Explore STEAM Education at This Unique Southfield Charter School

How A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School puts its new STEAM Center to good use — and why one family is thrilled to have found this charter school.

Like all parents, Sahar Azar wanted the right school fit for her children. Her oldest daughter didn’t thrive in a traditional public school, but by the time she was in second grade, she had moved to the A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School, a K-12 charter public school in Southfield. 

“When I enrolled my daughter at Manoogian, I knew this was the place that would give us what we needed,” says Azar. All three of Azar’s daughters have graduated from Manoogian and her youngest child, Jurius, is in ninth grade there. His sisters have all received full-ride scholarships to two prestigious universities — the University of Michigan and Yale — and Azar credits their success to the “phenomenal foundation” they got from the Manoogian School.

By all accounts, Jurius is writing his own success story. In November 2023, he earned first place at Robofest, an autonomous robotics competition at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield. His victory took him to the International Robotics Olympiad — the oldest international robotics competition — held in January 2024 in Greece, where he participated solo against full teams of up to five high school students.

Jurius Azar competing in the International Robotics Olympiad in Greece
Jurius Azar competing in the International Robotics Olympiad in Greece. Photo Credit: Sahar Azar.

Jurius scored top points for engineering and coding, but his robot stopped abruptly. Still, he accepted defeat graciously, says Azar. “He told me he was not there for the medal and that the experience and atmosphere and just seeing himself with the ‘genius kids’ made him feel like he was one of them,” she says.

Students gain unique STEAM education opportunities in new center

The Manoogian School is a unique learning environment, says Audrey Armoudlian. She attended both Manoogian School and Cranbrook, then taught at Cranbrook before returning to Manoogian, initially as director of K-12 Steam Education. She now serves as high school principal. 

Armoudlian joined just after the school broke ground on the Manoogian STEAM Center, a $2 million resource-rich learning facility that gives students the space to code, create, experiment and solidify next-generation skills for college and career. The Center was spearheaded by Manoogian’s former high school principal, Dr. Hosep Torossian, who secured funding and oversaw its development, Armoudlian says. 

“Even the youngest students are learning the foreign language of coding and it’s fun to watch the light bulbs go off as they struggle and succeed, never giving up,” Armoudlian says. “They learn important skills for science, technology, engineering, arts and math, but also the resilience needed in life.”

While elementary students solve real-world problems using CAD and 3D printers, high school students build electric vehicles from the ground up to participate in an annual automotive competition at Kettering University. 

Student welding at STEAM Class in Manoogian School
Photo Credit: A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School

“Our young men and women are cutting metal and welding parts together and figuring out the best aerodynamic design for speed. It’s exciting to watch their collaborative process,” says Armoudlian.

Middle schoolers at Manoogian use the STEAM center to solve a problem set out by the Engineering Society of Detroit as part of the Future City Competition. “They were tasked with rebuilding a city to make it environmentally sustainable so they researched and built that city in the STEAM Center,” she explains.

There are many ways the Manoogian School encourages the skills of students who are drawn to creative and design innovation, too, including projects involving graphic design and design thinking. “Two years ago, when the war in Ukraine broke out, we had an influx of Ukranian students into the school and many are super creative. The STEAM Center created new interest and a new avenue for their creativity.” 

For Jurius Azar, the Manoogian School’s STEAM Center is where he mentors after-school robotics programs for elementary and middle school students. Azar says trust and encouragement from teachers and staff have given Jurius the confidence to spend “countless hours” mentoring and problem-solving with younger students. 

“Every day, he comes home from school more inquisitive and ambitious,” says Azar. “He wants to do more and more because he loves the atmosphere. He’s supported there.”

Manoogian School is central to the Southfield community

Strategic community partnerships further enrich the student experience at the Manoogian School. Central Michigan University, the charter school’s authorizer, launched a dual enrollment class on-site at the Manoogian School, and students can take dual enrollment courses off-site at Oakland Community College and Lawrence Tech. 

Student working at STEAM Class on Manoogian School
Photo Credit: A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School

Students can participate in the Detroit Economic Club’s Career Readiness Academy to learn more about potential career paths and build mentor relationships. “DEC also has a program where students can learn about personal finance. It’s an exciting partnership,” Armoudlian says.

Community partnerships are an important part of this unique charter school, offering experiences that benefit students today and in the future, including the Manoogian School’s STEAM Center, which was built entirely through the support of community partnerships, not state funding, says Armoudlian. 

“It’s a testament to how our community values what we do and trusts us to educate the leaders of tomorrow,” she says. “The Manoogian School has been in existence for 54 years as a self-managed, not-for-profit school. We do everything ourselves and all the money goes back into education for the students.”

Sahar Azar knows that parents have many choices for their children’s education and she’s grateful for the choice she made to send her children to the Manoogian School. 

“When I look back, I see that Manoogian offered an environment that was close to our values,” she says. “It’s a small school where kids are individuals. And it’s safe. The staff and principal know everyone. I have never felt unsafe or worried about what was going on in the school. My experience with Manoogian has been one for the books. It will always hold a piece of my heart.”

A.G.B.U. Alex and Marie Manoogian School is a tuition-free charter public school authorized by The Center for Charter Schools at Central Michigan University. Learn more about this unique educational community.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Metro Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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