DETROIT: Armenian school puts students in multicultural USA

Armenian school puts students in multicultural USA

School honors rich heritage; Southfield’s Manoogian emphasizes Armenian
culture and history

The Detroit News
Neighborhood News (Southfield / Oak Park, MI)
June 7-13, 2004
Section U
Page 7U

By Andrea Bogos, The Detroit News

SOUTHFIELD — Armenian culture is everywhere at the AGBU Alex & Marie
Manoogian School.

It is on a stage with the kindergarten students rehearsing for their
upcoming graduation singing “I wish I could fly to Armenia.”

It is in the classroom with the eigth- and 11th-grade students
presenting projects about the future of Armenian heritage on topics like
an Armenian monastery and a famous Armenian artist.

It is also on the walls of the school, with pictures of past graduates
and the painted words “It’s easy to be born Armenian, but it is
difficult to remain one.”

Heritage is everywhere at this Armenian General Benevolent Union Alex &
Marie Manoogian School, and it is weaved into a curriculum that offers
students from kindergarten through 12th grade a unique education.

“It teaches me about my heritage,” said Vatche Bassmagian, 16, of
Southfield. “You’re a name here and not a number.”

The school will turn 35 in October and this summer will undergo an
expansion and renovation project, including a new media center and new
classrooms.

Started by Armenian philanthropist Alex Manoogian of Detroit, the school
stands by its mission to provide a quality education while enriching
students about Armenian history, regardless of whether they are of
Armenian heritage. About 65 percent of students are Armenian.

The Manoogian School offers free classes for students in grades K-12 and
a tuition-based prekindergarten program. Since the school became a
charter school 10 years ago, enrollment has jumped from 150 to 370.

Families typically find out about the school through word of mouth, said
Hosep Torossian, the assistant principal. With a population of 30,000
Armenians in Metro Detroit, the need for the school is there, he said.

“The community is strong and there is a demand to perpetuate the
culture,” Torossian said. “Not only are we exposing them to culture, but
also they learn world history.”

Coupled with the education is the close bonds students make while at
school, said Principal Nadya Sarafian.

“They know who they are and where they came from,” Dr. Sarafian said.
“Many of the students build life-long relationships.”

The school commemorates the Armenian genocide and has hosted guest
speakers, like a popular Armenian pop singer. Faculty and students agree
the experience at the school is well-rounded.

“The teachers care about you here,” said Rusha Waad, 16.

Sebouh Avedikian teaches Armenian language and history classes. He said
what students learn can be applied in many ways in their lives.

“It is a multicultural USA,” he said. “Here they learn about their
neighbors and most importantly, tolerance.”

One of the seven members of the first graduating class, Dr. Linda Darian
Karibian, now sends her daughter Ani to the school and volunteers for
field trips and to give students free dental check-ups.

“The aspect of preserving our Armenian heritage is very important,” she
said. “It’s a caring and nurturing environment, which is important for a
child’s development.”

You can reach Andrea Bogos at (313) 222-2613 or ([email protected]).

ABOUT THE SCHOOL
– Where it is: 22001 Northwestern Highway, Southfield, Michigan.
– Tuition: Free for students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
– Students attending all grades and preschool: 370
– Class size: The range is 19 to 28 students per classroom.
– Age: The school celebrates its 35th year in October.
– Phone: (248) 569-2988.
Source: Assistant Principal Hosep Torossian.

Photo caption: “The Armenian General Benevolent Union Alex & Marie
Manoogian School in Southfield teaches Armenian heritage to students
like Paulina Sidi and Alex Baljian. ‘You’re a name here and not a
number,’ said student Vatche Bassmagian”. Photo credit: Elizabeth Conley
/ Special to The Detroit News.

Photo caption: “Kindergartners rehearse a song and dance for graduation
ceremonies. The school stands by its mission to provide a quality
education while enriching students about Armenian history.” Photo
credit: John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News.

Photo caption: “Mher Tcholakian stretches his muscles on the Manoogian
school playground. The heritage-based school turns 35 in October.” Photo
credit: John M. Galloway / Special to The Detroit News.

You may also like