Armenian Student Association created at University of Miami, aims to promote culture, heritage

After a year of assembling and organizing, the Armenian Student Association (ASA) is now recognized as an official student organization at the University of Miami, The Miami Hurricane reports. 

President Mercedes Alvarez-Gechidjian worked with the Committee on Student Organizations (COSO) since January 2014 to get the organization formally recognized. Now that they are official, ASA has big plans for the campus community.

“We want to let the campus know that we are here and to show everyone our beautiful culture,” said Alvarez-Gechidjian, a junior international studies major. “We want to educate Floridians about the Armenian culture. People don’t know where Armenia is, they don’t know what Armenia is about and how rich our culture is, so our main goal is to let them know.”

Events are being planned to expose the campus community to the tradition, events and holidays that the Armenian culture celebrates. One idea is an Armenian dinner where guests can try khorovats and kebabs, traditional Armenian barbecue.

“Armenians love meat,” Alvarez-Gechidjian said of the proposed event.

An Armenian Easter is also planned. Alvarez-Gechidjian wants the organization to be a home away from home for students, Armenian or otherwise.

Having lived in various places such as China, Kuwait, India and Mongolia, Alvarez-Gechidjian, who has Argentinean roots, first came to Florida in 2013 and attended Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale. When she transferred to the University of Miami in the fall of 2014, she met many Armenians but found no club to represent them.

“We all knew an Armenian in UM, so we decided to start a club. It was just an idea we had and we went for it,” she said.

While making the club official, Alvarez-Gechidjian and the other organizers still tried to maintain close family ties within the group. They made trips to St. Mary Armenian Apostolic Church in Ft. Lauderdale and began connecting with Florida International University’s Armenian club.

“I am happy that the Armenian student body is coming together on this,” sophomore  and ASA member Michael Ara Bezjian said. “Being a part of a small community or group that takes care of each other is a part of Armenian heritage. It’s a good way to remind us of our roots when we’re busy with school and commitments.”

The club will still have to do an orientation with COSO to learn what it means to be a student organization and what is expected of them on campus. However, the club already has plans lined up and a sense of family among them.

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