WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America expanded its summer youth leadership training programs this year with the addition of the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship.
The fellowship is offered to a dedicated summer associate, chosen annually as a living legacy to a devoted youth leader, whose community activism and commitment to the Armenian homeland continues to inspire new generations of young Armenian Americans.
“Maral’s legacy lives on through the Fellowship established in her name, in the wonderful work that this program will empower, and—perhaps most importantly—in the spirit of her kind and caring soul that endures in all of our hearts,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“We are proud to name Lucine as our inaugural Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellow and are deeply gratified that, in the first weeks of her fellowship, she is already living up to the high aims and hopeful aspirations that Maral set for herself, her homeland, and her heritage,” added Hamparian.
“Our family is deeply touched to see Maral’s eternal spirit live on in a new generation of young Armenians who share her selfless commitment to the Armenian community, and sacred cause of our ancient Armenian nation,” said Maral’s brother Raffi, on behalf of their father Ara, mother Haikanouche, and the entire Melkonian and Avetisyan families.
“We are particularly pleased that such a remarkable young Armenian woman has been chosen as the inaugural Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellow. We know that Lucine, and all who follow her, will share Maral’s devotion and bring to their work at the ANCA the same contagious passion and pride that inspired all who knew and loved our dear Maral,” he concluded.
Lucine Poturyan, a rising senior at Wesleyan University, majoring in Government and Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, with a minor in Data Analysis, was chosen from a robust pool of summer applicants. Her leadership in advancing community priorities in Connecticut and her strong ties to her homeland and heritage make her the ideal candidate.
Before moving out to the East Coast in pursuit of her undergraduate degree, Lucine was a dancer with Nairi Dance Studio in Hollywood, California, and attended Rose and Alex Pilibos’ Armenian Saturday school. Her upbringing in Los Angeles influenced her dedication to her Armenian community, eventually bringing her to Washington, D.C. to further Armenian American interests.
Poturyan is honored to be the first ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan fellow, inspired by her commitment to helping the children of Armenia and Artsakh through work in the Homeland, and advocacy here in the U.S.
“I am humbled and eager to serve my community this summer in Maral Melkonian Avetisyan’s memory. I’m excited to advocate for the Armenian Cause while also navigating and learning about my Armenian identity in the United States,” explained Poturyan. “The advocacy skills developed during the ANCA summer program will play a vital role in my professional development and pursuit of my future endeavors.”
The Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellowship runs concurrently with the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship Program, now in its 33rd year.
Maral Melkonian Avetisyan: A Life of Devoted Service to the Armenian Cause
Born on January 12, 1983, in Silver Spring, Maryland, Maral was always the delight of her parents, Ara and Haikanouche Melkonian, and older brother, Raffi. She attended St. Catherine Laboure from Kindergarten to 5th grade; St. Martin Catholic School from 6th through 8th grade; then graduated from Good Counsel High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature in 2007 from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Maral was a proud graduate of the Greater Washington, D.C. area’s Hamasdegh Armenian School, and devoted her volunteer time to organizations including Homenetmen, Armenian Youth Federation, AYF Camp Haiastan, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenia Volunteer Corps, and Birthright Armenia.
She led by example from the very beginning, holding multiple executive positions in the AYF D.C. “Sevan” Juniors and “Ani” Seniors, and attending Camp Haiastan both as a camper and a counselor. At just 13 years of age, her poem, “When I Wake Up,” published in The Armenian Weekly, encapsulated her commitment to helping the children of Armenia. “When I wake up, I look forward to tell people to help Armenia,” wrote young Maral. “When I wake up, I hope a child from Armenia gets food.” She ends her poem with a rallying cry to her generation, “I got up. I am ready to fight for Armenia.”
In Homenetmen, she inspired fellow Scouts as a khmpabed and traveled to Armenia in 1998 and 2002 to participate in the worldwide jamborees. In 2006, she would return to the Homeland, this time through the AYF, AVC, and Birthright Armenia, to spend the summer working with children at the Naregatsi Art Institute in Artsakh and the Khnko Aper Children’s Library in Yerevan. In 2007, she went back for a second consecutive summer, this time as director of the AYF Armenia Internship Program.
Upon her return to the U.S., as she explored career opportunities, Maral interned at the ANCA. In time, she met and married a true kindred spirit—Tigran Avetisyan—and they, together, embarked on a journey of faith and fulfillment that was sadly cut short on April 13, 2015.
In addition to supporting the ANCA’s educational and youth development programs, Maral’s family has shared her powerful legacy of devotion to community and cause through their support for her beloved Camp Haiastan, and most recently through the establishment of a soccer field in the village of Arajamugh in the Republic of Artsakh.
Ara and Haikanouche Melkonian and Ara Melkonian’s sister, Seta Melkonian-Mangassarian, recently participated in the dedication ceremony for the outdoor sports facility, built through the efforts of the Armenian Cultural Association of America Artsakh Fund. Noting Maral’s lifelong commitment to the children of the Armenian homeland, Artsakh Fund Board Member Hovsep Avakian explained, “We seek to do everything we can so that the youth of these border villages can grow fully, in a free and unfettered environment. These villages are essentially Artsakh’s gatekeepers and thus require constant attention. At the same time, through such charitable projects, we bind our diasporan communities more closely to the life of liberated Artsakh.”