SOAR - Charlotte Chapter
Charlotte became part of the SOAR family in February 2015. While the Armenian community in North Carolina is small, home to approximately 500 Armenian families statewide, it is dedicated to the perpetuation of the Armenian heritage. The Charlotte community built itself up from just a handful of families, called together by Lena Kupelian Neau in the late 1980s. At that time, there was no Armenian organizations in Charlotte. With dedication and hard work, the Armenian community in Charlotte has evolved, galvanized by St. Sarkis Church, which was consecrated in July 2005.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Pierre Arbajian was born in Beirut Lebanon to an Armenian family with strong ties to their Armenian heritage. Pierre works for IBM as a senior IT architect. Pierre moved to the US to continue education in 1980 and received his bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering degree from Georgia Tech and his Master’s degree from the University of Tennessee. He moved to Charlotte NC in June of 2000 and has since been very active in the life of the Armenian community as the chairman and member of the Armenian Church parish council and the president of the Armenian Cultural Association of the Carolinas. Pierre has held the role president and is presently a board member of the Middle East Council of the Carolinas. He is the father of a college age daughter and considers Charlotte NC home.
Dr. Anait Balasanyan was born in Armenia and raised in Russia until immigrating to the United Stated in 1999. She graduated with a B.S. in Finance from Brigham Young University and was recruited by Wachovia Securities in Charlotte where she worked as an investment banking analyst for several years until her brother, Dr. Armen, inspired her to follow in his footsteps and become a dentist. Dr. Anait earned her D.D.S. degree from Indiana University School of Dentistry.
Dentistry combines all aspects that Dr. Anait is passionate about: innovation, healthcare, patient education and helping people maintain and improve their oral health, quality of life and appearance. She is an active learner and continually participates in educational seminars to keep up with dynamic field of dentistry.
Dr. Anait is passionate about volunteer work and has been an active volunteer sharing her professional dental services at various organizations such as Indiana Mission of Mercy, Charlotte Women’s Shelter and Student Outreach Clinic in Indianapolis.
In her spare time Dr. Anait enjoys symphony, theater, live music, reading, traveling and outdoors. She is also an active runner and has completed four half-marathons in Indianapolis, Chicago and New York City.
Kristine Akopian graduated from Cal State Northridge University with Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies in ’00. She was a teacher for 6 years. She is now working at a computer software company as QA Regulatory data services analyst. Kristine was born in Charentsavan, Armenia and moved to the United States in 1988 when she was seven years old. She has lived in California until 2014 then moved to Charlotte, NC in 2014 with her husband Marat, and their two children.
Having the opportunity to be involved in a great cause that helps children and to spread some of our positive love and care is one of Kristine’s passions. Being able to contribute and be involved to help children to make them smile and knowing that we made some difference in any child’s life is definitely most rewarding. Kristine joined SOAR in December 2016.
The emergence of Gor Mkhitarian reflects the very best of the burgeoning music scene now taking foot in the independent former Soviet Republic of Armenia. Widely known throughout Armenia as the lead guitarist for one of country’s best rock bands, Lav Eli, Mkhitarian launched his solo career in 2001 and has released seven albums since. Being nominated for a total of eleven industry music awards, he makes fresh and compelling music that successfully fuses traditional Armenian music with both rock and folk idioms. In his music, Mkhitarian makes a case for writing the next chapter in Armenia’s rich musical history by updating the sound and feel of the classic Armenian folk song. But what has made Mkhitarian a favorite in Armenia is his uncanny ability to combine unique songwriting ability with stunning modern arrangements of Armenian folk music. Gor Mkhitarian gets down to basics by giving the listener meaningful lyrics, colorful arrangements, and melodic hooks that create warm and inspiring songs. In 2003 he moved to Los Angeles where drummer Andranik Harutyunyan, basist Varujan Hovakimyan and pianist Art Grigorian joined the band. Stepping away from his previous acoustic-driven “signature”, with the new band he features remarkable musicianship and showcases a different approach to his songwriting. It’s Armenian music, as it has never been heard before. Gor Mkhitarian cites Simon & Garfunkel, Sting, and The Dave Matthews Band, to name a few, as strongly influencing his music.
Traces of Armenian folk troubadours Rouben Hakhverdian and Harout Bezjian as well as Bob Dylan can at times be heard in Mkhitarian’s solo material. But what has made Mkhitarian a favorite in Armenia is his uncanny ability to combine unique songwriting ability with stunning modern arrangements of Armenian folk music.
Ruzanna Carter was born in Yerevan, Armenia. She moved to the states with her family in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. She recently moved to Charlotte, NC from SC where she taught art at Saluda Middle School for 3 years. She earned her MAT in Art Education from University of South Carolina in 2013 and BA in Art History/Art Studio in ’05. She is certified to teach K-12 art in South Carolina and North Carolina, and currently teaches at the Mooresville Art Guild. Ruzanna is passionate about helping others and is actively involved with Saint Sarkis Armenian Church in Charlotte. In her spare time, Ruzanna enjoys reading, watching movies and making jewelry. Ruzanna is a proud mother to one daughter, who is also very passionate about being involved with the Armenian community in Charlotte.
Anush Djaniants is a financial industry professional with over ten years in retirement planning and wealth management. Anush worked at BB&T in various roles as a Relationship Manager she helped individuals and business owners reach financial security through financial planning. As a Branch Operations Training instructor at BB&T University, Anush instructed courses that vary from one day training to two weeks on boarding in areas of sales, service and operations. As a Regional Communications Consultant in the mid-Atlantic region she managed the marketing need for over 300 Plan Sponsors and created effective marketing pieces that generated revenue for the financial institution. At Wealth Strategies Group, as a Business Development Consultant she developed the firm’s retirement and business platforms. She provided 401k compliance solutions and business continuity to business owners. Utilizing her public speaking skills to develop the business of the 401k market, she simultaneously grew the firm’s financial planning client base as a cross sell initiative. In 2013 Anush got married and took a sabbatical from work and moved to Riga, Latvia where she taught English and spent time traveling with her husband. In 2014 she and her spouse relocated back to North Carolina. Anush shifted gears slightly from retirement planning to retirement marketing with her new role as a Marketing Consultant at MetLife. Anush developed marketing campaigns for the education, government, and health sectors. In 2015, she lead an educational campaign –MetLife 3R’s to Retirement that received a Gold MarcomAward. Currently she holds the role of Sr. Marketing Consultant managing the legacy retirement products for MetLife Holdings and overlooks the marketing effort for plan sponsors, participants and stakeholders. She completed her B.A. in French and B.S. in International Business with a minor in Spanish in 2003 from High Point University.
When she isn’t working she is volunteering in multiple organization –Toastmasters International , Armenian National Committee of America, Homenetmen (Armenian Scouts) of Charlotte, and multiple church activities such as Sunday School Teacher, Parish Council, and Women’s Guild. When she isn’t working or volunteering, she enjoys cooking and traveling with her husband.
Pic and Bio coming soon