Sunday, June 12th, was a day of rejoice at St. Thomas Armenian Church! Graduates, students, faculty, parents and family celebrated the end of the Kirikian Armenian School year at the annual ‘Hantes’ and graduation ceremony. This year’s ‘Hantes’ was truly exceptional, as a record number of students (135) participated in a rich program that included traditional Armenian song, dance, poems, presentations, and poignant words from the heart of the school’s bright scholars.
Students from the first through seventh grade marched toward the stage in Saddler Hall so enthusiastically, wearing beautifully sewn traditional Armenian costumes and proudly waving Armenian flags. This enthusiasm set the tone for the entire program! It was a delight to see the graduating kindergarten students, ‘dzaghig tasaran,’ walk alongside the graduating seventh grade students to join the rest of the student body in front of the stage. During their walk to the stage, the kindergarten students carried flowers which later they gave to the 7th grade graduates. These young students will take their example from the older graduates as they continue to grow and learn our rich and ancient Armenian language, history, and more.
Everyone was immediately treated to various wonderful songs and hymns, taught and directed throughout the school year by Mrs. Marie Zokian and Dr. Levon Capan. In her opening welcome, Principal Ani Capan stated that 2016 was an especially successful year, where the Kirikian School’s staff was full with “desire and joy, capability, and responsibility.” “We welcome that responsibility,” she said, citing the large graduating kindergarten class. “These are the children who will fill our churches,” she said as she and Fr. Papken happily presented each young student with his/her diploma.
The students and teachers had prepared such a lovely program, with a wide variety of presentations to showcase our wonderful students. Each of the first through seventh graders participated in traditional Armenian dance to popular music. Thanks to their creative dance instructor, Ms. Simone Shenloogian, the students filled the room with liveliness. Everyone clapped in time as the youngest and teenage students displayed their traditional dancing skills. Graduating seventh grade student, Arianna Altihan, also performed a beautifully graceful solo folk dance. It was truly a joy of which to be a part.
The sixth grade also recited ‘Im Joghovurt, Im Hayrenik,’ prior to saying their heartfelt words to the graduating seventh grade on their departure. The sixth grade bilingual presentation was just an example of how every student is given the same opportunity to be immersed in learning about their history and culture, and how happy they are to express that they have made a great family of Armenian friends here. One such example of this friendship is through the growth of the St. Thomas Youth Orchestra, directed by Mrs. Diana Bourghol. They also beautifully performed two well-known Armenian songs at the ‘Hantes.’
After an informative presentation on the Kingdoms of Armenia by the regular seventh grade, the bilingual seventh grade graduates presented a nostalgic slideshow of their years at the Kirikian Armenian School. Listening to their narration and seeing the looks on their past and present teachers’ faces was priceless. It is clear that their attendance to this Armenian school has made a lasting positive impact on their lives. Upon receiving their diplomas, Principal Capan thanked their teachers, Mrs. Sirvart Demirjian and Ms. Helen Minasyan, for their decades of teaching experience resulting in this proud graduating class of fifteen students.
A seventh grade highlight of the ‘Hantes’ was the “Farewell Address” by Garo Amerkanian. The spotlight of his speech was that the “Teachers most importantly inspired the Armenian spirit. I am so honored to be an Armenian. There is nothing better that could’ve happened to me. We have survived all of the curveballs thrown at us, whether it was being forced to fight or renounce our faith, or march into the deserts, and yet we are still here in an Armenian Apostolic Church.”
Fr. Papken concluded with many points, including that the Kirikian Armenian School is “the most organized” school in the Diocese. It is through the efforts of the school’s outstanding leadership and staff that its students flourish. The teaching staff “considers the students theirs, and teach them with love and care,” Fr. Papken stresses. The purpose of the Kirikian Armenian School is “to perpetuate the 3,000 year old glorious Armenian nation with her precious principals, customs, and traditions; and to keep the flame of the Armenian Apostolic Church alive.” This is achieved through education, and the Kirikian Armenian School delivers on all of these points in an environment in which students have fun learning. To that point, Principal Capan stresses the importance of “One Parent One Language,” for bilingual parents, where conversation begins and is strengthened at home. The Kirikian School offers classes for both Armenian-speaking and non-Armenian speaking students alike, allowing for both to participate equally in the education of the Armenian culture and faith.
After the presentations of outstanding student awards, tokens of appreciation to the school’s support group and assistants, Principal Ani Capan sincerely thanked all the parents for bringing their children to our wonderful school, indicating that those who feel proud of their culture will be the ones who also keep the Armenian Church alive. The ‘Hantes’ ended on a high note with the entire student body singing more traditional Armenian songs before everyone migrated to the Mekhjian Atrium to take pictures and congratulate each other at the reception prepared by members of the Mother’s Committee.