WASHINGTON—Arriving just days before the centennial celebration of the First Armenian Republic and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Armenia: Creating Home program, the 2018 Armenian National Committee of America Leo Sarkisian Internship and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program (CGP) summer interns have had a unique opportunity to play a front-line role in the growth of U.S.-Armenia political, diplomatic and cultural ties in the heart of the nation’s capital.
“What an incredible time for young Armenians to be in Washington, D.C. to take part in a diverse range of events strengthening the U.S.-Armenia friendship,” Tereza Yerimyan, ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Director, said. “From meeting with the President of Armenia and the wonderful artisans of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s Armenia: Creating Home program, to sharing community priorities with Congressional leaders during ANCA Advocacy Day, it’s been a non-stop, hands-on learning experience, setting the stage for so much more to come.”
Hailing from communities across the U.S., the 2018 ANCA summer intern class is working closely with professionals, elected officials and veteran community activists to gain a better understanding of Armenian-American priorities and how best to advance them on the federal, state and local levels. They will participate in weekly lectures from industry specialists on topics ranging from public policy to professional development — preparing them for expanded leadership roles in their local communities and setting a foundation for future career development opportunities.
In addition to the Washington, D.C. component of the program, the 2018 ANCA interns traveled to Pennsylvania to participate in the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Association’s “ArtLinks” educational retreat, led by Columbia University professor, Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, which featured workshops that brought together artists, young professionals and university students.
They also joined in the celebration of the Homenetmen Armenian Athletic and Scouting Association’s centennial celebration, hosted in Washington, D.C.
The 2018 Leo Sarkisian interns include Lilit Bazikyan, Antranig Kechejian, Christopher Khachadour, Lucine Mikhanjian, Victoria Messikian and Adrienne Tazian-Schwartz. They are joined by CGP interns Jirair Ashotyan, Haik Voskerchian and high school interns Sevana Dombalagian, Hasmik Krikorian and Megan Vandre.
ANCA LSI and CGP participants are vetted through a rigorous application process with acceptance based on academic excellence as well as a strong track-record of community involvement and student leadership. Interns engage in a wide range of research projects tailored to their areas of interest while increasing their political understanding through congressional meetings, think-tank talks, and bi-weekly lectures by members of the diplomatic community and public policy experts. Summer interns in need of housing stay at the Aramian House, located in Washington D.C.’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood, which is just a short walk from the ANCA headquarters
Established in 1986 and named in memory of the late ANCA Eastern U.S. community leader who spearheaded grassroots activism to advance the Armenian Cause for more than four decades, the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship program now has hundreds of alumni across the world, spreading the message of truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide, freedom for Artsakh, and a secure, prosperous, and democratic Armenian homeland.
Launched in 2003, the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program helps secure permanent employment and professional internships in Washington, D.C. for young Armenian-American professionals and students. Through the years, the ANCA has developed many relationships in and around Capitol Hill and identified a wide range of opportunities in the Washington, D.C. area. The CGP utilizes these resources and contacts to help candidates identify and secure jobs that fit their interests and needs.
Meet the 2018 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns:
Lilit Bazikyan is a rising junior at the University of California, Berkeley. She was previously involved with the ANCA-Glendale Chapter as an intern and was awarded ANCA-Glendale Youth Activist Award for her exceptional dedication to her community. She will obtain her Bachelor’s of Science in Mathematics in 2020. Lilit plans to continue her education by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Economics; using her education and experience, she is hoping to have a positive impact by shaping economic policy.
“I am very excited and am looking forward to working with individuals from all over the U.S. to contribute to ANCA’s efforts in advocating for the Armenian Cause. The Leo Sarkisian Internship is a fantastic opportunity to explore my Armenian identity while fighting for causes that are close to my heart,” Bazikyan said.
Antranig Kechejian is a rising junior at Boston University pursuing a degree in Economics. Antranig is a member of BU’s Kilach and Honors College, as well as the world’s oldest and largest professional business fraternity. He has experience working on and leading strategy projects for startup and nonprofit organizations, and further strives to use his analytical and interpersonal abilities to help people. He attended AYF Camp Haiastan as a camper and gave back to this amazing community by working there as a staff member for two years. Antranig is also a part of Boston University’s Armenian Student Association and a proud member of the Greater Boston “Njdeh” AYF chapter.
“I feel extremely excited and grateful to be a Leo Sarkisian Intern this summer,” Kechejian said. “To me, this is a unique opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, while contributing to a cause that has shaped my life since I was a child.”
Christopher Khachadour is a senior at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) majoring in History and Political Science. He is the president of Alpha Epsilon Omega, the Armenian Fraternity at UCI, and has been a member of the Armenian Students’ Association at UCI for the past four years, having previously served as Cultural Director and Vice President. This spring he was granted the OC Trex UCI Armenian Studies Scholarship and awarded a certificate in Conflict Analysis and Resolution by the UCI International Studies Program. Christopher is also a longtime member of the AYF Pasadena “Nigol Touman” Chapter.
“The Leo Sarkisian Internship is granting me the opportunity to experience life in Washington, D.C. first hand. Working alongside politicians as well as professionals who have years of experience in dealing with public diplomacy,” Khachadour said. “The ANCA has done an amazing job advancing U.S.-Armenia relations pushing the Armenian Cause over the years, and I cannot wait to a part of the team.”
