Armenians first came to Cleveland around 1906 when the American Steel and Wire Company, based in Worcester, MA, opened multiple new branches in the Cleveland area. The initial count during these years was about 50 Armenians in the Cleveland area, but by 1913 the number had doubled to 100. Many of these Armenians were young men with no families, who had come to the United States seeking employment and opportunity. By the early 1940s, the Armenian population of Cleveland had reached 1,500, and by 1960 it was at about 2,500. During the 1970s and 1980s, a small number of Armenians came from Iran and Lebanon. Today, the population remains approximately 3,000.The community is served by the St. Gregory of Narek Armenian Church and a weekly Armenian radio show, both of which actively promote the Armenian culture and history.

SOAR-Cleveland oversees the Business Development Program (BDR).

***See what our chapter has been doing***

Board of Directors:

Tigran Asriyan

Tigran was born in Artsakh but moved to Russia and later to the US where he was raised. He graduated from the University of Akron with his Bachelor's Degree in Accounting and Finance. Tigran passed the CPA and currently works in Banking.

Upon graduation, Tigran joined ACYOA on a summer volunteer trip to Armenia where he witnessed the struggles of Armenia's youth in orphanages. Determined to help, he has joined SOAR Cleveland Chapter in order to contribute in a meaningful way.

Tatevik Hakobyan

Tatevik earned her MD from Yerevan State Medical University after M. Heratsi, in Faculty of General Medicine. She went on to also earn her Master of Public Health from the American University of Armenia. Currently Tatevik is studying for the board exams to earn her MD here in the States. Tatevik has worked in Surgical Practice for the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) in Lodz, Poland, and in a Therapeutic Internship also for the IFMSA in Hamburg, Germany.

After graduating from YSMU she went into Pediatric residency. During her few months of residency, she saw many helpless children in need; children whose parents just left them in the hospital. Tatevik heard about SOAR and immediately thought of the children in the hospital she had met. It is her desire and feels it is also her responsibility to help innocent children.

Tatevik is fluent in Armenian, Russian and English and is learning German as well.

Rimma Avanesyan

Rimma earned her B.A. in Political Science/Pre-Law from Ohio University in May of 2013. She had also taken coursework in Diplomacy and Global Studies from the Miami University of Ohio. Rimma is currently a Candidate for Juris Doctor at The University of Akron School of Law.

Her experience in working in both the legal and political arenas is already impressive with work for William O’Neill for Congress, U.S. Representative Betty Sutton’s Office as a Summer Intern, and most recently working for the Athens Public Defender’s Office as a Spring and Fall semester Intern.

Rimma has also had extensive volunteer experience from clothing drives, to helping with bakes sales, and helping with special needs events. She is happy to now be a part of SOAR-Cleveland.

Karina Ayrapetyan

Karina earned her Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at Kent State University in May 2014. Currently she is working for Whitehouse Behavioral Health, serving adolescents and adults with different ranges of developmental disabilities. In January 2015, Karina will continue her education to earn her Master’s degree in Speech Pathology. She plans to use her degree to fulfill her desire to help children reach their full potential in speech and language skills.

Karina was born in Yerevan, Armenia, but does not remember much about her homeland. Her primary reason for joining this organization is to help orphaned Armenian children in different parts of the world who do not have the necessities they need and deserve. By joining this organization, she is excited to meet people who share this common interest and is eager to raise money as a team to help these innocent children. Karina is very proud to be a member of SOAR!

Arda Bardakjian, MPH

Arda earned her Bachelor of Science in Applied Ecology and her Master of Public Health with an emphasis in sociocultural diversity and health from the University of California, Irvine. Arda works as a health care consultant, specializing in Federally Qualified Health Centers and the Affordable Care Act implementation. Arda grew up in Orange County, within a tight knit Armenian Community. At the age of 15, her family traveled to Armenia on vacation. This pivotal trip for Arda created a need within her to give back. In 2001, Arda began her first of ten trips to Armenia to volunteer. She spent her summers at Siranoush Janbar, a camp for orphans, located in Yeghegnatsor. With a group of dentists from California, led by Dr. Viken Garabedian, she volunteered as a dental assistant and at times translator. Over the years, she formed lifelong bonds with the camp counselors and became a godmother to one of the counselor's children. Arda's commitment to helping orphans in Armenia is the primary reason she joined SOAR. Arda lives with her husband Raffi in Ohio.

Raffi Bardakjian, MD

Raffi was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. His Armenian heritage was instilled at a young age by his parents and elementary school at Armenian Sisters' Academy. He earned his undergraduate degree from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and his medical degree from the American University of the Caribbean. He is currently an internal medicine resident in Canton, Ohio. Raffi joined SOAR to honor the memory of his grandmother who was orphaned during the Armenian Genocide.

Vahagn Ohanyan

Vahagn earned his MD in General Medicine from Yerevan State Medical University in 2002 and in Cardiology from Internal Disease Propaedeutic (section of cardiology, YSMU) in 2004. In 2006, Vahagn earned his PhD in Morphology and Biochemistry from the Department of Medical Biology and Genetics, YSMU.

Vahagn has written numerous publications relating to cardiology and has worked as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Biology and Genetics at Yerevan State Medical University. He is currently a Research Assistant Professor at the Department of Integrative Medical Sciences, Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine. Not only is Vahagn a member of the American Heart Association and the American Physiology Society, but he has been a member of the Armenian Medical Association since 2003.

Elza Ter-Arutyunov

Elza was born in Baku, Azerbaijan and relocated to Armenia with her family in 1988. After living briefly in Armenia and Russia, she moved and spent most of her life in the U.S. She graduated from John Carroll University with a B.A. in Marketing and later earned her M.B.A. with a concentration in International Business from Cleveland State University. After completing her M.B.A., Elza relocated to Armenia to volunteer, learn Armenian and reunite with her heritage. Having followed SOAR's initiatives over the years and sponsoring a child through the program, she was thrilled to finally join the board upon her return from Armenia last year.

Anton Yeranossian

Anton was born in Nalband Armenia. He graduated from Yerevan State Art Institute in 1984. Anton moved to the US in 1988.

Currently Anton is CEO of A&A Medical Supply LLC, working with handicapped adults and children supplying their equipment needs.