Larisa Ryan
"My return to Armenia was an opportunity for me to pursue my dreams in the country I’ve always loved".

| From Moscow, Russia | Moved in 2013

Larisa was born in Yerevan to an Armenian mother and an Irish-American father. When she was three months old, her family moved to California. But only a few years later her father’s work took the family to Russia—first to the Far East and then to Moscow. That is where Larisa spent the next ten years of her life.

“We lived in Moscow, but every summer we would return to Yerevan. My grandfather, the writer Leonid Hurunts, had passed away by then. But my grandmother was still teaching at the State Linguistic University named after Bryusov. For me she represented all that was good about Yerevan. She was beautiful, sophisticated, generous, and fiercely intelligent.

When I graduated from high school I applied to universities in the United States. I decided to attend St. Norbert College, a liberal arts college in De Pere, Wisconsin. I majored in International Business, French, and Graphic Design.I was set on a career in advertising.

And yet my life was guiding me toward adifferent path.

My best friend from college, who graduated a year before I did, told me about a program called Teach for America. Its goal was to recruit young and passionate college graduates and to place them for two years into the most disadvantaged schools in the country. That is how I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. I became a special education teacher for children with moderate to severe disabilities. It was my goal, as it was Teach for America’s mission, to give hope to these children.

After my two-year commitment with Teach for America, I moved to Moscow to purse a marketing position. I worked at a large agricultural company, and I wasgrateful to have the job. It was exactly the kind of job I had spent all of college working for. But I could not help but feel unfulfilled. I knew I had to do something. I knew, finally, that it was time to go home.

In January of 2013 I moved to Armenia. My grandmother was no longer with us, and my relationship to my homeland became more complicated than it had ever been. I was still enchanted with the country’s beauty and mystery, but somehow I also knew that Armenia was in pain. We tried to mask the pain, of course. We have become very good at cosmetic surgery. But beneath the surface, there is so much poverty, disappointment, and hopelessness.

I have long believed that change—true, meaningful change—begins in our schools. That is why, together with my co-founder, I decided to create Teach For Armenia.

The idea is clear: to give all children, regardless of their socio-economic background, an opportunity to attain an excellent education. The strategy is simple: to recruit the best and the brightest from Armenia and its diaspora, and to commit these young transformational teachers to two years in the service of children in underprivileged schools. In partnership with the Ministry of Education, we hope to bring this vision to life.

I don’t view repatriation as a sacrifice. My return to Armenia was an opportunity for me to pursue my dreams in the country I’ve always loved. I am lucky to be home.

Posted byInterviewed by Armen Nercesian-Transcribed by Irena Grigoryan
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