LOS ANGELES—September 25 marked the formal inauguration of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s (ANCA-WR) Fall 2015 Internship Program. Vazgen Badiryan, Aline Baghdjian, Alyssa Dermenjian, Diana Dzheragyan, and Agnessa Kasumyan hail from different educational and professional backgrounds, but they joined the internship program with a common, unified goal: to give back to the Armenian community and develop leadership skills that will allow them to promote Armenian-American advocacy issues.
“We are honored to have these 5 young impressive group of leaders join the fall internship program. Each and every one of them has an innate passion and drive to advance the cause and give back to the community,” stated ANCA WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “The next several months are going to be extremely busy at the ANCA WR and we look forward to utilizing this time to give them a true hands on experience in grassroots activism and community building on the local, state, and national levels.” she added.
Selected from a competitive pool of candidates, the fall internship class will serve on organizational planning committees, attend weekly workshops, and engage in preparation for the upcoming ANCA-WR Grassroots Conference and Gala, the 2016 Election season as well as development and advocacy efforts in the 21 states in the region.
A student at Pasadena City College (PCC), Badiryan is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Hydrology. His extensive extracurricular background includes the Shadow Hills Riding Club, where he helped children with disabilities regain their motor skills. At PCC, Badiryan is a member of the Armenian Students’ Association and the Caduceus Club. An integral part of both groups, Badiryan organizes events, manages activities, and works with various groups to maximize efficiency. Badiryan will serve on the Grassroots Committee, and aid in preparations for the much anticipated annual conference slated for October 23-24, 2015.
Baghdjian, also a student at PCC, studies Biology. Her impressive academic credentials include membership of the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation. Graduating in the top 10 percent of her high school class, Baghdjian received the President’s Education Award. She continues her academic rigor at PCC, where she is on the Dean’s Honor Roll and is a member of the Honors Transfer and eSTEM programs. Also part of the ASA, Baghdjian joined the ANCA-WR to learn more about domestic and international Armenian issues. She plans to use her acquired knowledge and experience at ANCA-WR to give back to her community while educating her family and peers, hoping they will do the same.
Like Badiryan, Baghdjian has been assigned to the Grassroots Committee.
Dzheragyan is a sophomore at Woodbury University, studying Business Management. Dzheragyan’s involvement in the Armenian community precedes her internship with the ANCA-WR. In 2012, she volunteered for Greg Krikorian’s State Assembly campaign by phone banking and going door-to-door to meet with constituents. She volunteered for yet another campaign the following year, reaching out to the community to get the vote out for Zareh Sinanyan’s Glendale City Council campaign. She also spent the summer of 2013 volunteering for Camp Zavarian. As a camp counselor, she supervised children between the ages of 7 and 13, while organizing different artistic and educational activities. In high school, she was a member of the Service Club, an organization that collects toys and donates them to Children’s Hospital during the holidays. A member of the Armenian Youth Federation for five years, Dzheragyan continued her involvement in the Armenian community by joining Woodbury’s ASA as a treasurer. She hopes to learn more about government issues and gain a better understanding of the different ways she can give back to the Armenian community. A member of ANCA-WR’s Gala Committee, Dzheragyan will assist in organizing an annual event that brings over 1,500 public policy and elected officials, community members and activists together in celebration of our collective achievements.
“ANCA’s endless efforts to protect and maintain the rights of Armenians and ensure the well-being of our country is what impresses me the most. I want to be a part of this organization because of the spiritual fulfillment it is going to provide me as a member of the Armenian youth and it gives me the opportunity to dedicate my own time and energy in promising Armenia and our people a bright and prosperous future,” stated Dzheragyan.
Dermenjian is in the process of acquiring her AA degree in Social and Behavioral Science, but she plans to pursue a bachelor’s in Political Science upon transfer. Previously a tutor at UCLA’s Youth Policy Institute, Dermenjian worked with students to increase academic proficiency and assist with homework assignments. She was also a facilitator for “Yes ICAN,” an international child abuse advocacy network. Dermenjian actively engaged in support groups for individuals struggling with the effects of domestic violence and was trained in crisis intervention. However, her community service efforts do not end there. Dermenjian also volunteered for the Robert M. Wilkinson Multipurpose Senior Citizen Center between 2012 and 2014. In addition to maintaining the kitchen and decorating the center for events and holidays, she also prepared and set up lunches for seniors and organized daily interactive classes. Like many first-generation Armenians, Dimejian grew up in a household where her Armenian heritage came first. Her father educated her on the genocide, which instilled in her not only the desire to give back, but also a sense of pride.
Dermenjian’s determination to benefit the Armenian community intensified after participating in the Armenian Relief Society’s Camp Javakhk program, which required her to travel to Armenian-populated cities within Georgian borders. She taught children English, gave health and sanitation lectures, and participated in traditional Armenian musical and dance lessons. The young volunteer was inspired by the efforts of local Armenians to preserve their heritage, despite the various risks involved.
“After Javakhk, I realized just how many opportunities there are for me to be involved in my own community,” she said. “I’m staggered by all of the ANCA’s efforts in helping Armenia and Armenian communities all over the world. I look forward to remaining an active member of the organization even after my internship is over.”
Kasumyan is in her first semester at the University of Southern California, where she is majoring in Political Science with a minor in Global Communications. Prior to transferring, she attended Glendale Community College (GCC), where was editor-in-chief of the campus newspaper, president of the Journalism Club, and president of the Scholars (Honors) Program. During her tenure as Scholars President, the program more than tripled its fundraising profits and community service initiatives, participating in projects with Habitat for Humanity, Kairos, Ronald McDonald House, TreePeople, and raising over $2000 for Relay for Life. The program, which includes Armenian and non-Armenian students alike, presented a unified front at the Centennial Genocide March on April 24. Kasumyan also initiated a partnership with the Glendale Police Officer’s Association for their annual “Cops for Kids” Toy Drive, where students in the program collected hundreds of toys for needy families in Glendale. As editor-in-chief, Kasumyan oversaw many changes to the paper, previously co-founding its first broadcasting segment and serving as a director, writer, producer, and anchor and winning a state award for her personal column, “Kessab Armenians Under Attack.” Upon transfer, Kasumyan was invited to speak at GCC’s Board of Trustees meeting and was awarded a Certificate of Recognition from the college’s president for “bringing distinction” to GCC in 2014. Kasumyan also served as a student ambassador for the Glendale City Clerk’s office and was a volunteer, then employee, of the non-profit medical organization, “All for Health, Health for All.” Having heard about the atrocities committed against Armenians in 1915 and during the Sumgait Pogrom, which forced many of her relatives to flee their homes and their homeland, Kasumyan always felt a sense of cultural responsibility to advancing Armenian causes. At ANCA-WR, she will serve on the Hye Votes and Grassroots Committees, and will be assisting with overall organizational development activities.
Established in 2006, the ANCA-WR internship program has consistently provided student leaders with the platform to engage in advocacy efforts and networking opportunities that will help them down the line. The program is attached to the largest and most influential grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States and provides an interactive, in-depth learning experience in the American political system, Armenian-American issues, and advocacy efforts on local, state, and federal levels.
Established in summer 2006, the ANCA Western Region Internship Program is a selective part-time leadership program, which introduces high school seniors, college students, and recent college graduates to all aspects of the public affairs arena. The program provides an opportunity for student leaders and activists to gain an in-depth understanding of the American political system, Armenian-American issues and advocacy efforts on the local, state and federal levels.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.