Earlier this month, I was fortunate to participate in the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) three-day youth empowerment program, ANCA Rising Leaders. The program in Washington, DC, which was co-hosted by the Armenian Youth Federation and the Armenian Student Association at Georgetown University, focused on career empowerment and civic education. We worked on elevator pitches, resume building and networking with the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Advisory Committee. My peers and I also heard from Ambassador to Artsakh Robert Avetisyan, international development specialist Nina Etyemezian and ANCA chairman Raffi Hamparian.
I am studying elementary education with the hopes of one day becoming a teacher. Everything in life has prepared me to take on the role of a teacher, including planning Homenetmen scouting agendas, volunteering at our local Armenian Sunday School and preparing and leading educational presentations for my local AYF chapter. This program pushed me out of my comfort zone. When I speak in front of a classroom full of students or at the agoump with all of our resilient AYF-ers, words come naturally. But, in front of a camera or in a high-pressure situation, my mind tends to go blank. I wanted to participate in the ANCA Rising Leaders because I have a passion for Hai Tahd, but I have a hard time communicating it through the spoken word. I have also realized the importance of raising awareness about our cause to non-Armenian audiences as well.
During a workshop on the topic of advocating the Armenian Cause with ANCA Government Affairs director Tereza Yerimyan, we were split into small groups and thrown into a variety of intense simulations to advocate firmly the Armenian Cause to different US Representatives. I was inspired by my peers as they eloquently conveyed their effective messaging. This motivated me to educate myself more, to speak up and to speak out in ways that anyone—no matter their background—will be able to grasp.
On Sunday morning, the program was ignited with ANCA National Board member Ani Tchaghlasian’s discussion on the importance of civic engagement. During Tchaghlasian’s presentation, I realized that we have been civically engaged for years upon years. The AYF has been the medium to make us care. It has created a vessel within us to want to advocate the Armenian Cause, to want to educate our youth and our communities. We were encouraged to think and share about ways we have been civically engaged with Hai Tahd at the forefront of our minds. Tchaghlasian shared that when she was our age, she would draw Ararat with Medz Masis on the left and Pokr Masis on the right because that is the way her grandparents remember seeing Ararat from Western Armenia. This was an eye-opening moment for me, as I had never put myself in the shoes of someone who did not have a “written homeland.” I was moved to continue fighting for our final goal of a free, independent and united Armenia
In just three days, I made lifelong, like-minded friends with a burning passion for Hai Tahd. Most of the attendees were members of the AYF-YOARF in their respective chapters and regions. I was inspired after meeting such well-rounded youth leaders from across the nation, and the common denominator was the AYF, which has raised and empowered Armenian youth across the world for 89 years. The AYF-YOARF instills a passion for learning and advocating for the Armenian Cause. I am committed and intensely devoted to see the day when the Armenian people are able to draw Ararat from Western Armenia again.