The message has to get out pleaded Seth Attamian, principal of the Armenian Community School.
Seth Attamian is on a mission. He has become a leader among parents. He has become the voice of 110 Armenian children. Armenian children whose academic ability compares with the finest students of Fresno and Clovis. But no one knows. No one has spread the word.
So now one man has taken it upon himself to thrust his students into the academic spotlight. In this small Armenian community a high value is placed on academics. And as of yet, remarkably high test results have been ignored.
Attamian retrieves a bar graph which depicts the significant standing of his students in such areas as math, science, reading, and writing. “These kids are intelligent,” said Attamian who has spent a lifetime studying test scores. They are taught to speak the Armenian language, and they are exposed to their Armenian culture and heritage. At the same time they have risen above the average expectations in academic testing, despite certain language barriers. Unfortunately, the bar graph is kept inside a dark closet unknown to the scholastic world, as is the level of sophistication and tenacity that these students possess.
“I don’t believe in doing something for banquets or pats on the back,” Attamian said. He has proven himself and needs only to prove his point. These students can be as successful academically as the they are in their Armenianess. Attamian has spent 38 years in education, and in those years Attamian broke one of many barriers in this community by becoming the first Armenian principal in the Fresno Unified School District. “Growing up I would work and go to church on Sundays. I had no choice with regards to education, there was no school we could afford,” he said. Attamian is no stranger to adversity. He has since fought to give his students the choices that he had been denied.
Attamian resides in a quaint office inside the Armenian Community School, which was once a church. The small facility proudly wears its tattered fences and walls that have visibly aged. The campus does not share in all the glamour of its fellow institutions. However, “the plant does not guarantee educational success,” Attamian said. In comparison the quality of teachers and curriculum is certainly commendable. It is here that Attamian trains these teachers and their students never want for a mentor, direction, or motivation.
Like every other elementary student these children race through their playground, drag their coats, and rally around their parents at the end of the day. But unlike every other elementary school, this Armenian community is a tight-knit family. “There is a magnetism that draws us closer, me to them, them to me. We are Armenian, we are bound by commonality,” said Attamian. Attending the Armenian Community School is not a point of weakness for over 100 children, it is an unquestionable strength. These students fail to lose their Armenianess, as they learn to depend on a solid educational foundation to carry them through this competitive world.
The Armenian Community School, the last of its kind in all the United States, has seen graduates rise to the top of their classes, become people in high positions, and become role models to be esteemed. The talent and accomplishments of such students can not be overshadowed any longer. There exists unlimited academic potential within these walls. And Attamian has begun to spread the word.