HomeBlocksFront-GridBalboa Elementary Students Dazzle Displaying Armenian Pride

Balboa Elementary Students Dazzle Displaying Armenian Pride

Students from Balboa Elementary School showcased their talents and pride while paying tribute to Armenian culture at the school’s Armenian Heritage Assembly on Tuesday with a variety of performances.
With the month of April recognized as both Armenian Heritage & History Month and Armenian Genocide Remembrance Month, Balboa Principal Sona Arakelyan, who immigrated to the United States from Armenia as a teenager, organized an assembly dedicated to celebrating the culture of her homeland.
From a poetry reading to singing performances — by the Balboa Chorus and individual students — to dance recitals, about three dozen students put on an energetic show for about 900 Balboa Elementary students, faculty and parents. Students sang “Tun Im Hayreni” by Arabo Ispiryan, “Im Hayreniq” and “Im Annu Hay e,” and danced “Ser Kochari” and “Tsakhgats Baleni.”
Balboa frequently hosts assemblies to teach students about other cultures, usually through music, dance or other engaging outlets. Typically for these assemblies, the school brings in outside resources, but with such a strong Armenian community within the school, this time Balboa turned to its staff and students alike.
Balboa academic counselor Arevik Nersesyan, who is a former dancer, put together a group of students interested in dance and taught them routines. Students worked with Nersesyan on their own time, during recess, lunch, before and after school, to craft the performance. Their dedication shone through as the audience excitedly watched, weeks of practice and hard work coming to fruition.
Nersesyan and Zhanna Tevosyan, a fifth-grade teacher at Balboa, capped off the assembly’s close by dancing the “Uzundara,” a traditional, lyrical Armenian dance. Students’ cheers roared throughout the school site as they watched the duo perform.
While many students who performed in the assembly were Armenian, Arakelyan was thrilled that students who were not Armenian were also interested in participating and learning the traditional dance and songs. Incorporating dance and music helps the children learn about other cultures, rather than simply telling students to read about them in a textbook, Arakelyan noted.
Students involved in student government also gave a brief overview of Armenian history during the assembly.
With students this age, teaching about Armenian History Month requires a delicate approach, she added. While Arakelyan wants to ensure the students understand the background of why it is important to honor the victims of the genocide, she notes it is important to keep things appropriate for them.
“I always tell the teachers that when students ask about genocide, just say, ‘It’s when one culture wants to erase the history or the traditions of another culture, and that includes also erasing people,’” Arakelyan said.
Framing the narrative in a way that shifts toward resilience and cultural strength is the message Arakelyan wanted to accomplish in the assembly.
“I wanted there to be a smooth transition where we go from history and tragedy to then survival, resilience and celebration of life,” she said.
With all the strife and negativity in the world between different groups, Arakelyan stressed the importance of teaching elementary-aged children acceptance, saying these cultural assemblies are a great way to reach students.
“This is our future generation and if they can learn to be kind, then we wouldn’t have the wars that we have and we wouldn’t have the hatred we have,” Arakelyan said. “I want them to see the beautiful side of every culture.”

For Balboa Elementary’s Armenian Heritage Assembly, students volunteer to sing songs, recite poetry and perform dances to honor Armenian culture. – Photo courtesy Balboa Elementary School

First published in the April 27 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

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