By Daron Pogharian
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship – 2019
Merrimack College – Class of 2020
When most people think of an internship, they think of something like “Come in, do your work, leave, have a nice line-item for your resume.” The Leo Sarkisian Internship couldn’t be any further from that. This has been an experience like no other.
Our first weekend in DC, we went down to Richmond, Virginia to attend the local ANC picnic. I’d never been that far south before, let alone to an Armenian event there. We had the opportunity to meet and interact with the wonderful members of that community who were nothing but welcoming. While registering ANCA Rapid Responders, I met Linda. After chatting for just a bit, we found out that both of our families came from Dikranagerd, and both settled in Union City, NJ upon arriving in America, just a few blocks apart! She had wonderful stories about what it was like growing up in that community that were so fresh – from how they searched for relatives from the Yergir, to supporting new families when they arrived on American shores.
ANC Richmond stalwart Bedros Bandazian also provided us with valuable insight on how such a small community has managed to not only survive, but thrive. With only one Armenian church in the Richmond area, the community does not experience the denominational fractioning present in other East Coast communities: that is, because there isn’t a choice. This makes their community quite unique, and much more intimate. The lone event we attended introduced us to much of the Richmond Armenian community. When a community is determined to survive and has people dedicated enough to guide it, it will.
As an international relations major, this internship program has helped me advance my career in ways I never expected. We’re provided so many opportunities for networking and self-betterment, and plenty of assistance to help capitalize on that. Our first week in the program, we attended a networking event hosted by Nahigian Strategies – led by top political consultants Keith and Ken – bringing together everyone from CEOs to leaders of various federal agencies. Another day, when we were on Capitol Hill, I had the opportunity not only to meet but to speak with members of Congress about our issues. Later that day, I had the chance to do the same thing, but this time with Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA) while we were in line at Dunkin Donuts.
The Leo Sarkisian Internship has also provided me with the opportunity to explore our country’s capital in ways I hadn’t even dreamed of. I’d always seen that beautiful white dome on the skyline, but I never thought I’d walk into the Capitol Rotunda and hear the singing of “Der Voghormia” as part of a historic ecumenical prayer service in the languages of Middle East Christians. I also never thought that in my first week I would enter hundreds of House offices, advocating Hai Tahd priorities through the halls of Rayburn and Longworth. Actually going and interacting with Congressional leaders and staff who decide this country’s laws and convincing them to support our cause, was a great feeling that truly set the tone for this summer.