AGBU’s GenNext’s Got Talent!

The eighth Annual Generation Next Talent Showcase and Graduation Ceremony was a night to remember.

An evening full of talent and achievement was celebrated at the Eighth Annual Generation Next Talent Showcase and Graduation Ceremony, which took place on August 29, 2010 at AGBU Pasadena Center’s Boyajian Hall. The event displayed a variety of acts by its members, ranging from singing and dancing to comedic skits; the evening concluded with a heartfelt commencement ceremony. The yearly event is just one of the many activities organized by Generation Next (GenNext), AGBU’s mentorship program that matches Armenian professionals and university students with Armenian adolescents to promote education, community service, and the Armenian heritage. The success of this year’s event can be strongly attributed to the overwhelming growth of the program, which now boasts over 109 mentors, who are matched with 109 mentees.

A crowd of peers, family members, and community leaders were in awe of the exceptional skills exhibited by the performers during the Talent Showcase. A crowd favorite was a comedic skit by mentor and mentee Gor Grishyan and Arthur Khamtrashyan depicting grandfathers engaged in a rousing game of tavloo (backgammon). Another highlight was provided by mentee Sona Avdalyan, who sang in both Armenian and English. The Graduation Ceremony followed the highly entertaining Talent Showcase. Both of this year’s graduating mentees have been part of Generation Next for over six years. 19-year-old graduating mentee Lara Kazarian, now a college student, conveyed her thanks for the program, stating, “I’ve been part of this since I was 13. I’m so thankful for AGBU GenNext, making it possible for kids to have someone to look up to. Hopefully I can become a mentor one day.” Graduating mentee and current college student, Taguhi Petrosyan, expressed sentiments about her mentor of five years, Rita Avedissian, saying, “My mentor is everything I always wanted to be, and I strive to be, just like her. I’m so happy to have been with AGBU. I now have so many loving people by my side and I know that they’ll always be there for me.”

As part of the graduation ceremony, eight mentors received the GenNext Five Award, an award honoring individuals who have been mentors for five or more years. These exceptional mentors include Rouzan Agadjanian, Rita Avedissian, Varoujan Bedirian, Varouj Jinbachian, Tsovinar Petoyan, Stephanie Surabian, Lori Yeghiayan, and Armen Yeghyazarians.

Generation Next donors Sarkis and Diana Tatusian were also honored at the program. The Tatusians recently made a special endowment dedicated to supporting the perennial stability of the program. “It is encouraging to see an Armenian outreach program that addresses the problems inherent in any community. We had been researching for several years to put our efforts into a program that addresses problems in the Armenian community in the US,” the Tatusians said. They continued, “We are confident we made the right choice. Generation Next provides the support for these kids to overcome their problems, excel academically and mature to become contributing members of the community. It also strengthens the bonds of these young men and women with their community and Armenian heritage.” Director of Generation Next, Ara Arzumanian, expressed his gratitude for the growing endowment, saying, “The investment of the Tatusians and other like-minded individuals not only provides the program with the resources we need to survive and thrive but also shows our youth that our community has not forgotten them; that there are people out there who truly care.”

Generation Next is continuously recruiting mentors and raising funds to meet the vast needs of the community. Although the program currently serves 109 youths, another 95 youths are on a waiting list. As program funding increases, Generation Next grows to serve more youths. To find out how you can get involved, contact Generation Next by phone, (626) 794-7942, or email, ara@agbugennext.org.