2016 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns Reflect on Summer of Advocacy

The ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns speaking with Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) on the steps of the Capitol just prior to his visit to Armenia.

ANCA’s Signature Youth Leadership Training Program Marks 30th Year
WASHINGTON—The 2016 Armenian National Committee of America “Leo Sarkisian” summer interns – capping off the 30th session of the ANCA’s signature youth leadership training program – returned to their campuses and communities, energized to leverage their newly acquired skills to advance Armenian American advocacy priorities.

“The 8 week Leo Sarkisian Internship program has been a period of immense growth,” explained California State University Northridge Junior Alyssa Dermenjian. “I enjoyed learning first-hand about the challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh – and the impact of local community actions to advance the Armenian Cause. Meeting with Rep. Roybal-Allard was a great opportunity to start a conversation about community concerns – one I hope to continue upon my return.”

From meetings and briefings on Capitol Hill to participation in various think tank events focusing on the Caucasus and the Middle East, interns received first-hand knowledge about the ways of Washington, and effective methods to share community concerns.

“The ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship was a great opportunity to explore DC and Capitol Hill and immerse myself in the cause of the ANCA and American-Armenians everywhere,” explained Tufts University Senior Peter Sahagian. “I believe that I gained invaluable experience in a professional setting while pursuing my own interests and accomplishing the goals I laid down. I will take with me the lessons that I learned and the connections that I made as I advance in my own professional career.”

Throughout this whirlwind of Hai Tahd education, training and activity, each participant gained a broader understanding of the factors at play when it comes to Armenia and the advancement of Armenian American issues. Extended discussions with Armenia, Artsakh and veteran U.S. diplomats were an important part of that education process, with Armenian Ambassador Grigor Hovhannessian, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) Representative Robert Avetisyan and former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans each offering their unique perspectives on foreign policy challenges.

They also walked away with a variety of newly gained skills ranging from conducting in-depth research, to working with the media, meeting with representative officials and even engaging in international diplomacy.

“My eight weeks as a Leo Sarkisian intern have been some of the most unforgettable of my life,” explained University of California Berkeley Junior Paul Iskajyan. “We did meaningful work in areas that interested us, and we were able to apply our specific skills and knowledge in ways that would further the Armenian Cause. This internship convinced me that I will be back in Washington D.C. when I graduate from college, hopefully through the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program.”

Named in honor and memory of pioneering ANCA activist Leo Sarkisian, this eight-week intensive program, gives student leaders and activists the tools necessary to effectively advance Armenian American concerns on campus and in their communities. In 2003, the program was augmented with the establishment of the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway program, a year-round internship and career placement service which provides Armenian Americans greater opportunities to explore job opportunities on Capitol Hill, in the U.S. Foreign Service and key Washington, DC foreign policy think tanks. Both ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program participants stay at The Aramian House, a landmark property purchased by the ANCA Endowment Fund through the generosity of the , which serves as the permanent home for these signature programs.

University of Vienna, Austria recent graduate Nayiri Partamian referenced a quote from world renowned entertainer Charles Aznavour in describing her ANCA Leo Sarkisian summer program experience. “To participate actively in the affairs of the state, you need to live in it and share all the joys and sorrows with its citizens,” said Aznavour. “I believe in actively getting involved in the issues of your country, whether it means protests, interning and or attending an event, and I would like to see more Assyrians, Armenians and Greeks be involved in their communities and politics to bring justice for our ancestors,” explained Partamian.

The ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship ran in parallel to a series of summer legal fellowships, organized in coordination with the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program. Shahan Goenjian, Knarik Gasparyan and Anna Mehrabyan spent the summer researching a broad range of Armenian rights and reparations related issues – all the while exploring various legal opportunities Washington DC has to offer.

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