Victoria Messikian is a rising junior at Fordham University. She is majoring in International Studies and minoring in Spanish. Victoria has been involved in many different aspects of the Armenian community throughout her life. In 2015, Victoria organized an Armenian Genocide awareness assembly at her high school for the centennial anniversary. Victoria founded and presided over the Armenian Club at The College of New Jersey in 2016.
“I am thrilled to be in Washington, D.C. for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I know the Leo Sarkisian Internship will provide me with a great understanding of the role that Armenians play in the United States, and what we can do as individuals to help advance our cause,” Messikian said. “Armenian issues have always been important to me, and working with such inspirational and experienced mentors will be an experience I will never forget.”
Lucine Mikhanjian was raised in Orange County, and is a recent graduate from the University of California, Riverside with a B.A. in Public Policy. After serving as a Student Ambassador for the UCR School of Public Policy, and interning for the Mayor of Riverside, she aspires to a career in public service to help advance Armenia’s standing in the world.
“I am both ecstatic and humbled to be a Leo Sarkisian intern here in D.C. It is undeniable that my work and experiences over the next eight weeks will be engaging, educational, challenging and incredibly important for the Armenian population worldwide. I hope to emulate the passion fostered under the ANCA roof, and to take my progress and apply it to my future endeavors,” Mikhanjian said.
Adrienne Tazian-Schwartz is entering her senior year at Indiana University-Bloomington. She currently is pursuing a B.A. in Economics and a B.S. in Informatics with a special interest in monetary policy and data analytics. Her family has historically been involved with the ANCA and she is looking forward to working with and learning from an organization that advances the Armenian Cause. She hopes to pursue a career in Washington, D.C. post-graduation.
After the program, she looks forward to visiting Armenia with her family.
“I have always dreamed of traveling to Armenia. Now, during my future visit, I will have an even deeper appreciation and understanding of the culture and country thanks to my time at the ANCA,” Tazian-Schwartz said.
Meet the 2018 ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Summer Interns:
Jirair Ashotyan is a Pre-Law Political Science and Philosophy double-major at Pepperdine University with a Straus Institute Certificate for Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management. He serves as Pepperdine’s Student Government Senior Senator, the founding President of Pepperdine’s Young Americans for Liberty chapter, and is a member of their Armenian Students’ Association, Pi Alpha Delta Pre-law fraternity and Microfinance Club.
“As a student interested in politics, the ANCA has given me a unique multi-perspective look into American politics and allowed me to engage with a variety of Capitol events — more interesting experiences are always around the corner,” Ashotyan said. “It was an honor to meet the President of Armenia for the celebration of 100 years of U.S.-Armenia relations.”
Haik Voskerchian is a rising senior at Georgetown University, double majoring in Mathematics and Philosophy and minoring in Economics. Haik has served as a member of the Board of the Triple Helix — a Science Policy publication at Georgetown. He helped create Georgetown University’s first Armenian Students’ Association and served as its President. Haik has been very active in promoting the Armenian Cause in the D.C. area and is especially motivated in promoting U.S.-Armenia relations and sharing Armenia’s rich cultural heritage on his university’s campus.
“I cannot wait to apply and hone my skills in drafting policy proposals and promoting grassroots-based ideas in support of the Armenian Cause,” Voskerchian said. “The ANCA is a unique and rare example of principled political activism in Washington, D.C., which I am proud to be working under. I’m especially excited for this year’s Smithsonian-sponsored Folklife Festival which will be featuring the best of Armenian culture.”
Meet the 2018 ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Summer High School Interns:
Sevana Dombalagian is a rising junior at Glenbrook South High School in Glenview, Illinois. Dombalagian has been a member of the AYF Chicago “Ararat” Junior Chapter as well as the Hamazkayin Dance Ensemble for many years and volunteers at Taniel Varoujan Armenian School in Glenview. Dombalagian has also been a camper at Camp Haiastan for the past six years and plans on becoming a counselor. In the future, Dombalagian plans to double major in Philosophy and Physics as well as minor in Theology. She is excited about interning at the ANCA and giving back to the Armenian community that has done so much for her already.
“I cannot wait to learn and experience Armenian activism and to contribute to the Armenian Cause. Expanding my knowledge on Armenian political issues at the ANCA will continue to increase my curiosity and I am excited to see where that takes me,” Dombalagian said.
Hasmig Krikorian is a rising senior at Centreville High in Clifton, Virginia. Hasmig has been a member of the AYF Washington, D.C. “Sevan” Junior Chapter for the past seven years and has served as Treasurer and President. She plans to double major in International Relations and Philosophy and aspires to eventually obtain a Ph.D. She hopes to connect morality and ethics to human rights to help put an end to human right abuses and bring support to recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
“I am thrilled to help out at the ANCA this summer and I am very happy to contribute to the Armenian Cause and learn more about Armenian activism. I’m very excited for the new experiences and lessons that will help me grow as an Armenian American,” Krikorian said.
Megan Vandre is a rising junior at Langley High School in McLean, Virginia, where she is a member of the Langley Madrigals choir and the color guard. She is a graduate of the Hamasdegh Armenian School in Bethesda, Maryland. She is looking forward to working with the ANCA to further her knowledge on Armenian political affairs and to be more involved with her Armenian community.
“I am hoping to gain valuable experience to help shape my future. I am so grateful that we have a large network of Armenians in D.C., and it excites me to be a part of it,” Vandre said.