WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America Summer internship program, named in honor of the late ANCA activist Leo Sarkisian, is celebrating its 27th year with the participation of a bright and dedicated group of university students and alumni from across the U.S. and Canada – joined together with one purpose – advancing the Armenian Cause.
“Twenty seven years into this process, the Leo Sarkisian Internship Program continues to serve as the premiere training ground for the next generation of community leaders advancing the Armenian Cause,” said ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian. “After their eight weeks here in the nation’s capital, they will go to work using all they’ve learned to leverage our outreach and engagement with our community, government officials, the media, and coalition partners.”
Each of the interns was selected following an intensive application process in their respective regions that weighed their qualifications and their drive to make a difference on a national scale. Many came to Washington with impressive track records in our regional and local offices – serving as ANC interns, staff and volunteers. This year’s intern class consists of university students from coast-to-coast and Canada, including: Varak Baronian, Araz Hasserjian, Shant Meguerditchian, Armine Sargsyan, and Tereza Yerimyan.
All are active members of Armenian American community life – from the Armenian Youth Federation, to the Armenian Student Association, and of course their local ANC chapters. Within days of arrival, the interns helped facilitate the ANCA’s Armenian Cause 2.0 conference, which brought together over 200 activists from across the U.S. as part of the ongoing effort to expand ANCA educational and advocacy efforts in Congress, the Administration and with the media.
The Leo Sarkisian Internship Program is an integral part of a growing effort to provide Armenian Americans greater opportunities to explore careers on Capitol Hill, in the foreign policy field, and in key Washington 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 political and policy-related groups.
Interns, who each 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.
Community members can follow the ANCA interns through photos and blogs postings on the ANCA Facebook page – facebook.com/ancagrassroots – and on the Asbarez and Armenian Weekly websites.
A Spotlight on the 2011 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns
The 2011 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship group come from diverse geographic backgrounds, joined by a common purpose.
Nineteen-year-old Varak Baronian hails from New Jersey and is currently a rising sophomore at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Varak’s interests span from government to theater and he plans to pursue degrees in both areas. Varak has been involved in the Armenian American community from a very young age, beginning with the Armenian Youth Federation, where he has held several positions in the Executive body of his chapter, including Corresponding Secretary and Vice-President. He has been an active volunteer at the Hovnanian School, which he attended until 2006, the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society of New Jersey, and the Armenian Relief Society in Watertown, Massachusetts. He has also interned with the Hairenik Association in Watertown, Massachusetts, as well as with the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations.
His first visit to Washington, DC came in 2009, when he played a lead role in the Hamazkayin Theater group performance of “Georgetown Boys” at the Kennedy Center.
“I’m really excited to be working with such an intelligent and dedicated group of people here at the ANCA. From this experience, I hope to gain a developed understanding of the political environment here in Washington DC, and in the future, work with the Armenian community across this country to further advance the Armenian Cause,” explained Baronian.
Araz Hasserjian hails from Toronto, Canada, where she was in the first graduating class of the Armenian Relief Society High School. She went on to study at the University of Toronto’s St. George Campus, where she graduated with a double major in Zoology and Diaspora & Transnational Studies. Araz has been an active member of the Toronto Armenian community since childhood and has served in leadership positions in the AYF Canada Simon Zavarian Chapter as well as her university ASA. Araz currently works as a full time Administrator for the Armenian National Committee of Toronto and hopes to learn from some of her experiences in Washington DC and apply them to her work in Toronto.
Araz is inspired by Margaret Mead’s timeless words “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” She explains, “To me, the ANC is one of the small groups Mead speaks of and I want to be a leading voice in its effort to change the world. I am very excited to be part of this experience, and I am looking forward to a great summer!”
Shant Meguerditchian is majoring in Cognitive Psychology and minoring in Conflict Resolution at the University of California, Irvine. He is involved in a range of Armenian American organizations both on and off campus, including the AYF Orange County Ashod Yergat chapter, where he currently serves as treasurer. He is a member of the ASA and has started a new organization focusing on Armenia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan at UCI. He has been a consistent volunteer supporting the ANC-Orange County’s efforts.
Shant believes the ANC is one of many great tools that the youth should use for the betterment of Armenia. In the spirit of Armenian Youth Federation founder Karekin Njdeh’s famous words “To see and predict a nations future, look at its youth,” Meguerditchian explained that, “As a Leo Sarkisian intern I will take this opportunity to understand how I can be much more effective within my own community and for the Armenian people as a whole.”
Armine Sargsyan is a graduate from the University of California, Los Angeles, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and will start a Master of Arts in International Studies program at the University of San Francisco this fall. Armine first became involved with the ANCA in the summer of 2008 as an ANCA Western Region intern. She went on to join the staff at the ANCA Western Region office, focusing on community relations efforts. “I am thrilled to be working in the nation’s capital and advocating for Hai Tahd. As I am getting ready to embark on my professional career, this experience will surely be one I will cherish as I begin this new chapter of my life,” said Sargsyan.
Tereza Yerimyan is a Little Armenia resident and fourth-year Political Science and Armenian Studies student at UCLA. After completing the ANCA Western Region internship in 2010, she began serving as a board member of her local ANC chapter in Hollywood. Working in partnership with the ANC in Los Angeles and the Union Rescue Mission, Yerimyan led a team of volunteers to help feed the homeless and those less fortunate in April. The project was organized in honor of U.S. humanitarian assistance to the victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide.
Most recently, Tereza joined the ANCA-WR staff, focusing on California State Affairs. In April 2011, she and the Committee organized the grassroots efforts for the annual Advocacy Day and Genocide Commemoration ceremonies in Sacramento, California and successfully got over 100 Armenian Americans from all around the state to join them in the state capital.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved in Armenian-American politics and thus far I’ve had the privilege to work on the local and state level. I’m very grateful and excited for the opportunity to experience our advocacy methods on a national level and hope to build on both my knowledge of our organization and community and to broaden my understanding of effective advocacy methods.”