunately, we worked out the kinks and found that the value of a mentorship, for which interpersonal communication is key, was not really diminished at a distance. It
actually revealed some built in advantages, especially when it came to sparing parents from driving their children to the GenNext center or to meet up with their mentor. It also saved time for volunteer mentors who are obviously very busy with their own careers and families. This gives both mentor, mentee, and parent the flexibility to benefit from the GenNext offering without compromising other priorities.”
The new Chair of the program Tzoler Oukayan summed it up best: “As California reopens its schools and more youth over age 12 receive their vaccinations, we look forward to offering our GenNext community the best of both worlds: the magic of in-person engagement, the convenience of virtual connections, and the flexibility of choosing the method of interaction that works best for you .”
To get started and find answers to any questions, please visit the updated AGBU GenNext website where mentees and mentors alike will be instructed as to how to register and apply. Staff of the Glendale Unified School District are also invited to refer students in middle and high school grades to participate in GenNext at no charge by completing the form on the website.
Go to agbugennext.org or contact Nare Avagyan, Educational Programs Manager, at [email protected] or at (626) 794-7942.