Program Celebrates Youth Leader’s Legacy of Service to Homeland and Heritage
WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America, for a second consecutive summer, has welcomed a Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellow into its signature summer leadership training program.
Selected through a competitive selection process, this year’s fellow, Tatevik Khachatryan, is a double major at Roger Williams University in International Relations and Philosophy. Her participation in the ANCA’s Leo Sarkisian Internship Program represents a living tribute to the memory of Maral Melkonian Avetisyan, a devoted youth leader whose community activism and commitment to the Armenian homeland continues to inspire new generations of young Armenian Americans.
“I am deeply honored and thankful for being chosen to serve in the memory of Maral Melkonian Avetisyan. The development of future professional endeavors through the opportunities and skills gained this summer, will allow me to live up to her goals to follow her aspirations and make myself as well as all Armenians proud. It is vital for me, as an Armenian ambassador, to advocate for the Armenian Cause and bring the experiences gained through the LSI to my local community and those around me.”
“We see, in Tatevik’s talents, intellect, and energy, Maral’s spirit, her contagious devotion to her homeland and heritage,” ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Maral – in her short time with us – touched so many lives, and continues to inspire so many spirits. We are blessed by her memory and the commitment of her entire family to the future of our community and cause.”
“We are, once again this year, deeply gratified to see Maral’s kind and caring spirit in a new generation of young Armenians – devoted to their homeland and committed to the proud heritage of our nation,” said Maral’s brother Raffi, on behalf of their father Ara, mother Haikanouche, and the entire Melkonian and Avetisyan families. “Tatevik – like Lucine last year – represents the very best of our Armenian tradition.”
Khachatryan has been an active member of the Providence, RI Armenian community since coming to the United States sixteen years ago – attending Armenian school, dancing with Hamazkayin, and serving in the Providence “Varantian” Armenian Youth Federation chapter and local Homenetmen scouting and sports groups. At school, she serves as vice president of the student body and president of the Model United National and Model Arab League teams. She took second place in the Rhode Island National History Day competition traveled to Washington, DC for a presentation on the Armenian Genocide.
The Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellowship runs concurrently with the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship Program, now in its 35th year.
Maral Melkonian Avetisyan: A Legacy of Service to the Armenian Cause
Born on Jan. 12, 1983, in Silver Spring, MD, 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, DC area’s Hamasdegh Armenian School, and devoted her volunteer time to organizations including Homenetmen, Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), AYF Camp Haiastan, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Armenia Volunteer Corps (AVC), 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, who continues “When I wake up, I hope a child from Armenia gets food.” She ends 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 have 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.
Mr. and Mrs. Ara and Haikanouche Melkonian and Ara Melkonian’s sister, Seta Melkonian-Mangassarian, participated last year in the dedication ceremony for the outdoor sports facility, built through the efforts of the Armenian Cultural Association of America (ACAA) Artsakh Fund. Maral’s legacy and the sports facility in her honor were spotlighted in the ACAA online commemoration of the 28th Anniversary of the Shushi Liberation.