Advice for My 10-year-old Self: Team Members Reflect for Armenian History Month

Published on 
April 21, 2021

In honor of Armenian History Month, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles posed a question to some of our Armenian-American team members: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 10-year-old self? Their responses are collected here.

Ara Balkian, MD, MBA

Chief Medical Director, Inpatient Operations
21 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Ara Balkian as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

Appreciate and maximize the time you spend with your family, because you never know when the ones you love will be gone. As you grow up, always prioritize the most important things in your life: family, friends and your health. 

Lastly, I know you really want to be a professional football player, but you may want to consider pediatrics.


Sandra Belderian

Division Administrator, Cancer and Blood Disease Institute
7 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Sandra Belderian as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

The advice I would give my 10-year-old self would be, “It’s going to be a bumpy ride, so hold on tight!” 

Having immigrated to the States at a young age, the adjustment was extremely difficult. Trying to understand where I came from and how I got here did not really resonate with me until I was in 8th grade. Throughout my childhood I heard countless stories from my parents about their parents, and I would always be confused, because I had an “Armenian” last name; was told I was Armenian, but my parents, siblings and I had never stepped foot in Armenia. I finally understood what diaspora meant and the importance of educating my peers. No consecutive generation for five generations has been born in the same country in my family. My great-grandparents were born in Armenia, my grandparents in modern day Turkey, my parents in Iraq, me in Kuwait and my children, right here in California. Although I have learned so much from my family history, I never knew what “home” really was. I came to realize that all of this is part of the “road” I am on—and it has provided the foundation I rely on today. The older I got the more I realized how nothing is easy (nor will it ever be) and every step, goal and achievement was only accomplished by being confronted with obstacles that I was able to overcome. From language barriers when I first came to the country, to cultural differences, to needing to study harder or more than my classmates. From my undergraduate and graduate education to starting my career, it has been one hurdle after the other—and yet I remain resilient.   

This past year alone, I was able to utilize so many tools I had gathered over the years to not only stay focused and aligned with the vision and mission of CHLA, but I believe helped my team adjust to the madness of a global pandemic. Even when I felt defeated and like all odds seemed stacked against me, I continued to do whatever was needed. I have been fortunate enough to be able to go to school, work at multiple non-profits, learn, develop and grow both personally and professionally. 

These are a few examples that taught me perseverance and to remain resilient. The entire ride has made me more self-aware and I continue to grow and learn on a daily basis. 

Yes, there are and will be detours and at times what seem to be dead ends, but ultimately, we end up at our destination. CHLA has provided me a vehicle to be able to manage and maneuver the road I am on and I am extremely grateful for all the opportunities it has provided for me. Although at times it seems to be one crazy road, I will continue to hang on tight and look forward to where the road takes me next.


Rita Annie Haddad

Program Administrator, Marketing and Communications
15 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Rita Annie Haddad as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

The advice I would give to my 10-year-old self is to stay involved in the Armenian community and take advantage of opportunities to give back. Also, even though it may seem difficult at times to keep up with our Armenian culture and traditions outside of Armenia, it is very important not to forget where you came from—including speaking the Armenian language at home and with your family.


Rita Mekhedjian

Respiratory Care Practitioner
25 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Rita Mekhedjian as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

My dear Rita. You are 10 years old today. You may still be a child, but you have some awesome dreams about what your future may look like. You have dreams of business success, travel, love and family. Your spirit is full of the optimism and the innocence of childhood—as it should be—for childhood is short and fleeting, and soon you will be faced with the bittersweet journey of adulthood and responsibilities. You will be faced will the loss of your parents at an early age, relocation to a country halfway around the world, starting over with a new language, in a new culture, with new customs and traditions, motherhood, divorce, and a career in health care, caring for the sickest of children. Not exactly the dream you dreamt. Guess what! Life rarely follows the path we plan for it, but if you could see yourself forty years into the future, you would barely recognize yourself. Rita, you have experienced love, grieved loss, shouted in victory, basked in joy, cried on shoulders of friends, offered your shoulder for someone to cry on. You have embraced your new identity in your new land while maintaining your strong roots in the old homeland. Your parents would be proud, Rita. It is a pity they are not around to celebrate with you.

So, little Rita, rest assured that life’s battles cannot and will not tear you down. Keep learning, keep expanding your horizons, attempt those new experiences that make your heart flutter with joy, and keep your heart open while embracing the changes. The journey is worth it.


Christina Naguib

Senior Graphic Designer, Marketing Communications
3 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Christina Naguib as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

Embrace and love your differences! Although you may feel weird, different and out of place when you compare yourself to others, remember that those differences will become your biggest strength in the future. Own who you were meant to be.


Gevork George Srapian

Strategy Consultant, Strategic Services
8 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Gevork George Srapian as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

I would tell my 10-year-old self to never ever give up on your dreams and aspirations, whatever it may be. Whatever roadblock you encounter, be persistent, eager and ready to pave new roads; and when you do, be ready to lend a helping hand without taking anything in return. Do good and expect nothing in return, even for those who doubt you. Never forget who you are and make time to learn about those around you. You will realize that our collective experiences, as different as they may seem, have a common theme centered around one world and one people.


Rita Terterian

Vice President, Development
7 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Rita Terterian as a child and as an adult

Advice for my 10-year-old self:

I’d tell my 10-year-old self that life is limitless, don’t let other people define what you can achieve. Also, fully embrace who you are and where you come from; allow what makes you unique and different to shine, and don’t be concerned about blending in.


Rebecca Yeretzian-Santana, LMFT

Art Therapist
4 years at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles


Advice for my 10-year-old self:

Elaborations of her world were sincere, dense, fruitful. She spoke with a tone that embodied the trials of her ancestors, reverent to the angels they have become. There was a gentle attention given to her purpose in their light, but do they hear her … are they listening? She catches your gaze, so you look away—honesty that is profound with love. You want to believe the narrative you’ve assumed, when the truth is much more effortless. How is it that she can be everywhere and nowhere altogether? Do you know her? A daughter of mercy. Who is she today? Armenian Diaspora.