SOAR - Pasadena Chapter
Pasadena joined the SOAR family in November 2015. Pasadena was incorporated as a municipality of Southern California in 1886 and officially became a city in 1901. The earliest reference to an Armenian in the city dates to a newspaper article from November 27, 1895 when a Dr. A.J. Milchonians was a guest speaker at the First Congregational Church. It was not until the early 1900s when the first Armenian families, the Pashgians and Khazoyans, arrived in Pasadena for settlement. Brothers John and Moses Pashgian, and Haigag H. Khazoyan were all in the rug business, and the 1903-1904 city directory contains a listing for “Pashgian Brothers, rugs and draperies,” which was the first Armenian owned business of the city.
By the mid-1920s, Pasadena’s Armenian population was beginning to flourish: the Varoujan Club, organized in 1924, organized social and cultural events for Armenians and the AGBU (Armenian General Benevolent Union) opened its Pasadena chapter in the 1920s. The Great Depression and Second World War displaced the Armenian community with many families and individuals moving out of the city. Starting in the early 1980s and continuing into the late 1990s, the community began to see its numbers on the rise. A 1989 study commissioned by the Pasadena Board of Directors placed the Armenian population at 6,850.
Although nearly all of the original Armenian owned businesses started in the booming years of the city’s expansion are now gone, the location of the Armenian community in Pasadena still remains near the corner of Allen Ave. and Washington Blvd. Numerous Armenian churches, businesses, and organizations are all within a few blocks (mostly westward) from this intersection. Many Armenian organizations, media, and groups still operate out of Pasadena.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS:
Laura Michael received a dual Master’s degree from New York University in Teaching English as a Second Language and Foreign Language Education and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rhode Island in Spanish. She was born and raised in Rhode Island and now resides in Pasadena, CA. Laura is employed by Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school management organization, where she is responsible for English curriculum design and teacher professional development. She has held various positions in the education field on both the east and west coasts. Laura first joined the SOAR Boston chapter in 2009 and has served on the Orange County chapter as well. She has also been able to visit several orphanages in Armenia. Laura is also an ANCA Pasadena board member and previously served on the AGBU Boston committee. She is passionate about supporting youth in Armenia so that they have every resource possible to grow into successful leaders.
Community Relations Director
Josie Kalbakian was born and raised in Pasadena, California. She graduated from the University of California, Irvine with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and pursued a career in the waste and recycling industry. For over 10 years, Josie has assisted various government agencies on sustainability programs through public education and outreach directly and on a consultative basis. In May 2013, she moved to Sacramento, where she continues her career as the Community Relations Manager of Republic Services, a Fortune 400 waste and recycling company.
Josie was fortunate to be blessed with amazing Armenian parents and grandparents and feels it is the right of every person to have fond childhood memories. She hopes her efforts through SOAR will positively impact orphaned children so they grow up fulfilled as a child.
Nelli Badikyan was born in Vanadzor, Armenia and grew up in Los Angeles, California where she attended California State University, Northridge. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, Elementary Education with a concentration in Social Science, and remained on the Dean’s List both years. She moved to Sacramento in 2010 and pursued a career in Marketing at MassMutual Financial Group, a Fortune 100 company. She has been involved in a few non-profit organizations including the YMCA of Glendale and Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Sacramento. She is very passionate about helping others and making a difference and is excited to be a part of SOAR.
Arsineh Messerian is a San Francisco native who has spent the last 10 years helping technology companies build thriving online communities. Following a B.A. in Psychology and Social Behavior from the University of California, Irvine she went onto pursue an M.S. in Business and Economic Journalism. Her writing has been featured in local and international publications including The London Times. Prior to joining SOAR, Arsineh was a long-time board member of AGBU YPNC.
After earning her Bachelors of Science degree in Cell and Molecular Biology, Tatevik attended dental school at the University of Southern California. She is currently in her final trimester and will earn her Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in May 2016. She also serves as a teaching assistant and student ambassador for the USC dental school. In the past, she has worked with Children Uniting Nations, a program dedicated to reshaping the lives of at-risk and foster youth through positive mentoring and academic advocacy. She is passionate about working with underprivileged children and is very excited to now be serving the children of her homeland. Tatevik hopes to adopt in the future.
A Los Angeles native, Hovsep is currently a senior at California State University, Northridge majoring in Cell and Molecular Biology with a Chemistry minor. In addition to his coursework, he works in an organic chemistry lab and was awarded CSUN’s Presidential Scholarship for his research. In the past, he has worked with Children Uniting Nations, providing mentorship for the foster youth in the Los Angeles area. Additionally, he’s served as a volunteer for Habitat for Humanity by helping build homes for those in need. More recently, he has volunteered at the LA County hospital’s departments of emergency medicine and pediatrics assisting doctors and nurses with various tasks. He aspires to become a physician and to travel to Armenia to help the community there.