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Mentoring program opens site in Glendale

Armenian youth face myriad hurdles as they navigate teenage years, officials say.

November 09, 2010|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com

Just weeks after opening, the mentoring and after-school program Generation Next is already attracting dozens of local teenagers to its new Glendale site, Director Ara Arzumanian said.

Funded and operated by the Armenian General Benevolent Union, an international nonprofit, Generation Next provides social and academic support services to middle school and high school students.

Previously operated out of offices in Pasadena, the program moved last month to 1230 E. Broadway, just blocks from Glendale High School. A party to formally celebrate the opening is scheduled for 3 p.m. Nov. 20.

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Among the services available through Generation Next is a structured mentorship program that pairs Armenian teens with academically and professionally successful adults. Mentors include lawyers, pharmacists, teachers and entertainment industry professionals, Arzumanian said.

And students are selected through a collaboration with Glendale school officials who help identify teens who need more attention.

"They are facing all the big-city issues," Arzumanian said. "People still look at Glendale as a little town, but we are really a big city at this point. There is drugs, there is violence, there is promiscuity."

In addition, some behaviors once regarded as teenage mischief are now treated as crimes, including skipping class, smoking cigarettes and getting into fights. All are reprehensible, Arzumanian said, and can snowball into a criminal record.

Generation Next now supervises 107 mentor relationships, Arzumanian said, and there is a waiting list 95 children deep.

Glendale High School junior Argisht Ter-Issayan, 16, has participated in the mentorship program for more than two years. Highlights include paintballing, camping and movie nights, he said.

And he has quickly become a regular at the new Glendale site.

"It has been three weeks since they opened, and I have been here every day," Argisht said.

Generation Next also offers a non-structured, after-school program during which students can come and go as they please. Students use the time to complete homework, research colleges and socialize.

The format allows staff to hear about and address both academic and social issues that arise during the school week, Arzumanian said.

"I have yet to meet one child who didn't want to change their life for the better," he said.

Officially, the site is open until 6 p.m., Arzumanian said, but it is not unusual for staff and students to linger well past 8 p.m.

Hoover High School student Ann Arakelyan, 15, said she learned about Next Generation through a friend. Now her father drops her off several days a week.

"The people here are really nice," Ann said. "They help me with my homework. I would recommend for any kid to come here."

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