While Albert Simon is B.C. born, he’s proud of his Armenian lineage.
His mom was born in Lebanon, his dad in Iran, and both have Armenian bloodlines. Both his parents’ families fled the Armenian Genocide that took place in 1915.
“I’m so proud of my heritage,” Simon said. “I attend my Armenian church weekly and I do the dance camps during the summer because I just love it. I love learning about my culture and I love being a part of it.”
That’s why the 17-year-old, who attends Grade 12 at Langley Fine Arts School, flew to Toronto to take part in the third annual AYF (Armenian Youth Federation) Canada Games.
The event included basketball, soccer, and ping pong and involved Armenian youth from Toronto, Montreal-Laval, Cambridge, St Catharines and for the first time, Vancouver.
“It was so exciting, first off, because I haven’t really seen a lot of Armenians other than the ones in my church,” Simon said. “We just kind of talked and shared stories, it was really good.”
Simon was one of three participants from the Metro Vancouver area. He and Hagop Hagopian competed as athletes.
He played basketball and soccer against teams from Montreal, and from the Toronto area.
The basketball team he played on competed in six games and finished first, Simon noted.
The 5’5” Simon played centre in basketball at the Games, which, due to his height, was a challenge.
“I’m not tall,” Simon understated. “It was pretty challenging because one of the guys I was versing was 250 pounds, six-foot-five… the jump ball wasn’t very fair but we didn’t have any other centres.”
His soccer team didn’t fare quite as well.
“Since we didn’t have very many people, it was hard to join a team at the last minute,” Simon said. “I’m not really a soccer player. I was playing defence.”
Simon’s main interests are roller hockey and weightlifting, and he’s been a leader to to the younger LFAS students in guiding them in the school’s weight room, says one of his teachers, Darren Storsley.
“The leadership he’s brought to this school and this program is unlike any I’ve seen before,” Storsley said. “He’s inspired the Grade 7s to take an interest in health and athletics.”
Simon started working out with Storsley a couple of years ago and said weightlifting inspired him to help others in the schools.
“I had really, really low confidence in myself,” Simon said. “And when I started hitting the gym, it inspired me to help others. Kids would come to me and ask me to help them get in shape, help them with their diet, and I would help them with that. Then we made a class out of it.”