(FAR Blog, Yerevan) – More than 50 students came dressed in their finest for a special meeting to say thanks to their benefactor – renowned American-Armenian writer and journalist Margaret Ajemian Ahnert of Ft. Lauderdale, FL. They were bubbling with energy and excitement to meet with the woman who believed in them and gave them a chance to delve into the world of journalism.
Margaret arrived at Yerevan State University (YSU) with her family with a goal to share updates on her award-winning book ‘The Knock at the Door: A Journey Through the Darkness of the Armenian Genocide,’ to inspire her students, and to, once again, share her mother Ester Ajemian’s story as a Genocide survivor.
The welcome speech by the YSU Journalism Faculty Dean Naghash Martirosyan, eloquently described how the Ester Ajemian Scholarship Program has influenced the students’ experience at YSU, and how important it was to make a positive difference in the lives of the graduates, reiterating the idea that the collaboration will continue.
Established in 2010, the Ester Ajemian Scholarship Program is administered by the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR). It provides full tuition and monthly stipends to female graduate students in Armenia. So far, more than 20 young female scholars have become the proud beneficiaries of Margaret’s generosity.
During the event, Margaret Ahnert shared her commitment to supporting young female journalists through the scholarship, emphasizing with certainty that her students are her world. “I love my family, but when it comes to my students, I say, ‘Sorry Stephane [her son], but the students first,’” she smiles, adding, “I grew up in the Bronx. We didn’t have money to go to college, so after I did go, I thought about the other girls who were like me. When I came to Armenia, I noticed that in a family where a couple had a son and a daughter, the latter had less educational opportunities. So, I thought about establishing the foundation in memory of my mother that would support female students.”
Emma is among five second-year students in YSU’s graduate journalism program who are supported by the Ester Ajemian Scholarship. Along with a copy of The Knock at the Door, Emma has brought a nice bouquet of flowers to the event. “The book is mine, the flowers are for Margaret Ahnert,” she claims. “This is the second year I have received this scholarship, and I’ve never had the opportunity to meet her face to face. I wanted to let her know how much this opportunity has meant to me.”
At the close of the meeting, Margaret Ahnert was awarded with a special appreciation plaque for her continuous support to YSU’s female journalists. The students confided that they felt many emotions that day, since each of them had a unique story connected with Margaret’s generous contribution. Her support has provided huge financial relief for each of the student’s their families.
During her trip in Armenia, Margaret also paid a visit to the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute to deliver copies of The Knock at the Door translated into six languages – Armenian, Russian, Turkish, French, Italian, and Spanish.
“I have been on a ten-year book tour, and wherever I go, I spread light on the Armenian identity as a daughter of a survivor of the Genocide. In my book, I’m talking about the dialogue of two women – mother and daughter. It resonates with the foreigners. They say, “Oh! It’s like my Irish mother,” she said during an interview with a local TV station, stressing the idea that the story should mostly be told to the odars, or non-Armenians.
A humanist by soul and media specialist by specialty, Margaret Ahnert has received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2011) and the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from The Little Flower Children and Family Services in New York. She has also worked as a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, taught art appreciation classes, and ran the Fernwood Resort and Hotel in Bushkill, Pennsylvania. Margaret Ahnert is also a member of the National League of American Pen Women.
Foreign Journalists Spending Time at Democrat
By Ashley Ames • DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
Published: May 04. 2011 2:00AM
On April 22, two journalists from halfway across the world walked into the newsroom of the Tallahassee Democrat.
Ofelya Kamavosyan and Mehmet Fatih Oztarsu, both first-time visitors to the United States, are here for three weeks through the International Center for Journalist’s program, New Media, New Challenges: Turkish-Armenian-American Journalist Exchange Program.
Kamavosyan, who hails from Armenia, and Oztarsu, who is from Turkey, will be working as reporters at the Democrat.
ICJ’s program aims to develop professional skills and relationships between media professionals that will foster understanding, effective communication and collaboration between the three countries.
Kamavosyan and Oztarsu are hosted by Democrat staff for the duration of their stay, and at the end of three weeks their hosts will go to conferences in Turkey and Armenia to watch Kamavosyan and Oztarsu present on what they have learned. They are also working on a joint project for their presentation. Kamavosyan and Oztarsu are two out of 12 who were paired to participate in the program.
Executive Editor Bob Gabordi said he is glad to have the Democrat participating in this partnership.
“We’ve had a long-standing relationship with ICFJ and have hosted journalists through the years from several former Soviet republics and Africa,” he said. “And now this is among the more interesting situations: two journalists from neighboring nations with a long history of distrust are here working together as a team.
“Their countries share a border that is closed to each other, and they have not had normal diplomatic relations for a very long time. Through their shared journalism and mutual respect, perhaps Mehmet and Ofelya can inspire progress. If we can be helpful by providing a common working environment, we are glad to do so.”
I am an Armenian journalist working for the online daily armar.am. I also have worked for the daily Hayastani Hanrapetutyun (Republic of Armenia) for six years.
I have a bachelor’s in International Relations from Yerevan State University and a master’s in political science from Public Administration Academy of Armenia.
I previously worked at Armenpress News Agency as a correspondent. I cover both political and legal issues and events in Armenia.
I am 30 years old and this is my first time in the United States. During my first week with the Tallahassee Democrat, I have been impressed by the professional approach of the news staff and the extensive technical equipment available to the staff here.
This program is a good opportunity for us to learn how the American media operate, what are the differences and difficulties of our colleagues’ work. Everything is new for me here: the lifestyle, people, culture, nature and even English.
Mehmet Fatih Oztarsu
I am from Malatya, Turkey. I graduated from Baku Caucasus University with a focus on International Relations. I live in Yerevan and cover international politics for Turkish and Armenian media outlets.
I’m a co-author of “Nagorno Karabakh Conflict for 100 Questions,” an academic book for Qafqaz University. I have written another book, “Armenian Chronicles,” about my observations as a Turkish journalist working in Armenia. I am one of few Turks living in Armenia.
I am 25 years old and this is also my first time in the United States. It is a good experience for me. The style of journalism here, especially the business ethics, is very different from what I grew up with in Turkey.
I have found some Armenian people in Tallahassee and look forward to adding their observations to my book, “Armenian Chronicles.” It is scheduled to be published in the fall.