YMCA Europe Empowers a New Generation of Youth in Armenia

Recipients of the YMCA Europe Scholarship at AUA

The European Alliance of YMCAs, through their Generation Next program, established a scholarship grant at the American University of Armenia (AUA) that was awarded to eight students this academic year. 

The YMCA Generation Next scholarship program was designed to enhance knowledge and skills among socially vulnerable youth and empower them to lead meaningful and independent lives with the ability to contribute to building a strong civil society. When asked why they chose to support students specifically from AUA, Executive Secretary Vardan Hambardzumyan responded, “YMCA is a significant part of the American social fabric, so we thought it would be fitting and interesting for AUA students to get to know the organization better and draw experiences from it.”

Through the program, the scholarship recipients also partake in internships with Rootsmade, designed to help them develop into future leaders. In a recent meeting, the students, representatives of AUA, and the YMCA Europe Team met to discuss the progress from the internships and assess the students’ involvement and their feedback.

Representative of YMCA Europe with AUA scholarship recipients

The Rootsmade initiative was made possible under the auspices of the YMCA Europe Roots for Peace project and in cooperation with the Syrian Armenian Union. The program helps over 20 craftspeople from war-affected areas sell their handmade products and adapt to their new lives. The scope of the AUA students’ involvement with the internship includes helping the program participants in photography, videography, and graphic design; online marketing, web content development, and social media; product development; event support; and more. 

One of the students, Kristina Azizyan (LL.M. ‘24), commented: “Working with YMCA and Rootsmade was quite emotional and inspiring, since we were working with people representing their own stories and creations. I enjoyed the freedom of thought and expression, and we were encouraged to propose ideas and think outside the box. This project contributed to my social skills in journalism and time management.”

AUA interns with vendors at the Rootsmade fair in Yerevan, August 2022

On August 6, 2022, in cooperation with the Yerevan Municipality and Syrian-Armenian Union, a Rootsmade charity-fair was organized, during which vendors introduced their handmade crafts to the community as well as tourists in the heart of Yerevan. AUA students were present to help the vendors in their presentations about preserving Western Armenian cultural heritage through their handiwork.

 “I was a volunteer for the Rootsmade charity-fair event, which was a truly impressive and interactive experience, especially since it gave me a chance to give back to this amazing community. It developed my ability to communicate with different people and become more empathetic to the problems and feelings of those around me. Additionally, I learned a lot about photo editing and social media marketing,” said Ani Grigoryan (LL.M. ‘23). 

Another student, Ilona Babayan (BAB ‘24), shared: “Throughout this time, I got acquainted with new people and cultures. It really made me realize how important it is to volunteer and help people without expecting anything in return. It was a pleasure to organize the event and simultaneously learn more about photography and management.”

AUA interns with vendors at the Rootsmade fair in Yerevan, August 2022

“With the Generation Next initiative, we want to give the beneficiary students opportunities to gain soft-skills, which, combined with their academic knowledge, may help them find meaningful work after graduation,” noted Hambardzumyan, adding, “A society where people love the work they do is a happy society.”

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