WASHINGTON, DC – The 2019 Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Leo Sarkisian Internship (LSI) participants have hit the ground running, playing a front-line role in securing House passage of $40 million in additional aid to Armenia and $1.5 million in continued de-mining aid for Artsakh.
Just two humid days into their eight-week program, the ANCA-LSI team personally visited all 439 U.S. House offices in the hot-bed of the nation’s capital, building on a nationwide grassroots campaign advocating for the pro-Armenia and Artsakh initiatives led by Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and T.J. Cox (D-CA).
“There’s no better way to start your internship in DC than right in the halls of Congress,” said ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan. “From walking into offices to brief staffers on votes taking place later that day to running into Armenian Americans working on Capitol Hill and learning of their experiences, our interns gained firsthand experience on how to advocate effectively, met the growing professional community we have helped establish, and experienced the adrenaline of seeing pro-Armenian measures pass immediately.”
Hailing from states stretching across the United States to Quebec, Canada–all with diverse backgrounds–the LSI interns have gathered in Washington, DC, for one purpose: to advance Armenian American policy priorities at the local, state and national levels. To this end, Leo Sarkisian interns received rigorous advocacy training by working closely with industry specialists, federal officials and veteran community activists.
The Leo Sarkisian Internship – named after the late ANCA Eastern U.S. community leader and Hai Tahd advocate – empowers dedicated Armenians in their efforts to achieve justice for the Armenian Genocide, freedom for Artsakh and a secure and prosperous Armenian homeland. The LSI was established in 1986 and now has hundreds of alumni across the world.
Leo Sarkisian interns are selected through a highly competitive application process with acceptance based on academic excellence and demonstrated capacity for community leadership. Summer interns stay at the Aramian House, an eight-bedroom former bed and breakfast in Washington DC’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood, just a short walk from ANCA headquarters.
The 2019 Leo Sarkisian interns are Varant Anmahouni, Roubina Bozoian, Nairi Diratsouian, Mary Galstian, Hakop Hajibekyan, Karin Kassabian, Gregory Mikhanjian, and Daron Pogharian. Joining them are ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow Lucine Poturyan and Capital Gateway Program High School interns Arya Balian and Hayk Safaryan.
You can follow the team’s journey on the official ANCA Facebook page.
Meet the 2019 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns:
Varant Anmahouni is an incoming first year student at Georgetown Law. He is a summa cum laude graduate in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he also completed the Departmental Honors Thesis Program with original research on Artsakh’s road to statehood. Varant is an active member of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) “Roupen” Chapter and the former chair of Hamazkayin Western Region’s “Hbart Hyortiner” Committee. He has previously interned with National Lawyers Guild-Los Angeles as well. Varant plans on melding his legal education with his background in politics to best serve his community.
“Armenia is in a precarious situation. A century of genocide denial and decades of ignored Azerbaijani hostility in Artsakh all but confirms a singular point: Armenia should not expect any favors going forward. We are solely responsible for answering the questions which remain. But this situation, while pressing, is nothing new—the very existence of an independent Armenia and Artsakh today is a testament to generations of Armenians who refused to bow their heads during their own pursuit of Hai Tahd (the Armenian Cause). Central to these efforts has been the ANCA, and with the LSI, I am proud to join yet another wave of committed activists who will work tirelessly towards the realization of this just cause.”
Roubina Bozoian is a rising junior at Montclair State University in New Jersey where she is pursuing a degree in finance. She has been involved in the Armenian community for as long as she can remember and has been actively involved in Hamazkayin and Homenetmen organizations for the past 13 years. She wishes to pursue a second major in political science and plans to attend law school. She hopes to start the Armenian Club back up at her university and contribute to the Armenian cause through her own community.
“I feel so grateful for being given this once in a lifetime opportunity of being a part of the Leo Sarkisian Internship. I am excited to learn more about public policy and the active role the ANCA plays in the U.S. and take back my knowledge to share with my local community. I attended the ANCA’s Rising Leaders Program in March, which inspired me to explore a career in politics. Realizing how strongly those three days influenced my future aspirations, I am excited to see what two months with the ANCA will bring.”
Nairi Diratsouian is a sophomore in the psychology program at Ramapo College. She is also double minoring in neuroscience and crime and justice studies. Nairi has been an ardent presence in the Armenian community from a young age. In particular, she has been active in the Hamazkayin of New Jersey, Nayiri Dance Ensemble, and other culturally oriented groups. Nairi is a proud member of the AYF of New Jersey “Arsen” chapter, active with the Homenetmen Scouts, the Armenian Relief Society “Shakeh” chapter of New Jersey and Ramapo College’s Armenian Students’ Association.
“I am honored to be given the opportunity to be a Leo Sarkisian Summer Intern. This experience will deepen my understanding of the role I can play in advancing our cause – in Washington, on campus, and in my hometown. I am confident this program will hone my advocacy skills and knowledge while establishing a connection between my community and my professional life.”
Mary Galstian is a rising sophomore at Harvard University, pursuing a double degree in Government and Music. As co-president of the Harvard Armenian Students Association, Mary presides over the organization’s operations, promoting Armenian cultural initiatives on campus and beyond. In addition, Mary highly values serving her community and embracing many cultures through the arts. In March 2017, she was invited to perform at the Massachusetts State House for the 102nd Armenian Genocide commemoration. She has also had numerous performances at Carnegie Hall, JFK Presidential Library, Memorial Hall, Jordan Hall, Symphony Hall, among other prestigious venues. As a proud Armenian, Mary’s passion for her Armenian heritage propels her dedication to her compatriots. She is greatly looking forward to expanding her experience in the federal system’s hands-on political environment while promoting Armenian American policy priorities at the ANCA-LSI internship.
