Wilmington High students respond to Armenian Genocide

Published: Tuesday January 05, 2010

Wilmington, Mass. -  

Students at Wilmington High School were so enamored by the Armenian Genocide, they expressed their feelings with words and actions.

            In a host of letters sent to the Armenian Genocide Curriculum Committee of Merrimack Valley, they took exception to the country's lackluster effort to get a Genocide Bill passed and vowed to help the cause in every way possible.

            The letter-writing campaign followed a program on Armenian Genocide offered by committee chairman Dro Kanayan, whose grandfather by the same name led the charge at Bash Abaran and Karakilese.

            Kanayan was joined by members Albert S. Movsesian and Tom Vartabedian. Together, they spent the day addressing various classes in an effort to get the Genocide curriculum activated in high schools north of Boston.

            "I can't wait to spread the word about the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide and the strength of the Armenian people," wrote Heather Crowe. "Until I was introduced to that important segment in world history, I knew little to nothing about the atrocities. The history and experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life."

            Another student from India equated the Genocide with similar turmoil in her native land.

            "The cultural and religious ties with Armenia intensified the feelings I have for my own Indian culture," wrote Nira Pandya. "Although I was born and raised in India, I, too, am struggling to keep my identity intact as I assimilate into the American mainstream. The Armenian Genocide must not go unpunished and coincides with the problems that face our society today."

            Amanda Hollenbeck was unaware that an Armenian Genocide took place in 1915 and gravitated to William Saroyan's epic tale, "The Armenian and the Armenian."

            "The world would be a better place if we all learned to live in harmony," wrote Martin Bamberg. "The Armenian Genocide was an event in history that should set a precedent among other troubled nations. It's important for students like us to raise awareness and maybe someday get Turkey to repay the Armenians for the crimes committed. An admission of guilt would be a step in the right direction."

            Among the initiatives being adopted by the class is an approach to the United States Postal Service to get a postage stamp adopted reflecting man's inhumanity to man in conjunction with the 95th anniversary of the genocide this year.

            "Our class is actually working on the stamp idea and sending it to the Postmaster General," wrote Allie Graham. "I find it particularly frustrating that the youth of America is not learning about the injustices against the Armenians."

            Kristi Adley wrote about the importance of ethnicity and how students like herself should identify with their roots while learning about others.

            "The only genocide I was familiar with was the Jewish holocaust," admitted Veronica Bell. "I'm very upset that Turkey will not make reparations and return the land to Armenia. I will do all I can to help spread the word of the Armenian Genocide so more people can learn about it."

            Students represented the junior and senior classes under the tutelage of Maura Tucker and Lisa Lucia who are utilizing the text, "Facing History and Ourselves." According to Tucker, students have the opportunity to reflect not only upon the universality of racism and social injustice but also upon the importance of global awareness.

            "They will use inquiry, analysis and interpretation in order to confront moral questions imbedded into history and literature," she pointed out.

            The Armenian Genocide subject was augmented by the country's geography, literature and contributions to world civilization. Students were also given a lesson on how to interview a survivor.

            "The response we've gotten from the outside community has been extremely positive," said Kanayan. "We'll continue to push forward until all the schools have been contacted. Our intent is to approach as many schools as possible to increase credibility on the subject."

            Contacts have also been made to Lowell, Chelmsford, Haverhill, Westford and Andover. Curriculum supervisors in those schools were more than enthusiastic with the genocide curriculum. At the very least, they agreed to open their classrooms to a program this spring.

            Other sessions have been completed at North Andover and Tewksbury.

            The curriculum committee has the support and endorsement of area churches and organizations, including Armenian legislators and noted educators.

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