• In the Spotlight with Tzoler Oukayan

In the Spotlight with Tzoler Oukayan

September 9, 2021




While many coped with the pandemic, AGBU alumna and volunteer, Tzoler Oukayan continued developing the newly relaunched AGBU GenNext Program, all while also serving as a mentor to our AGBU-AYA Pasadena-Glendale Scouts.

Q. How did you get involved with AGBU? What drew you to the organization? 

A. My family has always been involved in AGBU. My mother was a scout leader in Lebanon, so it was important for her that we were connected and engaged with not only scouting, but AGBU scouting. It was the first Armenian community I connected with when we immigrated to the country. AGBU is where we found a natural community.

Q. How many years have you been involved with AGBU and AGBU GenNext? 

A. I’ve been involved with AGBU for as long as I can remember. In particular, I was involved with the Scouts for about 26 years, and served as the Local Commissioner/Scoutmaster for 5 of those years. I then joined the Western District committee for 7 years, serving as the GenNext liaison for the last 3 years.

Q. What are AGBU GenNext program’s goals? How does it serve the local community? 

A. AGBU GenNext is one of AGBU’s unique programs. We connect young Armenian youth to mentors who help provide them with a safe space to develop personally, academically, socially, and emotionally. The mentors help mentees build confidence and discover new interests. In my opinion, the support from the larger Armenian community is instrumental to youth growing up in our communities today. GenNext provides support, but it also teaches young Armenians the importance of connecting and giving back. Our mentors gain so much out of being involved, as well. Through GenNext, we create a cycle of engagement and empowerment between generations. We work with partner organizations in Glendale including Glendale Unified School District, YWCA and the City of Glendale. We are not only leveraging resources that exist in the broader environment, but joining together with non-Armenian communities to positively impact the world around us

Q. If you could describe the AGBU GenNext program in only 3 words, what would they be?

A. Empowering, cultivating-community and resourceful.

Q. How has your involvement with AGBU shaped who you are with family, friends, career, etc.?

A. My involvement with AGBU has helped me develop personally and professionally. I am a better person and a better community member because of the opportunities that I have taken advantage of through AGBU. I look back at my own Scout leaders and peers who continually pushed me, and they empowered me to take on challenges and explore opportunities I never would have on my own. I hope that I am able to do the same for others as I continue to stay connected in our community.

Q. What are your goals in 2021 with regards to AGBU?

A. We need to get out of the pandemic mindset and revive the things we have lost. We continued GenNext remotely but now we can take a step back and see what we learned to balance into a “new normal”. We have some amazing kids that are looking for guidance and opportunity. We need to be ready to evolve so we don’t lose those connections.

Q. What is one thing about AGBU that you wish people knew?

A. I wish people knew how instrumental AGBU is in shaping a person’s life. With its cultural and youth programs, both locally and around the world, everyone can take advantage. AGBU scouting has truly been a critical part of my upbringing. Not a lot of people can say that.

Q. Two fun facts about you:

A. I have done about four backpacking trips across the U.S.! I guess you could say I’m an adventurer. On the flip side, I’m also very passionate about education and providing access to learning. I recently completed my doctorate in Education.

Q. Just for fun, what is your favorite Armenian dish?

A. Eech? Is that considered Armenian? My grandma made killer eech. I hated it growing up, but now I crave it. I have tried to master it but it still doesn’t come close to grandma’s!

Q. A quote that inspires you:

A. “It is not about the destination, it’s the journey”. I really believe that what you do between point A and point B is what matters the most. So many of us are always thinking about that next end goal, not realizing it’s how you got there that matters.