Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Volunteer Spotlight: Brian Kamajian

First year mentor Brian Kamajian grew up as a “70s suburban kid” in Skokie, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago. He has two brothers, his dad was a school teacher in the city, and his mom was a secretary. His dad was a gym teacher and coach at Kelvyn Park High School for 35 years.

In high school, Brian was a good student who loved math and science (in fact, he craves it). He also wrote for the school newspaper and was the captain of the football team. When you think about what you want to be when you grow up, Brian says it is important to find the things you like to do and the things you are good at; then find a combination of both and do your best at it.

It may take awhile to find out what you want to be, though, Brian can attest. He was undecided coming out of high school so he chose to go to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign because “I figure it had everything under the sun.” He wound up graduating with a degree in chemical engineering and he continued on to get a master’s degree in the same field from Auburn University in Alabama.

After graduating, Brian was a chemical engineer for five years, “but my heart just wasn’t in it,” he says. “I like the academic part, but the work had little real engineering. It was all management.” So he decided to mix it up and spend two years overseas!

Brian is Armenian and has attended an Armenian church in Evanston since he was young. He now runs the Sunday School there. In 1988, an earthquake took place in Armenia which killed tens of thousands of people. In 1991, Brian and his wife went to the country for a year to help with relief activity being done by the Armenian General Benevolent Union. 1991 is the year Soviet Union fell apart and Armenia established its independence, so it was an incredible time for him to be there. Afterward, he and his wife spent the next six months traveling through 18 countries in Europe.

Once back in the U.S., Brian got into computer software and he still works in that industry today. He is the Manager of Software Development at the American College of Surgeons. He and his wife have two children: Katie (11 ½) and Pete (10). “Being a dad… it’s a lot,” he says. “You get more than you bargained for, but I’m very happy.”

Brian discovered Cabrini Connections on the Internet and through a former coworker who spoke at one of our Tutor/Mentor Conferences. As he has watched his own kids grow up, it has helped him appreciate the importance of programs like Cabrini Connections for other youth. “The kids are wonderful, to put it mildly,” he says. “They’re really trying and you've got to love the effort.”

Brian works with Justin Fields who is also in his first year. Brian says he’s great, a nice guy, and they’re getting along well. In the two hours they spend together each week, he just hopes to be able to give him “a flash of what’s going on in the mainstream;” of all the opportunities that are out there.

Brian has been a great advocate for the program: joining a fundraising committee with other volunteers and sending a personal letter to 50 of his closest friends during the holiday season. We thank you for all you’ve done. Congratulations on reaching the spotlight!

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