WASHINGTON—For well over a decade, recent university graduates from across the U.S. have, following the example of the late Hovig Apo Saghdejian, given back to the Armenian community and cause by participating in the ANCA’s unique Washington, DC job placement and career development program named in honor of this fallen Fresno youth leader.
The ANCA recently sat down with Hovig’s sister, Nayiri Saghdejian, to learn more about why her father Apo Saghdejian and she chose to establish a living legacy in Hovig’s memory. Their support has opened doors to public service for countless Armenian youth, providing free housing at The Aramian House in downtown Washington, DC, and offering professional support to our community’s best and brightest as they start their public policy careers in the nation’s capital. To learn more about the program, or to apply, visit anca.org/gateway. The application deadline for the Winter 2017, session is October 1st.
Armenian National Committee of America: Can you share with us the origins of the ANCA’s Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program?
Nayiri Saghdejian (NS): After the tragic death of my brother in 2004, my parents and I wanted to do something special in his memory, in lieu of donations. So as lifelong ANCA supporters we naturally turned to the ANCA to collaborate together in creating a unique program for our youth, one that represents Hovig’s values and one that Hovig would be proud of.
ANCA: What can you tell us about Hovig’s community involvement, dedication to Armenia, and his vision for the Armenian nation?
NS: Hovig was an activist for the Armenian Cause in his everyday life. From a young age, he joined the ranks of the AYF, Homenetmen and Hamazkayin. Then in his teens he became more involved in the ANCA and politics, interning for Congressman Radanovich and volunteering his time for countless other campaigns. His lifelong dedication finally led him to Armenia in 2003, where he volunteered for the Land and Culture Organization’s campaign in the village of Medz Ayroum with a group of Diasporan youth from all over the world for four weeks to help build the infrastructure of this small, poverty-stricken village. It was there that his vision for the Armenian nation was born – a vision of Armenians from all over the world coming together to serve their nation.
ANCA: How has this program honored Hovig’s legacy of service and sacrifice for our community and cause?
NS: The main purpose of this program is to open doors for our youth, our number one asset. It is the ideal program for a recent college graduate who is ready to make a move to the nation’s capital to start a career in public policy. From day one, participants are warmly welcomed into the ANCA family and are happy to stick around for a long time, helping out and giving back and sacrificing for a greater cause, the Armenian Cause. This is the ultimate honor to Hovig’s legacy.
ANCA: Why is it so important for young Armenians to follow Hovig’s example of giving back?
NS: Because if we don’t, who will? We are a unique race, a small tribe of survivors with a beautiful culture and a long, rich history. Our youth should be proud of this and do everything in their power to continue this. They are our number one asset.
ANCA: What would you like participants in the Gateway program to know about Hovig’s life and legacy?
NS: Words cannot describe the spirit of Hovig. He was the life of every party. He made everyone laugh. He was loved and adored like no other. And he was destined for greatness. Unfortunately, his life was cut short, and the world became a duller place because of it. But for Hovig, life was a celebration and he would want nothing more than for us to continue the celebration.
ANCA: What are your hopes for the future of the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program?
NS: I hope that the number of participants goes from hundreds to thousands in the years to come, and I hope that participants turn into leaders for our future generations. I hope we purchase more houses like The Aramian House, maybe even the whole block! And lastly, I hope the memory of my brother lives on through this program.