The early years of childhood are the most significant, for it is at this time that children build a foundation of self-esteem, a sense of community, cultural identity and religious beliefs. From its inception, the main goal of St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Armenian Preschool has been to provide an appropriate early childhood education program, with a strong emphasis on Armenian heritage and culture.
It is upon this vision that in September of 1975, a group of devoted community members, under the auspices of St. Mary’s Apostolic Church, established the first Armenian school in Glendale. Through the volunteer efforts and dedication of Church board members such as Mr. Stepan Kabadayan, and volunteer educators such as Mr. Vahe and Dr. Armine Hacopian and Mr. & Mrs. Vahik and Alice Petrossian, the school grew from 8 students to 120 students in just a few short years. In 1979, the elementary school was moved to a new school campus in La Canada and Mr. Roubik Gourdjian became the principal of the elementary school, while the preschool remained at its present campus.
In 1980, Dr. Ida Karayan, an early childhood educator, was appointed as the director of the preschool. During her time, the preschool became a licensed facility and an appropriate curriculum was adopted to meet the needs of the children and the community.
In 1990, Mr. and Mrs. Ralph and Savey Tufenkian, a well-respected couple in the Armenian community, made a generous donation of $250,000 in memory of their son, Richard. Thereafter, in honor of its benefactors and their beloved son, the preschool was renamed St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Armenian Preschool.
In 1993, the importance of employing a strong and well-versed curriculum became more pronounced when the director, Mrs. Arsine Aghazarian and her team of highly qualified administration and teachers implemented early childhood education standards prescribed by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The school has earned accreditation from the NAEYC with high scores since 1999. Integral to this program is the dedication and continuous effort to immerse the children into the Armenian language, culture and heritage.
In May 2004, Mr. and Mrs. Tufenkian once again stepped forward to help the school. They acquired the property adjacent to the school, valued at $450,000 and dedicated it to the preschool. This property was integral in expanding the existing parking facility project completed in the summer of 2005.
On January 23, 2015, St. Mary’s Tufenkian Preschool celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a gala attended by over 400 guests at Taglyan Cultural Complex. The highlight of the evening was the generous donation of $100,000 made by Mr. & Mrs. Tufenkian toward the future expansion/renovation of the school.
During the past 25 years, Mr. & Mrs. Tufenkian and their extended family, Mr. & Mrs. Paul and Sandra Kalemkiarian and Mr. & Mrs. Gregory and Caroline Tufenkian, have kept Richard’s legacy alive through their continued financial and moral support of the school.
At St. Mary’s Richard Tufenkian Preschool, the administration and faculty believe that in order to provide a high quality early childhood program, the school should have a clear philosophy and set of guidelines. The following ethical conduct code set by NAEYC has been our guiding principle:
- Ensure that the program is based on current knowledge of child development and early childhood education.
- Respect and support families in their task of nurturing children
- Serve as advocates for children.
- Maintain high standards of professional conduct.
- Be open to new ideas and be willing to learn from the suggestions of others.
- Continue to learn, grow and contribute as a professional.
- Provide children with a rich Armenian environment and education.
As the famous African proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” For the last 40 years, the validity of this proverb has been proven over and over again by the collaborative efforts and support of the school administration and faculty, Board of Regents, his Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Reverend Fathers, the Benefactors and parents.