FAR launched its five-year project to revitalize the Parakar School in 2018. Just two years in, changes are already making a huge impact on students and teachers.

FAR completed reconstruction one of the school’s vocational training wing, which officially re-opened in September with a more extensive curriculum. FAR has also renovated and refurbished the dormitory, the gym, and the physical therapy facility. In addition, school social workers, psychologists, and educators have participated in trainings on inclusive education taught by local and international experts. The gym and the physical therapy were renovated thanks to the New York Friends of Gavar School, while the entire project was made possible through the support from loyal FAR donors Marta and James Batmasian.

Parakar had become extremely dilapidated since its construction in the 1970s, so much that, until recently, its conditions had posed a health risk. The classrooms, the gym, and the dorm rooms were deteriorating, ill-equipped and unsafe. Part of the roof of the vocational wing was missing and the heating system barely functioned.

School psychologist Angela Sargsyan, who has spent 11 years at Parakar, said that everything has been done in the best interest of the students. “Children feel validated and appreciated. These global changes have made a huge impact on their feelings and emotions. They feel inspired and motivated when they see something new — a new classroom, a new desk, even a new pen or pencil. Today, they have been provided with a safe environment equipped with adequate resources and graced with appropriate conditions for learning.”

Parakar is one of the few public high schools in Armenia that provides general academics and vocational training to youth between 15 and 20 years old. Currently, 89 out of 187 students are enrolled in the vocational training program. Another 98 students with disabilities board at school. The vocational wing enables students from different regions of Armenia to learn skills such as auto repair, textile production, and painting for housing and construction.

In just four months, fifteen-year-old Samvel has already learned the techniques of car inspection and diagnostics. “That’s my passion and it’s a profitable business,” he said, adding that one day he hopes to open up his own garage.

“This was not just an infrastructure rehabilitation project. While designing infrastructure renovations we tried to ensure a safe and nurturing environment for learning and living in the campus for this specific category of children and youth that could help them develop their character and purpose so that nothing stands in the way of youth’s aspirations to excel,” said FAR Programs Director Margarit Piliposyan. “This is another chapter in FAR’s program portfolio that leads us toward equal rights of children with disabilities and by implementing this project we want to make sure that all of them fully exercise their rights for mainstream and vocational education.”