Since 2003, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has sponsored the competitive Capital Gateway Program (CGP), an initiative to increase Armenian-American presence in local and national politics, and in government and media careers. The intention is to help young Armenian Americans—in particular, recent university graduates—secure full-time jobs in policy-making and journalism positions in Washington, D.C. In doing so, the ANCA hopes to expand civic participation among Armenian-American youth, whose presence will “represent a highly efficient and effective means of leveraging the community’s resources to achieve shared aims.”
Both college graduates and currently enrolled university students may participate in the program in one of three ways: an ANCA extended internship, which provides students with in-depth training on special projects that are catered to the intern’s specific interests; an ANCA externship, which places students in semester-long internships in Congressional offices or foreign policy related institutions; and university internships, which are university-run internships based in D.C., such as the University of California (UCDC) program.
The CGP also builds on the Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship Program (LSI), an eight-week advocacy-training program at the ANCA offices in Washington, where students attend Congressional hearings and conduct unique projects related to their specific areas of interest. The program also aims to encourage grassroots activism for the Armenian Cause.
Advisory Board Committee
The Capital Gateway Program Advisory Board Committee (CGPAC) provides mentorship and vast career-guidance resources for the interns’ job searches. CGP alumni Mike Gedjeyan, Dan Stepanian-Bennett, Yelena Allakhverdov, and Arbi Vartan, with Program Director Raffi Karakashian, established the CGPAC to increase one-on-one personalized mentorship and job opportunities for CGP interns, or fellows. The program, which is reflective of the Board, has produced concrete results with over 45 interns attaining jobs in their respective fields. Today, the CGPAC Board is comprised of Dan Stepanian-Bennett, Aren Ghazarians, Shant Nahapetian, and Nareg Sagherian.
One of the most valuable aspects of the CGP is the Lecture Series that takes place during the first two weeks of the program. Ghazarians attested to the resourcefulness of this component of the program when he was a CGP fellow. “These lectures helped me address issues I was having during my search for a job. By discussing how to strengthen a resume and cover letter and how to approach and prepare for an interview, I know the program is the reason I was able to find a job soon after moving down here to DC. Those who took time to speak to our group were a tremendous resource and I can’t thank them enough,” he told the Weekly in an interview.
Sagherian recently left his position as a director of finance for a consulting firm in the D.C. metro for a position as a presidential fellow with the federal government.
“The program has helped me and continues to help me throughout all my personal and professional pursuits, whether by being a point of reference or providing valuable advice. One thing you learn very quickly when you go through the CGP is that even though you may finish the program and move forward in your life, the ANCA is still there to support their fellow Armenians in whatever capacity is necessary. That is truly at the core of what makes this program and organization priceless to the Armenian community,” Sagherian told the Weekly.
“Having gone through the Capital Gateway Program in 2010, I learned that there are always great people and organizations out there willing to help you achieve your goals. You just have to be willing to ask for help. However, with this help comes the personal obligation to put forth your absolute effort to succeeding in your chosen endeavors,” he continued.
Sagherian advised future CGP fellows “to come into the program with the notion that they are going to put in whatever it takes in order to succeed and realize their career goals. This program is set up in a manner where you get out of it what you put in. Therefore, although there are many people in the community ready to help each and every fellow, a fellow has to first be willing to help themselves.”
Ghazarians agreed, and encouraged future fellows to take advantage of the opportunities the program provides them. “We all are guilty of thinking that the way we are going about searching for a job is the right way and there is nothing to change. But once the fellows complete their Lecture Series and meet with their mentors, they quickly realize that there are changes they can make or there is a better approach to finding a job that they didn’t realize,” he explained.
“The ANCA staff and the members of the CGP Advisory Committee while I was a fellow did a tremendous job to show me my strengths and the improvements I could make to get over the bump and find a full-time job. They were a great resource and I would tell future fellows to give it a chance and utilize the resources at their disposal. We all want them to succeed and are here to help however we can,” he added.
Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund
The CGP has been funded through the generosity of the Cafesdjian Family Foundation, the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Fellowship, Armenian American Veterans Post of Milford, Massachusetts (AAVO), longtime ANCA benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Barbara Hekimian, and Armenian-American activists from across the U.S.
The Capital Gateway House, which houses the fellows and LSIs during their three-month stay, was donated by the Saghdejian family, in honor of their son, Hovig, who passed away in a car accident at the age of 23. The young activist was a member of the Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts, and the Armenian Youth Federation. As a volunteer with the Land and Culture Organization, he traveled to Armenia during the summer of 2003 to work as a volunteer in Ayroum, developing infrastructure and self-sustainability for the impoverished village. Hovig’s efforts helped bring hope to all he came in contact with that the future held better things for the people of Armenia.
The Hovig Apo Saghdejian Fellowship Fund has for many years sponsored a Capital Gateway fellow, covering his/her housing and providing a full range of support services, from improving resumes and sharpening interview skills, to making the right introductions and integrating into the growing network of Armenian-American public policy professionals in the nation’s capital.
Typically, each fellow has been able to secure a full-time position within three to six months. The competitive program accepts anywhere between 10 to 25 interns, depending on funding and space availability. The winter application deadline for the CGP is Jan. 15. Applications can be accessed on the ANCA’s website at www.anca.org.