WASHINGTON, DC – The 2021 Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) summer internship class is championing Congressional advocacy efforts to defend Artsakh, strengthen US-Armenia ties and secure justice for the Armenian Genocide, as the organization celebrates the 35th year of the Leo Sarkisian Internship (LSI) and expansion of the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship (Maral Melkonian Fellowship) and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program summer internship (CGP Internship).
“This year’s hybrid—remote and Washington, DC-based program is designed to leverage the best of online and in-person training opportunities to help ANCA Summer internship participants take their pro-Artsakh/Armenia advocacy to the next level,” said ANCA Programs Director Alex Manoukian. “We are excited to welcome these incredibly talented university students from across the US and UK, as we celebrate the 35th anniversary of our Washington, DC youth empowerment initiatives.”
The initial focus for Leo Sarkisian Internship, Maral Fellowship and CGP Internship participants has been to zero-out US military arms and assistance to Azerbaijan, encourage over $250 million in aid to Artsakh and $100 million in aid to Armenia as the US House and Senate begin consideration of the Fiscal Year 2022 foreign aid bill. Interns are working closely with ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan in reaching out US Senate and House members to discuss the latest challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh resulting from the 2020 Artsakh War and the Aliyev regime’s ongoing aggression and illegal imprisonment of over 200 Armenian POWs.
The LSI—named after the late ANCA Eastern US 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. For the third year, the LSI is running concurrently with the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship, named after the devoted youth advocate who dedicated her life to helping the Armenian homeland.
LSI interns and Maral Melkonian fellows are selected through a highly competitive application process with acceptance based on academic excellence and demonstrated capacity for community leadership. While in Washington, DC, summer interns will stay at The Aramian House—an eight-bedroom former bed and breakfast located in Washington, DC’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood, just a short walk from the ANCA headquarters.
The 2021 Leo Sarkisian interns are Antranig Asmarian, Mari Bijimenian, Nvard Chalabyan, Rita Cherchian, Shaunt Kludjian and Garen Meguerditchian. Joining them are ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow Anais Boyajian and Capital Gateway Program interns Alex Avanesyan, Alenoush Nahapetian Davis and Eric Nazarian.
Meet the 2021 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns:
Antranig Asmarian is a senior at Indiana’s DePauw University, studying political science with a minor in philosophy. Asmarian grew up in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) in Syria and is active in strengthening US-Armenia ties through various organizations.
“No matter the trauma, distance or status quo, Armenians are bound by not only our history and culture but as well as our commitment to our Homeland,” stated Asmarian. “Armenia’s future is dependent on the vigilance and resilience of its youth, and as the youth of Armenia we promise to make our ancestors and future generations proud.”
Mari Bijimenian is a rising senior at St. John’s University studying sociology and philosophy. She is an active member in the AYF New York “Hyortik” Chapter and Holy Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church Armenian Church Youth Organization (ACYOA).
“By participating in the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship Program, I wish to learn how the political platform in the US can be used to further the Armenian Cause,” said Bijimenian. “I look forward to acquiring the skills necessary to further the work of Armenian advocates that have come before me and achieve justice for the Armenian nation.”
Nvard Chalabyan is a second-year student at University College London pursuing a BSc in bioprocessing of new medicines (science and engineering). She is one of two interns participating from the UK and serves as president of the University College London Armenian Society.
“During a time when I am feeling powerless, unable to help Armenia, the ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship gives me the opportunity to empower myself, empower my voice and empower my community,” explained Chalabyan.
Rita Cherchian, also from the UK, recently graduated high school and will be attending the University College London to study law. She has previously worked as an assistant teacher at London’s Armenian Saturday School.
“My ambition is to emulate the ANCA’s actions in the United Kingdom, advancing recognition of Armenian legal and political issues whilst raising a greater appreciation for Armenian culture in my local community,” said Cherchian. “As a prospective law student, my experience as a Leo Sarkissian intern will arm me with the skills I need to advocate for international justice, both for Armenians and as a greater humanitarian obligation.”
Shaunt Kludjian is a rising junior at the University of Southern California studying political science. He is active in both the USC Armenian Students Association and the ANCA Western Region. Kludjian says he is interested in developing a greater understanding of how to advance the Hai Tahd. “Helping Armenia has always been an interest of mine and my peers,” he stated. “We are all ready and excited to work in service to the Armenian nation in the United States.”
Garen Meguerditchian is a rising sophomore double majoring in applied math and quantitative economics at Tufts University, where he is active in the Tufts Armenian Club.
“Growing up as a proud Armenian-American, from a very young age I have been instilled with the duty to preserve and champion the Armenian Cause both within the Diaspora and in the fatherland,” said Meguerditchian. “During this inflection point of my life, as I acquire new skills and propel myself into the professional world, the Leo Sarkisian Internship serves as the perfect opportunity not only to hone skills and build connections in a field I find fascinating but also to better understand the modern hurdles for my people, and the means in which I can not only be beneficial but lead lasting and meaningful change.”
Meet the 2021 ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow:
Anais Boyajian is a rising sophomore at Seton Hall University studying diplomacy and international relations; she is actively working to restart the Armenian Students Association at her university.
“Growing up, I have been active in my Armenian community and always admired the passion and perseverance of our people and culture,” explained Boyajian. “I chose to participate in the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship because I want to be able to help further Hai Tahd within both my local community and nationally. I am looking forward to bringing what I will learn from this internship to the pursuit of my diplomacy degree as well as my school’s Armenian Student Association.”
Meet the 2021 ANCA Capital Gateway Program Summer High School Intern:
Alex Avanesyan joins the ANCA summer program as a rising high school senior at Washington, DC’s prestigious Sidwell Friends School.
“By participating in this program, I aim to become a more impactful advocate by learning about ANCA’s work with the federal government and the Armenian-American community,” stated Avanesyan. “I also hope to develop the skills I need in order to work to further the Armenian Cause, in addition to deepening my connection to my community and my heritage.”
Alenoush Nahapetian Davis is an incoming freshman at the University of Delaware, double majoring in history and Japanese. She grew up in the Washington, DC AYF “Sevan” Junior Chapter.
“I wanted to intern with the ANCA this summer to reconnect myself with the Armenian community and do my part to help the Armenian Cause,” said Nahapetian Davis. “I’m so happy that I am going to be an active participant at the ANCA and help my fellow Armenians here and around the world.”
Eric Nazarian is a rising senior at George Washington University, studying political science and minoring in history.
“Being an Armenian from Yerevan and studying abroad my whole life has taught me the importance of connecting our Diaspora with our Homeland,” said Nazarian. “I hope my new experiences at the ANCA will shape and sharpen my analytical and diplomatic skills so that I can bring more investments and interests into Armenia.”
You can also follow the team’s journey on the ANCA Facebook page.