Coinciding with their board meeting in Montreal over the weekend of June 20-22, AGBU President Berge Setrakian, along with central board members from around the world and representatives of the organization, completed a full agenda of public engagements—starting with a private meeting with the premier of Québec, followed by a town hall with Canadian-Armenian youth and concluding with a cocktail reception between board members and the community. The predominant theme of the tour focused on cross-cultural education, a clear reflection of the nearly 35,000 Canadian Armenians residing in the Francophone province of Québec.
Berge Setrakian Meets with Premier of Québec
On June 20, Mr. Setrakian met with the Premier of Québec Francois Legault at his government offices to discuss ways to promote La Francophonie in Armenia and strengthen Québec-Armenia relations through mutual efforts to safeguard language and identity in the global age. Premier Legault reaffirmed his stance that education is one of the top priorities of his government and was gratified to know that AGBU shared the same conviction, observing, “The Armenian community in Québec is a great model of integration. Every day Armenians contribute to the prosperity of our society.”
AGBU Cross-Cultural Initiatives
Evidence of AGBU’s expertise in education was highlighted throughout the weekend, citing such shining examples as AGBU Alex Manoogian School’s highly effective curriculum for orienting newly arrived students from war-torn countries like Syria into the Canadian community—a model program that has been adopted city wide.
Moreover, just a day prior to the meeting with the premier, AGBU school principal Chahé Tanachian signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Québec Chess Federation for the purpose of promoting and teaching chess through coursework, tournaments and workshops via AGBU Armenian Virtual College (AVC). Both entities committed to submit a detailed plan to the Québec Education Department for its approval to make chess mandatory in schools. The project was inspired by the Republic of Armenia, which, in 2011, made chess part of its core curriculum.
“It’s a very special day for our school,” stated Tanachian. “Studies clearly show that playing chess has many benefits for children such as better concentration, memory, creativity and logic.”
Richard Bérubé, Director of the Québec Chess Federation, agreed, saying, “We are thrilled by the opportunity of bringing chess to the everyday school program of the Alex Manoogian School. Playing chess starting at a young age can become the difference maker in a child’s development.”
Adding to these impressive initiatives is Montreal’s framework agreement with the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF), a global network of French-language universities and research institutions. Under the agreement, AUF will award scholarships to four recipients and AGBU will coordinate the selection of candidates and help assist in settling in and easing their transition to a new community. The first doctoral students from Armenia will be arriving in Québec in January 2020.
Town Hall with Canadian Armenian Youth
On June 21, a town hall attended by over 200 members of the Armenian community featured a distinguished panel moderated by retired Canadian Ambassador to Lebanon and Libya Haig Sarafian with opening and closing remarks by Chair of AGBU Montreal chapter Chahé Tanachian, the current principal and alumnus of AGBU Alex Manoogian School. Presenters and discussants included AGBU central board members Arda Haratunian, Sarkis Jebejian and Lena Sarkissian, along with Director of AGBU’s Department of Alternative Education Natalie Gabrelian.
Sarkissian and Gabrelian demonstrated how AGBU has been a force for education throughout its century old history. Their presentation covered the broad range of learning opportunities from traditional and experiential to innovative alternatives in e-learning and after-school programs. One young audience member Lara Kollokian, a graduate of Alex Manoogian School and second-year Software Engineering student at McGill University who also runs AGBU school’s extracurricular robotics program, summed it up best: “After seeing all these programs and initiatives, it’s such an exciting time to be a young Armenian.”
Central board member and assistant secretary Arda Haratunian described the wealth of AGBU programs and projects focusing on other pillars of the AGBU mission, namely Identity/Culture, Humanitarian Relief and Socioeconomic Development.
During the Q&A session with Armenian youth, topics ranged from providing programs for children with special needs, a new e-tool called Atlas by AGBU that curates and aggregates online resources in Armenian Education, and other alternative learning products that complement traditional formats. Other questions touched upon the changes in Armenia since the Velvet Revolution in 2018 and how AGBU is fostering self-empowerment among the women of Armenia through its Women’s Entrepreneurs (W.E.) program.
In his closing remarks, Mr. Setrakian commented on how the world has changed: “Everything is more universal. The youth of today are fully integrated in their respective countries, but they are also proud of their Armenian identity.”
Closing Reception for Board Members
The weekend came to a festive close on Saturday evening as over 200 guests gathered at the waterside venue Centre des Sciences in Montreal to meet and interact with members of AGBU’s highest governing body and thank them for a productive visit that will help set the stage for a dynamic era in cross-cultural exchange between Armenians and the Francophone world.
For more information about AGBU educational opportunities on multiple platforms, visit www.agbu.org/education.
The Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) is the world’s largest non-profit
organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage through educational,
cultural and humanitarian programs. Each year, AGBU is committed to making
a difference in the lives of 500,000 people across Armenia, Artsakh and the
Armenian diaspora. Since 1906, AGBU has remained true to one overarching
goal: to create a foundation for the prosperity of all Armenians.
To learn more visit www.agbu.org.