Happening on Summer Street

A new program for record-breaking Camp Haiastan Teen Session

FRANKLIN, Mass.—The summer program and activities of AYF Camp Haiastan are reviewed and discussed at length during the off-season (September-May), and last year was no exception.

The Board of Directors decided to update the Teen Session schedule to introduce additional activities, ranging from challenging, educational and entertaining. Teen Session is limited to campers who are ages 15 and 16, along with 14-year-olds who are entering their sophomore year of high school.

With a record-breaking 123 teen campers this year, the new activities reached a large group of youth. Although many campers live in the heavily Armenian-populated states of New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, 13 other states, including Texas and California, were also represented. Campers also traveled from England, Brussels and France.

The board welcomed AYF Camp Haiastan Program Coordinator Seran Tcholakian to prepare and implement the new teen program. Tcholakian brought her professional background as a longtime teacher at the Alex and Marie Manoogian School in Southfield, MI, and her many years of involvement with Camp Haiastan to her role. Tcholakian has been a camper, a staffer and a summer director, as well as the mother of campers and counselors.

“We wanted to select someone who understood the needs of the camp’s current campers and staff to ensure the continuation of a positive, developmentally appropriate and special experience,” Board of Directors chairperson Hratch Najarian stated. “Digin Seran was asked to develop a new program to address the needs of the different age groups.”

The age and education level of the teens allowed for a varied number of activities, both in and outside of camp.

On the second day of the two-week session, 150 campers and counselors boarded buses and headed to Watertown, Massachusetts, home to many Armenian churches and institutions. The Boston suburb has played a significant role in the American-Armenian community.

Teen Session campers touring the Armenian Museum of America in Watertown with guide and director of finance Berj Chekijian

The campers visited the Armenian Museum of America located in Watertown Square, where they were greeted by the staff, including executive director Jason Sohigian. They then traveled to the Hairenik building where they received a tour of the Archives by director George Aghjayan, learned about the newspapers the Armenian Weekly and Hairenik Weekly from their editors Pauline Getzoyan and Zaven Torikian, respectively, and concluded with the Armenian Relief Society, Eastern Region (ARS) executive director Vart Chiloyan. The ARS has been a benefactor and supporter of Camp Haiastan since the property was acquired in 1940.

The Armenian Preference Day cooking class option was elevated to a manti class. Michael and Susan Guzelian, longtime supporters and volunteers, demonstrated the fine art of making manti. The enthusiastic campers quickly learned how to prepare the labor-intensive Armenian delicacy. Later that evening, the manti was baked and served with yogurt and tomato sauce to the hungry campers.

Campers learning about the ARS of Eastern USA programs from executive director Vart Chiloyan

Thursday’s professional day brought the largest number of outside volunteers to camp during a single session. The teens took part in one-and-a-half hour seminars on a topic of their choice. The areas offered were marketing, cooking, jewelry design, basketball, football, soccer, engineering, politics and art.

“We were thrilled that we had 10 groups with 15 different professionals in the particular fields presenting at our Thursday afternoon seminar,” Tcholakian stated. “Our goal was to engage these 15- and 16-year-olds in the discussion of an area that interests them and perhaps they may want to pursue in the future,” she added.

This activity allowed the teenagers to meet specialists in various professions, but it also provided a unique opportunity for the presenters to participate in Camp Haiastan life. All were impressed and inspired by the concentration of so many young Armenians in one place. In a letter thanking the Board and Tcholakian for inviting her to participate in this Professional Day, Ani Babaian, who led the art class, wrote, “The overall atmosphere of Camp Haiastan spoke volumes about its efficient management, and the happy and enthusiastic campers reinforced this impression. Their engagement and enjoyment confirm that your efforts have had a positive impact. I am genuinely impressed by the teens in my workshop. They are talented, educated, well-behaved, and energetic.”

Teen Session campers have a conference call with Artsakh youth

Hye Jahm (Armenian Hour) classes focused entirely on one subject. The topic selected was Artsakh. In addition to its history, current affairs, and the social and political life of the region, all teen campers learned a traditional Artsakh dance. However, the highlight of the week was the video conference call between the AYF Camp Haiastan campers and the ARF youth of Artsakh.  It was a memorable event for youth from the Diaspora and the homeland. Later, the teens wrote letters to their counterparts.

Campers write letters to their Artsakh counterparts

“Overall, we are pleased with the introduction of new activities to the camp schedule while maintaining and improving the decades-old traditions of Camp Haiastan, such as the Peanut (now Starburst) Carnival, Vartevar, Detective Game, Back Breaker, Alphabet Games and many other games and programs that three generations have now experienced,” stated Najarian.


The Staff and Management extend their deep appreciation to those who participated in Professional Day 

Peter Alemian ● Ani Babaian ● Taline Badrikian ● Steve Elmasian ● Grace Eziglioglu ● Daron Hamparian ● Theresa Jelalian ● Katherine Kazarian ●  Anto Keshgegian ●  Talar Malkadjian ● Steve Mesrobian ●  Billy Manzo ● Garo Tashian ● Sasoun Tcholakian ● Mher Tcholakian ● Dave Tikoian ●  Berge Zobian

This article was original published on The Armenian Weekly.


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