SOAR - North Carolina Chapter
North Carolina became part of the SOAR family in September 2011. 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. Moreover, the Greensboro Board of Directors demonstrates that Armenian causes can be embraced by volunteers with no ethnic connection to Armenia. Dr. Henry and April Emery, Dianne Roberts, and Robin Sizemore represent one of SOAR’s completely non-Armenian Chapter Board of Directors. Their travels to, and work in, Armenia have shown them that orphaned children represent the most vulnerable population of Armenian youth. Some of the chapter members are adoptive parents to Armenian children, while others have been called by vocation or both.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Arlen Boyajian was born in Burbank, California and raised in Dallas, Texas. Arlen holds a B.A. in Business Administration from Central Penn State and an MBA from University of North Carolina at Fayetville. Arlen has over 17+ years of organizational development and management operations expertise, and currently works at Duke Energy. Arlen is very passionate about working within the Armenian community, and has previously served on the board of SOAR in Detroit Michigan, worked with Saint Vartan camp and was treasurer of his ACYOA chapter in Dallas for several years. Arlen was also the treasurer of Saint Sarkis Armenian Church in Carrollton, Texas where he was heavily involved within the church community. Arlen now lives in Charlotte with his wife, Melanie, and daughter, Bella.
Melanie Boyajian was born in Hamburg, Germany to Armenian parents and immigrated with her family to the United States at the age of 3, where she was raised in the Chicago suburbs. Melanie is an Industrial Organizational Psychologist holding degrees from Illinois Wesleyan University and Central Michigan University, and has held roles in both academia and the corporate world. Currently she works as an internal organizational psychologist at Duke Energy. Melanie spent 8 years living in “the middle of the mitten” Michigan and, together with her husband Arlen, helped to bring the Detroit chapter of SOAR to life. She relocated to Charlotte when she was recruited by Duke in 2016 and now calls the Queen City home. She is passionate about volunteer work and loves to spend her personal time traveling and exploring new places with her family.
Robin is the Executive Director and co-Founder of Hopscotch Adoptions, Inc, a New York authorized, North Carolina licensed, Hague Accredited, 501-C3 child placing organization. In 2008, Robin was a recipient of the “Angel in Adoption” award in recognition of her service to children since 1995. She is an adoptive mother and has been an adoption professional since 1995. Her first child through adoption is Armenian. In addition to placing children in forever families, Robin has been politically involved in issues of child welfare: she has brought educational opportunities to a variety of officials in Georgia and Armenia, spearheaded cooperative humanitarian efforts, and hosted numerous international delegations through the U.S. State Department and Ministries in other countries which are associated with institutionalized children. Under Robin’s leadership, Hopscotch Adoptions is the first international adoption agency to assist in the permanent placement of children with Down Syndrome from Armenia, Georgia and Ghana.
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.
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.
Alexis is originally from Boston, Massachusetts where she attended Northeastern University earning a dual degree in International Affairs & Economics. Her studies took her to some amazing destinations including Italy and Armenia. While studying human rights in Armenian she visited Our Lady of Armenia Orphanage and Education Center in Gyumri. It was a truly life changing experience and opened her eyes to the needs of the children and was surprised by their cleverness and ability to inspire. Alexis now lives on the coast in North Carolina where she is involved in the design and music community and pursuing a career in Public Relations.
Wendy C. Chriscoe is a Senior Consultant with Navin, Haffty and Associates based out of Boston, MA. She has worked in healthcare and healthcare informatics for 20+ years. Outside of work she is an active volunteer and has served as a District Spokesperson and fundraiser for the March of Dimes, served both as a tutor and a Site Coordinator for Multi-Housing Ministries, resides as a member of The On-Mission Team in Ashe boro, NC, volunteers with NCBM Disaster Relief, has lived and taught ESL in Armenia, volunteers in NC Literacy missions, has worked with many medical mission, building and VBS opportunities throughout Armenia, has served as a Mission Coordinator on ground in Armenia, volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, supports Armenian church planters and has worked alongside of them for many years there, has close ties with friends and her second family in Armenia. Wendy currently resides in Asheboro, NC.
April is a mother of three children who bring her much joy. She and her husband reside in Wesley Chapel, NC. Her love of children leads her to spend a lot of time volunteering within the school system teaching young students to read. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Biology and has a love for literature. While visiting Armenia for the adoption of her youngest daughter, she realized the great need the children of the orphanages have and desires to help all the children through SOAR.
Hank Emery attended the University of South Carolina where he earned bachelor degrees in Political Science and Biology. He went on to earn a medical degree from the U.S.C. School of Medicine. He received his Internship and Residency training in Family Medicine at the University of South Alabama Hospital System. Hank now resides in Wesley Chapel, NC with his wife and children where he practices medicine. He enjoys activities with his children, athletics and water sports. He and his wife were deeply moved during their visitation of one the Armenian orphanages during the adoption of their youngest daughter and are thankful for the opportunity to help these children through SOAR.
Rebecca is an enthusiastic professional who has held a passion for the environment and the creatures within it since her youth. Rebecca received her BA in Political Science and Master’s of Public Administration (MPA) at North Carolina Central University. Both of her degrees focus on government within the public sector, with special regards towards energy management and environmentalism. While obtaining her MPA, Rebecca held two fellowships, one being a Climate Corps Fellow for the Environmental Defense Fund. Upon completion of her degree, Rebecca spent 5 months in Armenia, organized through Birthright Armenia, to assist in environmental and energy matters. Her colleagues have described her as driven, enthusiastic, and relentless in her pursuits. While Rebecca focuses her attention on environmental matters, she has an interest in social welfare issues that plague society. She wishes to use her knowledge and skills in assisting in these matters in order to build towards a better future.
Pic and Bio coming soon
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.
Dianne lives in Summerfield with her husband (Charles), her two girls (Shelby and Callie), and two dogs (Sassy and Josie). Charles and Dianne adopted their youngest daughter, Callie, from Armenia in 2003, and Dianne is a fervent advocate for improving the lives of less fortunate children. Her oldest daughter, Shelby, encouraged her to become involved in SOAR, and Dianne is excited about the opportunity. A graduate of East Carolina University, Dianne worked for many years as a registered nurse before becoming a mother. In addition to managing a busy family life, she is active in the community. Dianne has served as president of the First Presbyterian Women and was an officer on the preschool board. She has served on a number of organizations and school and church groups, including Junior League and Bethany. In her spare time, Dianne enjoys reading, walking the dogs, going to movies, and playing family games.
Harout is a native of Watertown, MA where he graduated High School as part of the National Honor Society with Varsity Letters in Football and Wrestling. He attended the University of Massachusetts – Boston where he received his bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Harout later attended Southern New Hampshire University where he received his Master’s of Accounting. He and his wife relocated to the Charlotte, NC area about 2 years ago looking to escape the harsh winter months up North.
Tatevik is a project controller at an energy management company in Syracuse, NY. I She graduated from SUNY Cortland with a major in Finance and received her Masters in Finance from the University of Rochester: Simon School of Business. She is also a CMA candidate. Tatevik was born in Yerevan, Armenia and speaks fluent English, Armenian and Russian.