“I’d like to thank the ANCA team for providing me the rigorous training needed to effectively pursue the challenges and opportunities that I crave. ANCA continually strives, each day, to improve the well-being and prosperity of the Armenian people, and I would like to contribute to that mission. I look forward to further cultivating my skills at the ANCA-LSI program in order to serve my fellow compatriots and communities in Armenia, Artsakh, and the worldwide Diaspora.”
Hakop Hajibekyan is a junior political science student from Los Angeles, California. Hakop is an active AYF member and has been volunteering with the ANCA since 2015. Hakop is an alumnus of AYF Youth Corps where he spent six weeks with underprivileged children in the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh running day camps and helping spread the Hai Tahd ideology.
“I am very excited to be in Washington, DC and to help further the Armenian cause within the Federal Government. During our second day, the LSI team and I were able to play a meaningful role in securing the passage of amendments #84 and #103 of H.Res. 2740, which sent $40 million in aid to Armenia and $1.5 million to further demining efforts in Artsakh. Seeing the power of on-the-ground advocacy first hand, I am eager to continue my internship and learn more from the ANCA team here in Washington DC.”
Karin Kassabian is an undergraduate at McGill University, studying anthropology and political science. She is the president of the McGill Armenian Students’ Association, having previously served as the vice president of events. Additionally, Karin is a member of McMUN 2020’s Secretariat, a university-level Model United Nations Conference held in Montreal, Canada. She serves as the Deputy Under-Secretary-General of Committee Affairs, General Assemblies and Economic and Social Councils. Karin has been active in the Armenian community, having held the position of Educational Committee Chair at her local AYF chapter.
“I am thrilled and honored to be working with the ANCA, as it will provide me with first-hand professional experience in dealing with international diplomacy, foreign affairs, and public policy. The opportunity which the ANCA has granted the interns allows us to gain perspective on issues concerning the Armenian Cause. I am extremely glad to be learning about Armenian American interests and doing my part in advancing Hai Tahd.”
Gregory Mikhanjian is a rising junior at California State University Fullerton and pursuing a degree in Political Science. His university recently sponsored him to visit California’s capital to advocate for student issues, and he has since set his sights towards having his first experience working within the federal government. He has been active in his community through the AYF by organizing events such as protests for genocide recognition and expert panels. He has also served on the Orange County “Ashod Yergat” executive body for two years. Gregory has also worked on local campaigns and plans to pursue a career in politics.
“Thanks to the Leo Sarkisian Internship, I will be able to experience life as a professional in Washington, DC. I look forward to the coming weeks that will be filled with meaningful work, camaraderie, and education. Being a part of the ANCA is the best way that I can advance Hai Tahd in our nation’s capital.”
Daron Pogharian is a rising senior at Merrimack College studying international relations. He is actively involved in AYF as a senior member of the Philadelphia “Sebouh” chapter. Daron plans to continue his education by obtaining a master’s degree in security studies and hopes to have a role in shaping global security strategy.
“I’m very excited to jump start my career in DC with the Leo Sarkisian Internship. It’s provided me opportunities not only to further Armenian issues but also to develop myself professionally.”
Meet the 2019 ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow:
Lucine Poturyan is a rising senior at Wesleyan University, majoring in government, Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies (REES), with a minor in data analysis. Before moving to the east coast in pursuit of her undergraduate degree, Lucine was a dancer with Nairi Dance Studio in Hollywood, California and attended Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian Saturday school. Her upbringing in Los Angeles has influenced her dedication to the Armenian community, bringing her to Washington, DC to further Armenian American interests. She is honored to be the first ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow, inspired by her commitment to helping the children of Armenia and Artsakh through work in the homeland and advocacy here in the U.S.
“I am humbled and eager to serve my community this summer in Maral Melkonian Avetisyan’s memory. I’m excited to advocate for the Armenian Cause while also navigating and learning about my Armenian identity in the United States. The advocacy skills developed during the ANCA summer program will play a vital role in my professional development and pursuit of my future endeavors.”
Meet the 2019 ANCA Capital Gateway Program Summer High School Interns:
Arya Balian is a rising sophomore at the National Cathedral School in Washington DC. She has been a member of the AYF Washington, DC “Sevan” Junior Chapter for five years and is a graduate of the Hamasdegh Armenian School in Bethesda, MD. Since she was seven, Arya has performed professionally for such companies as the Washington National Opera and PBS television, as well as for the Washington Wizards and the Baltimore Orioles. Arya has also focused on performing Armenian music, singing at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Armenian Embassy, the St.Vartan Cathedral, numerous galas and functions, Voice of America’s morning television show, and Armenian Public Television. She has been volunteering at the ANCA for the past two years, and is excited to continue her work in Armenian advocacy.
“As a member of an ethnic minority, the Armenian American community, I recognize the value of even a single voice, which can truly make a difference. Working at the ANCA provides the opportunity to bring these single voices together into a polyphony of advocacy for change. I would like to thank the ANCA for this incredible experience and for all the work they do. I am truly grateful and thrilled to begin my journey with them.”
Hayk Safaryan is a senior at Lower Moreland High School in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. Hayk was born in Armenia and moved to the United States in 2014. He speaks four languages: Armenian, Russian, English and Spanish. He is currently an Armenian teacher at the Armenian Church of Holy Trinity Cheltenham and plans on majoring in law or dentistry. Hayk is very excited to be an ANCA intern.
“My goal is to serve Armenia and Artsakh–my homeland. I really want to do everything possible to get the United States to have a permanent policy of recognition and remembrance of the Armenian Genocide, and know the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship will afford me the opportunity to meet these ends.”