WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) welcomed 7 interns from across the US and Canada to Washington, DC this week for the Leo Sarkisian Internship, an eight week intensive program designed to give student leaders and activists the tools necessary to effectively advance Armenian American concerns.
The Leo Sarkisian Internship Program, now in its 23rd year, is an integral part of a growing effort to provide Armenian Americans greater opportunities to explore careers on Capitol Hill, in the U.S. Foreign Service and key Washington, DC foreign policy think tanks. It is a part of the larger ANCA Capital Gateway Program, which is designed to help university students and graduates find internships and permanent positions in Congressional offices as well as a host of other government agencies and policy groups.
"The ANCA Leo Sarkisian program is not just an internship; it’s a training ground for the next generation of leaders in our community,” said Capitol Gateway Program director Serouj Aprahamian. “We work to provide our interns with a broad array of knowledge, skills, and first-hand experience so that they can be more effective activists and have a solid foundation on which to build for the future."
Interns, who participate in a wide variety of projects based on their individual interests, are given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience within the American political system. They participate in a bi-weekly lecture series featuring guest lecturers, including public officials and Armenian American leaders.
Participants were able to attend the first-ever joint U.S. Congress ‘s Russian Duma open meeting and see congressmen’such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) participate in a discussion about democracy, human rights and unresolved regional conflicts with Russian leaders on Thursday.
Interns this year include Paul Ternamian from Canada, Alidz Oshgan and Nyree Naljian from the East Coast, and Alex Der Alexanian, Shant Hagopian, Dzovak Kazandjian and Christopher Yemenidjian from the West Coast.
Shant Hagopian, a political science major transferring to the University of California, Berkeley this fall, has been a student government officer and member of the Alpha Gamma Sigma state honor’s society at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, CA. He has also worked closely with the ANC of West San Fernando Valley on a variety of projects.
“I’m here to combine my passion for politics and government with my pride as an Armenian-American to advance Hai Tahd here in our nation’s capital with the ANC,” said Hagopian.
“As participants in this year’s internship, our objective is to develop the effective tools and knowledge necessary to make a positive difference in our respective communities,” said Paul Ternamian, a recent graduate of the University of Toronto with a degree in Economics. “Moreover, the Leo Sarkisian internship program will allow us to improve our understanding of various important ANCA issues affecting Armenian Americans.” In addition to his work with the Armenian National Committee of Toronto and his participation in Homenetmen, Ternamian is on the executive committee of his local ARF Youth Organization of Canada (ARF YOC) Simon Zavarian chapter.
Dzovak Kazandjian, a Sociology and English double major at the University of California, Irvine, serves on the executive committee for the South Bay ANC and has interned for the Orange County Register and Asbarez Daily Newspaper.
“Leo Sarkisian gives interns the opportunity to travel to Washington DC and completely immerse themselves in the political process,” Kazandjian said. “It allows young Armenia’s to gain the tools necessary to further help Armenian Americans in their local communities.”
Alidz Oshagan, a Sociology major at the University of Wisconsin- Madison, is a member of the Detroit “Kopernik Tandourjian” AYF Senior chapter. She has interned at the Armenian Weekly and has also taught at the A.R.S Detroit Zavarian Armenian weekly school.
“I wanted to be a part of the Leo Sarkisian internship because it will allow me to explore Hai Tahd issues, which is something I want to continue doing in the future on a bigger level,” said Oshagan.
Alex Der Alexanian, a business administration major with a concentration in finance at the California State University, Fullerton, has dedicated numerous hours volunteering with the On Track Mentorship program for at risk youth, in addition to his ANC activism and involvement in Orange County’s Ashod Yergat AYF.
“I was interested in the Leo Sarkisian Internship Program because it is an excellent way to get hands-on experience with Hai Tahd on a national level,” said Alexanian. “Also, I wanted to learn the skills necessary to become an effective activist and take those skills back to my community.”
“I love being a part of the Armenian community and working for the Armenian Cause,” said Nyree Naljian, a student at Pace University in New York receiving her masters in Accounting. “When I heard about this organization, I was extremely excited to be a part of it to be able to fight for my rights as an Armenian and not deny my identity.”
A New Jersey native, Naljian has been involved in the Armenian Evangelical Youth Fellowship, the Armenian Church Youth Organization of America and also serves as a Sunday school teacher at the Armenian Presbyterian Church. She is also a member of Lambda Sigma national honor’s society at Pace University.
Christopher Yemenidjian, a Political Science and English double major transferring to the University of California, Berkeley this spring, has shown immense dedication to his local Armenian community, serving as the chairman of the South Bay AYF Potorig chapter, South Bay ANC, and the United Human Rights Council. In addition, he has interned at the ANCA-Western Region office, is a veteran of the U.S Air Force, and has also been inducted into the Alpha Gamma Sigma honor’s society.
“The Leo Sarkisian internship permits future leaders to showcase their abilities, while allowing them to reach their full potential,” said Yemenidjian. “It is essential for us to stand united and continue to fight the intellectual war against those who deny our cultural history and those who stand in our way during our quest for a united Armenia.”