Karine Smbatyan, Director of Sardarapat Middle School, and Karen Gharslyan

Karine Smbatyan, Director of Sardarapat Middle School,
and Karen Gharslyan

Zvartnots Launches New IT Center for Youngsters

by Muriel Mirak-Weissbach
the Armenian Mirror Spectator
VAGHARSHAPAT, Armenia, FEBRUARY 29, 2024 — On February 3, over 65 people gathered in Zvartnots, Vagharshapat for the festive inauguration of a new IT center for youngsters. Presiding over the ceremonies were Lilia Totalyan, who is president of the Social Support Computer Center NGO in Echmiadzin; Angelina Arshakyan, Executive Director, “ZATIK” Yerevan Child Assistance Center State Non-Profit Organization (Ministry of Labor and Social Issues of the Republic of Armenia); Karine Smbatyan, Executive director, Sardarapat Secondary School, Armavir Marz, Sardarapat village; and, Lilit Petrosyan, Executive director, Vagharshapat Basic School Nr. 1.

DoReMeet NGO

DoReMeet NGO

Karen Gharslyan, co-founder of the initiative together with Tatev Terteryan, had arrived from Wiesbaden, Germany, where he lives and works as an IT architectural manager. Several Executive Directors of schools were on hand, from Vagharshapat, Alvard Hayrapetyan, High School Nr. 2, Hranush Grigoryan, Basic School Nr. 8, and Alissa Babayan, Vagharshapat Basic School Nr. 12; Liana Barbasova, Legal department of Vagharshapat municipality, and Nrani Mekhakyan, Vagharshapat Centre Coordinator at Youth Initiative Centre (YIC) Armenia, Vice Director Mariam Harutyunyan, from the central office of the Armenian Church Youth Organization, as well as Lusine Aghajanyan HR manager of World Council of Churches Armenia Round Table Foundation.

Gharslyan and Terteryan officially cut the red ribbon and accompanied guests into the education center, where Rev. Hovhannes Kesablyan, Assistant of the Grand Sacristan of the Mother See, opened the ceremony. Gharslyan delivered greetings from co-sponsor of the project, the Mirak-Weissbach Stiftung, and Lilia Totolyan, speaking on behalf of the Social Support Computer Center, also warmly thanked the sponsors for the financial support.

The training center bears the name “BrAIn Lab” and offers instruction in computer skills for youngsters, in part free of charge. Totalyan, who designed the program, is the instructor of a course on “Internet Challenges – Cyber Security and Cyber Hygiene” within the framework of the “Civic Education” program of the World Council of Churches Armenia Round Table foundation. The new initiative is designed to responds to growing demand for various specialists with computer skills and familiarity with new technologies. BrAIn Lab introduces people of different age groups to state of the art digital and non-digital tools, methods, and skills. Computer technology has become a must for the education process everywhere. The children will get acquainted with the structure of the computer, learn to compile and design documents, make calculations, and prepare presentations as well as web sites.

Karen Gharslyan and Angelina Arshakyan, director of ZATIK

Karen Gharslyan and Angelina Arshakyan, director of ZATIK

The course is intended for 10-15 year-old children displaced from Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) who have settled in Echmiadzin city, as well as for children from Aragats section of Echmiadzin city and Zvartnots district. The lessons are designed in three sections: computer literacy, with basic knowledge of computer types, structures, devices, operating systems (including Microsoft Office); photo and video editors, introducing graphic and video programs; and, engineering art and programming, basic as well as, in a second stage, relatively more advanced WEB programming.

To meet the needs of low-income families, especially those of refugees from Artsakh, the organizers launched a fundraising drive in Germany, led by Gharslyan. In addition, he has made his Zvardnots office space available free of charge for classroom use, and organized donations of laptop computers.

To select scholarship recipients, the education center launched a competition, together with the Vagharshapat “Zoravar Andranik” Basic School Nr. 12, and the “Nzhdeh” Basic School Nr. 8. Given the financial restraints, only 45 children would be able to win scholarships for free IT instruction. The contest was open to children between the ages of 10 and 14, and the response was great: well over 250 contestants signed up.

The competition was organized in two stages: first, the children answered a questionnaire on theoretical issues, and then they sat down for individual interviews conducted by Lilia Totolyan. Of the 45 winners, 15 are from Artsakh and 30 from the region.

Tatev Terteryan and Karen Gharslyan cut the ribbon

Tatev Terteryan and Karen Gharslyan cut the ribbon

A Spirit of Optimism

The grand opening ceremony continued with a musical interlude provided by the project group, “Do Re Meet NGO,” which also conducts music therapy programs. Talented musicians travel to medical centers, offering music to help create a pleasant environment for patients and their family members.

Angelina Arshakyan followed with remarks on the importance of such an IT center for the Vagharshapat region. In his speech, Karen Gharslyan characterized the impact of the new initiative, saying one could sense the mood of hope pervading the community; from the youngsters to their parents and teachers, all are eagerly waiting for classes to start, scheduled for March 2. The project has generated not only hope, he added, but also strengthened the community’s spirit of cooperation and unity.

While the musicians picked up their instruments again for folk music, and refreshments were served, parents of the winners had a chance to meet with Lilia Totolyan and Karen Gharslyan, to get to know the sponsors, and to have their questions answered. At the same time, the BrAIn Lab signed memoranda of cooperation with Yerevan Zatik Children’s Support Center and Sardarapat Middle School.