It makes me proud to think that I have made a positive impact on others through my passion and drive to impact AGBU’s programs and reach new people through our local activities.
Actor, presenter and public speaker, David Ojakian, was born to Armenian parents in Los Angeles, California. His grandmother, Flora Mirzaian, was an AGBU chair, and he would grow up to fully understand and appreciate all that she was involved in. David speaks proudly about his Armenian heritage and how service to the community comes naturally for him.
What inspired you to be involved with AGBU?
My late grandmother, Flora Mirzaian, was chair of the AGBU Oakland Chapter and AGBU was so important to her. When my sister and I were born, she made us automatically life members of AGBU. So, we were born into it. I grew up hearing about all the amazing work AGBU does around the world and things she participated in - ranging from sports competitions to general assemblies and cultural events. I always heard about AGBU and its importance, of how important it was in her life.
Then in 2006 friends of mine were working with the YP Northern California (YPNC) committee so I began learning about AGBU in a new way. Having just served on the ACYO Western Diocese Central Council my friends encouraged me to join YPNC. I couldn’t resist it very long and within a year and I signed up to join the YPNC Steering Committee. I’ve been on the YPNC steering committee since 2007 serving in various roles from general board member, to marketing, co-chair, and chair.
Much in the way ACYO really changed my life not just from a faith formation background, but also very heavily in leadership, AGBU has done the same thing for me from a leadership and community building standpoint. My work on the ground has enabled me to develop my interpersonal and communication skills to effectively lead the team. I’ve also felt the benefit of being connected to the larger global AGBU community as well. AGBU has done so much for me in my personal growth.
How have you made a positive impact on others through AGBU?
I started an Executive MBA program at Santa Clara University this past August which required a leadership evaluation as a part of the start of the program. I turned to many colleagues from AGBU YPNC, current and past, for their feedback. A lot of the feedback I received was that I’ve been able to create a positive atmosphere and environment for our committee and that I bring an energy and a passion for what we’re trying to do that people feel right away.
It makes me proud to think that I have made a positive impact on others through my passion and drive to impact AGBU’s programs and reach new people through our local activities including our fundraising and of course our signature Winter Gala event. When I run into people at events, it humbles me to hear I have left an impression on them about what AGBU is doing for the community.
What is on your agenda for 2022?
I have had a leadership position within YPNC for many years and I have been blessed that those on our committees have been so supportive. Now, the focus really must be on empowering the next leadership and ensuring they feel ready to take over and continue to take everything to the next level. I want them to feel the same praise and encouragement that I have felt all these years from prior YP leaders.
In terms of 2022 for AGBU, and coming out of COVID, one of the main items we are focused on is how to bring back Winter Gala in a way that’s going to be effective, safe, groundbreaking, new and different. I’m going to challenge our committee and all of us to think of some things we can do to reinvent our signature event.
In the last two years we put a lot of focus on mindfulness and wellbeing. We held diverse virtual gatherings like yoga classes. We also hosted Rita Hovakimian on one of the YP LIVE events during COVID, who is a mindfulness and wellbeing prosperity coach based here in the Bay Area. We will continue trying to focus on themes like these. In fact, we are currently working on hosting a workshop on mindfulness and intention setting.
How would you describe the key attributes of AGBU in just three words?
Community. Homeland. Fellowship.
How has AGBU shaped your personal values and principles?
Witnessing the selflessness of so many people has impacted me deeply. Seeing countless volunteers give their time and resources unendingly both through AGBU and through my experiences with the ACYO has shown me that when you are connected and dedicated to a cause or a community, you always find a way to get the work done. It’s funny that when you are approaching tasks at work, you may struggle at times with priorities, but with the Armenian community work, the tasks all get done. It’s always a priority because of how selfless people can be. Nothing will get in the way of me contributing to my community and to AGBU and making sure that YPNC and our greater YP network are successful.
What personal goals have you set yourself for this year and beyond?
I currently work in Marketing Communications with Cisco in San Jose and I’m motivated to deliver on my job while focusing on my Executive MBA program. I also want to continue to further my acting career. I’ve had some really exciting auditions come up in the last couple months, and it’s always motivating. I had a General Hospital audition a couple weeks ago and a huge voice-over one as well for an animated film. I go to an acting school called FirstTake, here in San Francisco. I want to recommit myself to my career goals and acting training to further myself as much as I can.
I also want to continue to spend time with my family, especially my adorable nieces Elise and Noeme who are growing so quickly.
What is one thing you wish people knew about AGBU?
I wish people knew the amount of thought, effort, planning, and funding that goes into every program that the AGBU offers. I was helping out the Central Office with social media in 2020 for about 7 months, and it was amazing to see all the programs that were coming from Central Office. Coming from a local perspective, it struck me how much organization, strategy, and fundraising is required before something is implemented. Every time I see something new come up, it fills me up with pride and just a great sense of wow, that’s amazing.
What is your proudest achievement?
Within AGBU it was organizing the AGBU YP Cares: Warm Homes Warm Hearts campaign where almost all the YP chapters in the world came together and raised $80,000 for Artsakh in December, January timeframe of 2020-2021 during that very cold winter after the war. A goal of mine since that program is to help come up with some new ideas on a pan-YP initiative for fundraising or another initiative.
In addition, I was very proud and honored to accept the Outstanding Service Award from AGBU Central Board during the 2019 General Assembly in Paris, France on behalf of the YPNC Chapter. The award recognized the more than 20 years of AGBU SF Winter Galas we have hosted, raising more than $120,000 for AGBU projects and programs. We were fortunate to take on AGBU YPNC from a great foundation that was set up by the founding members who started the Winter Gala all the way back in the year 2000.