May 14, 2007

Amherst, New Hampshire- On Wednesday, May 9, student’s grade 9-12 of Souhegan High School, gathered in the school’s theater to watch Armenian student Rachel Manoogian-Brayman video, break the silence of her descendents and share the stories that have haunted her cultures past for a long time. Rachel Manoogian-Brayman speaking to students at Souhegan High School

The video was originally made for the schools graduation requirement, “Senior Project”. The goal of the project is to make students pick a topic that they are passionate about, create an essential question and produce and applied piece that will answer it. Souhegan High School is apart of the Coalition of Essential Schools and has been doing senior project for many years. Manoogian-Brayman picked the topic of the Armenian Genocide and her essential question was; “What are the intergenerational effects of genocide on a culture?” As for her applied piece, she answered her question through a video that made its way through the generations to show how it affects every Armenian. “My Dad is Jewish and his family was apart of the Holocaust, and my Mom is Armenian, and her family endured and survived the genocide. I really wanted to stress that because I think the world has cast a real dark shadow on the massacre of the Armenians” explains Manoogian-Brayman.

Manoogian-Brayman and mentor Pam McGrath started forming and researching her essential question and ideas for the video in November. In December, she began filming Armenians all over her area (New Hampshire and Massachusetts). “It was really interesting to see how the silence became less as you went through the generations, you can tell that every person is eager to spread knowledge about this” says Manoogian-Brayman. The video is 20 minutes long and includes authentic footage of the emotions, effects and issues that connect with the Armenian Genocide. The schools world studies classes, film seminar and ethics seminar viewed the video first, and Manoogian-Brayman received very positive feed back. “It was very informative. The pictures were real moving and the personal stories were very engaging” comments 11th grade world studies teacher Gavin Sturges. Ethics teacher Chris Brooks said that “It was outstanding work and there is a lot that can be done with this.” Film student Ali Bower said “It was unbelievable how she really captured the best parts of the interviews and got the best emotional standpoints.” Students said that this was interesting to watch, especially because they had no idea this ever happened. “I didn’t even know about the Armenian Genocide,” says World Studies student Andew Beliveau, “it was really moving.”

The faculty and student body was invited to watch the final showing; two were shown during the school’s lunch periods. She received a standing ovation and had over one hundred viewers for both sessions. “My Grandfather was in the first audience, he needed to see the school honoring his past and our culture” said Manoogian-Brayman, “I hope that he and my family left the theater knowing that more than 100 people were now more knowledgeable about the genocide then they were before they came into the room.”

Rachel has been in contact with Armenian author Peter Balakian (Black Dog of Fate, The Burning Tigris) and has also been in touch with Armenian National Committee of America, Eastern Region Executive Director Karine Birazian. “She got me involved with petitions and things involving my state. She’s done incredible work and I’m so glad we’re in contact,” says Manoogian-Brayman. Students and teachers accumulated more than 100 signatures urging Congresswoman Shea-Porter and Senator Gregg to sign on to H. Res and S. Res 106, and thanking Congressman Hodes and Senator Sununu for their support.

Students at Souhegan High School signing petitions to Members of Congress urging support for the Armenian Genocide Resolution, (S.Res & H. Res 106)

Although many people were not familiar with the Armenian Genocide, they had a great response to the movie. “This was so amazing” says 11th/12th grade biology teacher Melissa Chapman, “Rachel really set the bar for senior project applied research. I wanted to go congratulate her afterwards, but I was reduced to a puddle of tears after seeing her work.” 9th grade teacher Tom Sawyer mentioned “It was the most amazing senior project I’ve ever seen in the 12 years I have been here.” Manoogian-Brayman also found that silence was an equivalent to a compliment too. “So many people were just silent after she finished. They needed time to digest it, and then after awhile, vocalize their thoughts” said Ethics teacher Amy Pham. Student Carly Walker said “It was so amazing! I cried!” Other students such as Evan Ommundsen said “I had no idea who ‘the Armenians’ were before seeing this.” School nurse said “I still get chills when I think about it.” Teachers and students both said that this has not only raised awareness by interests in this topic as well.

Manoogian-Brayman will be presenting her complete research and project on May 16th in front of the official panel. However, she strongly feels that this project will be continued and built upon far beyond the project date. “I owe this to my family, my grandparents and to all the Armenians. The survivors are old, but I am young, and I want to work hard to make sure they get to experience a sense of recognition and honor before its too late.”

Photo Captions:
Photo #1: Rachel Manoogian-Brayman speaking to students at Souhegan High School

Photo #2: Students at Souhegan High School signing petitions to Members of Congress urging support for the Armenian Genocide Resolution, (S.Res & H. Res 106)

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Karine Birazian
Email / Tel: (917) 428-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
Eastern Region
PO Box 1066, New York, NY 10040
Tel. (917) 428-1918 * Fax. (718) 478-4073 * Email. ancaer@anca.org
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