WASHINGTON–The 24th annual Armenian National Committee of America Leo Sarkisian internship kicked off with a fast pace and remarkable start last week, as interns from all over the Western hemisphere gathered in Washington, DC, to embrace this eight-week, intensive program.
"This internship is really meant to serve as a training mechanism for the next generation of activists in the Armenian community throughout the Americas," said Leo Sarkisian Internship Director Serouj Aprahamian. "We are pleased to welcome this group of highly-motivated interns to DC and have them hit the ground running as they gain the first-hand experience needed to effectively advance Armenian American issues."
Each of the interns participated in an intensive application process in their respective ANC regions and look forward to this life changing experience, dreaming of coming out from their local communities and making a difference on a nation-wide scale. The year’s intern class consists of university students from coast-to-coast, including: Rita Astoor, Nieri Avanessian, Zori Eurdekian, Razmik Tchakmakian, and Arbi Vartan.
Each of the interns are active members of Armenian American community life ‘s in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), Homenetmen, Armenian Student Association (ASA), Hamazkayine, and of course their local ANC — and are set to gain the necessary hands-on knowledge to augment their involvement upon their return.
Zori Eurdekian, who is going to be a junior at Babson College this Fall, is a 20 year old Armenian American from New York. He is business focused, majoring in entrepreneurship and marketing. He is highly active in the Armenian Protestant Church community in NY, and a leader at Babson’s ASA. When asked of what he thinks of the internship so far, Zori noted "The ANCA gives me the unique opportunity to come to Washington and utilize my business-oriented skills to lobby on behalf of the Armenian American community. That’s a winning combination."
"This internship is one of a kind because it teaches us how political processes play out on a day-to-day basis through hands-on activities," said Rita Astoor, one of the two interns studying at the University of California, Berkeley. Majoring in English, Rita is an active member of her ASA, as well as the school’s Model United Nations team, which deals with international politics.
Her compatriot from U.C. Berkeley is outgoing ASA Chairman Arbi Vartan, currently majoring in organizational psychology. "This internship has shown me first-hand the impact of my grassroots efforts as a member of the Armenian American community," he explained. "I am able to attend Congressional hearings and see the impact of our community phone calls, and realize that they DO make the difference," continued Vartan, who has also been working closely with the ANC since his high school days in Southern California.
At 18, Nieri Avanessian has immersed herself in the Detroit area Armenian American community, working on the executive board of the local AYF "Kopernik Tandourjian" chapter, a member of the Hamazkayin "Arax" dance group as well as the University of Michigan Armenian Students’ Cultural Association. After being accepted to the internship, Avanessian explained, "I applied to this internship program to gain a more intimate knowledge of the American government and the way that advocacy groups affect it. I really hope to make a big difference in the Armenian Cause, and I think that by working in the ANCA DC office this summer, I can add to our local efforts beginning in the Fall."
Nineteen-year-old Toronto native Razmik Tchakmakian is entering his second year at Seneca College, majoring in Business-Insurance. He has been in the AYF "Simon Zavarian" Chapter since the age of 10, and was the president of the chapter’s Social Committee this past year. "All my life I have dreamed of working on a day-to-day basisto promote justice for the Armenian Genocide and to move our collective Cause forward," explained Tchakmakian. "Being here in Washington, DC ‘s with an opportunity to hone the skills I learned in the AYF ‘s will help me do just that."
The Leo Sarkisian Internship Program, now in its 24th 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.
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.