Senior Mariam Sulakian was recently honored with a Harker Community Service Spotlight Award. During a Monday morning campus meeting in early November, she received a $200 check from The Harker Upper School Community Service Program.
Sulakian donated the award money to a nonprofit organization she volunteers with, which provides medical services, food and social support for elderly Armenian residents living on their own in the Stepanakert area. The cause, known as Hanganak NGO, is funded by the Armenian Women’s Welfare Association (A.W.W.A.).
The Community Service Spotlight Awards, sponsored by Harker’s outreach department, occur several times throughout the school year. They were created to celebrate the outstanding community service completed by upper school students. Sulakian is the first of three students who will be honored this school year; the others have not yet been named.
In her acceptance speech, Sulakian explained that she began doing community service somewhat reluctantly in middle school at the urging of her sister. “Eventually she annoyed me so much that I just gave in,” she conceded.
Since “giving in” to volunteer work, Sulakian has gone on to become a passionate advocate of volunteerism. In fact, she has completed more than 1,000 hours of community service in her high school years alone. Yet, she believes that community service is “not about the hours or just something I do to pass the time. It’s about making myself part of other people.”
Throughout the past four years, Sulakian has embraced numerous volunteer activities, including tutoring children in her church, participating in benefit concerts and modeling in fashion shows for various causes. However, her most memorable volunteer moments have come from her volunteer work with the A.W.W.A., she said.
For many years, Sulakian, who speaks Armenian, has traveled to the country and volunteered for Hanganak NGO during the summer. She accompanied and talked to elderly Armenian patients on doctor visits, helped measure their blood pressure, packed up bags of food and medication, and assisted with other activities.
“The word charity can be somewhat misleading since it assumes that one person benefits in a one-way transaction. On the contrary, it is a mutually beneficial exchange. Nourish others physically, and they will nourish you spiritually,” she surmised.
Concluding her talk, Sulakian stressed that community service is what makes her proud to be herself and to be a part of others’ lives. “It in essence keeps me loving, stitching together the broken parts of myself as I help bandage those of others,” she said.