Glendale High

Anna Parsamyan, 13, of Woodrow Wilson Middle School, recites a poem at the 11th Annual Genocide Commemoration at Glendale High School. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / April 19, 2012)

As the Armenian diaspora prepares to mark the 97th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide next week, Glendale students staged their own remembrance Thursday.

The 11th annual Genocide Commemoration drew about 500 people to the Glendale High School auditorium where students expressed their own understanding of the historic event through music, poetry and dance.

“Knowledge is power, and people need to know about this,” 16-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student Sevag Alexanian said. “That is why I feel like tonight is very important.”

From 1915 to 1923, about 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Turkish soldiers in what is acknowledged as the first genocide of the 20th century. Hundreds of thousands more were driven out of or fled Turkey.

The Turkish government has never formally recognized the killings as genocide, nor has the United States. Armenians formally mark the genocide on April 24.

Glendale High School student Mary Manukyan, 18, noted that the Armenian Genocide does not get much attention in traditional textbooks.

“It just prompted me to get out there and educate myself in regards to how important was the event, how large was it, and … what portion of the history books should be dedicated to that event?” Manukyan said.

School board member Nayiri Nahabedian said the student-produced commemoration is a learning opportunity.

“It is one example of teaching history, making it come to life for students so that then they may be able to understand it better and may be able to be critical in terms of how they look at events today,” said Nahabedian, herself the grandchild of Armenian Genocide survivors.

Recognizing the Armenian Genocide is both about grieving the past and looking to the future, said Hoover High School student Sofi Sargsyan, 16.

“We are remembering our ancestors and the people who survived the genocide … but it is also a celebration that we are still alive, we are still here, we are doing something about it,” Sofi said.

The districtwide commemoration was one of several events throughout Southern California this week in recognition of the Armenian Genocide. On Sunday, hundreds of people gathered at St. Mary’s Apostolic Church in Glendale. On Friday, Glendale Community College student leaders staged their own event.

The biggest gathering will take place Tuesday, when thousands of Armenians will demonstrate in front of the Turkish Consulate in Los Angeles.

Several Glendale Unified students said that they plan to attend.

“Ninety-seven years is way too long,” Sevag said.