WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) 2014 “Leo Sarkisian” interns quickly immersed themselves in the full range of Armenian American advocacy activities, as the program kicked off its 29th season of youth leadership training in the nation’s capital.
“The ANCA Leo Sarkisian interns have had an incredibly busy two weeks – working on everything from securing legislative support for ‘Return of Churches’ legislation to campaigning for Armenian American candidate Hrant Jamgochian, to protesting Turkey’s targeted attacks on the Armenian community in Aleppo, Syria,” said ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian. “Their energy, creativity, and tenacity all speak powerfully to their awesome potential as our next generation of leaders.”
From Boston and Los Angeles to Vancouver and the American Midwest, this year’s intern group includes: Sevan Agopian, Tamar Alexanian, Anahis Kechejian, Inna Mirzoyan and Alina Sarkissian. All have been active in various Armenian American organizations such as the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) and the Armenian Student Association (ASA).
Within hours of arrival, the interns hit the ground running, joining with the ANCA of Greater Washington DC in calling on the White House to take immediate steps to stop the Turkey-supported bombing of Armenian communities in Aleppo, Syria. Then, the team turned their attention to pending Congressional foreign aid legislation, urging key Senate and House appropriators to support Artsakh assistance and a host of other Armenian American community priorities. Last week, their focus turned to the Turkey Christian Churches Accountability Act (H.R. 4347), which was adopted overwhelmingly by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
In between, interns honed their networking skills, participating in a professional development seminar organized by the the ANCA’s Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program and AGBU Young Professionals DC. In their rare off-hours, they volunteered for Hrant Jamgochian’s campaign for Maryland State Delegate.
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, DC, think tanks. It is a part of the larger ANCA “Hovig Apo Saghdejian” 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 U.S. and Armenian officials and Armenian American leaders.
Spotlight on the 2014 Leo Sarkisian Interns
Sevan Agopian is originally from Vancouver, Canada and is currently residing in Toronto. She is studying Marketing Communications at York University and hopes to pursue a career in media and public relations. Agopian is responsible for strengthening the Vancouver AYF “Arshavir Shiragian” chapter and is also the chapter president of York University’s Armenian Student Association.
“I hope that through the Leo Sarkisian Internship, I can amplify my passion and unceasing efforts to better help the Armenian culture and cause in both Vancouver and Toronto, in addition to learning and gaining invaluable experience under the guidance of our veteran ANCA DC team,” says Agopian.
Tamar Alexanian hails from the suburbs of Chicago and is currently enrolled in Vanderbilt University with a double major in English and Human and Organizational Development. Since the age of ten, Alexanian has been engaged in her local AYF Chicago “Ararat” chapter, where she has held many key leadership positions. As a Junior member, she served as president for three years, and as an AYF Senior, she has served on the Central Educational Council. She is currently serving as treasurer of her Chicago chapter. Alexanian is a proud graduate of the Taniel Varoujan Armenian School.
“I am honored to be one of the Leo Sarkisian interns this summer because I enjoy grassroots organizational work and believe strongly in the purpose and goals of the ANCA,” notes Alexanian. “I know that the skills that I develop during this internship are valuable for me personally, but also for my larger community.”
Anahis Kechejian of Boston, Massachusetts is a sophomore at Northeastern University studying Behavioral Neuroscience. She has been an active member of the Boston community, engaged in the AYF Greater Boston “Nejdeh” Chapter. She is a proud graduate of St. Stephen’s Armenian Saturday School as well as St. Stephen’s Sunday School. She also has strong ties to AYF Camp Haiastan, where Kechejian spent six years as a camper and one year as a counselor. In 2012 she started the project “Stand Up For Your Survivor” which has been an important component of the annual Massachusetts State House Genocide Commemoration ceremony.
“It’s an honor to be serving the Armenian community. I hope to collaborate with my fellow Leo Sarkisian interns on current Armenian issues and how we as the Diaspora can be involved in advancing our Cause. It’s exciting to explore the perspectives of young American Armenians from all over the country,” said an enthusiastic Kechejian. “I hope to absorb as much information as I can while in Washington DC.”
Hailing from Glendale, California, Alina Sarkissian attends California State University, Northridge, where she is studying Business. Sarkissian currently serves as the President of her university’s Armenian Student Association, the largest chapter in the country. Sarkissian is also an elected official for her Associated Student government, a University Ambassador, and the University liaison for the American Association of University Women.
“Through the LSI experience, I hope to gain life skills and opportunities that are tailored specifically to my Armenian-American passions,” says Sarkissian. “I hope to give back to the Armenian community through this inspiring grassroots powerhouse, and I look forward to forming close relationships and lifelong friendships with my fellow interns.”
Inna Mirzoyan is from Detroit, Michigan, and recently graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Social Relations and Policy. At the University, Mirzoyan played an active role re-starting the Armenian Club, even repainting the school rock in honor of the Armenian Genocide on April 24th. She attended the AGBU Alex and Marie Manoogian school for fourteen years, where she developed a strong knowledge of Armenian history, culture and language.
“I wish to learn more about grassroots activism and to teach the general public that being Armenian is not just an identity but also a cause, with issues that are important to all Americans’ shared core values,” says Mirzoyan.