July 11, 2021 marked the fifth anniversary of the grand opening of the Shirvanian Youth Center (SYC) in , .

Over the past five years, the Center has served the kids of the local community through many grassroots projects and programs. The SYC became a reality with the support and generosity of the late Hacob and Mina Shirvanian who championed empowering youth in Armenia and the United States.

Since 2016, the Center has served thousands of youth in Gyumri, which functions both as an educational and cultural hub. The staff at SYC coordinates and executes several free classes for youth in Gyumri. The educational programs include computer/IT, music including instrumental guitar and piano lessons, basketball, Armenian history, English, Russian and Armenian languages, mathematics and art. The Center also serves as the meeting place for Gyumri’s local Homenetmen “Vahan Cheraz” Chapter and in previous years has served as a campground for AYF-WR Youth Corps program. This summer, the program list expanded to include a Day Camp program.

This summer the Shirvanian Youth Center in collaboration with recipients of the Mina Shirvanian Scholarship planned, organized and launched a summer Day Camp for local children in Gyumri. The program themed “We Are Shushi” had 53 participants ranging in ages 6 to 12, and all of the counselors were Mina Shirvanian Scholarship recipients.

The dynamic camp program included fun and educational activities including lessons on Armenian history, English and Russian language, Mathematics, Computer Science and Robotics. Campers learned about historical national heroes including Njdeh, Dro, Aghbyur Serob and Sose Mayrig, as well as the Haytoug and Nemesis movements. They spent their days learning songs, dances, holding competitions, watching movies and playing games. The camp session came to a close with a hiking trip to Harichavanq, in Shirak, where they held song and educational competitions. Campers marked the end of the successful 10-day program in high emotions, with many of them recruiting into the ranks of the ARF Juniors in Gyumri. A second session will be held on July 20th for kids ages 12 to 18 years old.

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During the most recent Artsakh War and its aftermath, the Center once again was filled with activities in support of Artsakh, Armenia and our brave soldiers. The volunteers that included both local AYF members, Mina Shirvanian Scholarship recipients and volunteers from the Center helped with various projects. During the war, the Center focused on gathering supplies to help our soldiers. Another initiative was to assist families from Artsakh staying in Gyumri and Shirak Region. With the help of sponsors, the volunteers collected 285 blankets and boxes of hygiene items to provide to each family.

Another key focus of the “We Are Gyumri” initiative is the Mina Shirvanian Scholarship Fund. To date, there have been 37 recipients of scholarships for students who seek higher education in the Homeland. In the coming weeks, a new group of scholarship recipients will be announced. The selection process will include interviews with a focus on the students’ field of study, personal achievements, their decision to pursue their education in the Shirak province, volunteer experience, and more. The interview, along with a grading scale of criteria including grade point average, family circumstances, military service and background, allows for the selection of the final promising recipients.

The Mina Shirvanian Scholarship Fund, strictly available for residents of Shirak, is designed to encourage the youth in Gyumri to further their education without having to leave their homeland. The annual tuition is $750 per student. To sponsor a student or donate to the Mina Shirvanian Scholarship Fund, please click “We Are Gyumri” or send a check payable to “ACF” to ACF Shirak Youth Center, 104 N Belmont Avenue, Suite 300, Glendale, CA 91206.

The mission of the “We Are Gyumri” committee is to create a positive and lasting impact on youth in Gyumri, Armenia. The campaign restructured and renovated the Shirvanian Youth Center in Gyumri that had been destroyed during the 1988 Spitak earthquake. A year-round functional program was created at the Center to teach youth in Gyumri everyday skills, to provide them with the essentials they need for a brighter future, and to serve as a bridge between youth in Gyumri and their peers in the Diaspora. As another component of the campaign, the “We Are Gyumri” Mina Shirvanian Scholarship Fund is intended for residents of the Shirak Province to pursue their undergraduate education in their native region. “We are Gyumri” is an ARF Western U.S. initiative.

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