Last August, I participated in the very first ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy, held in Washington, DC, along with 13 other outstanding high school students and recent graduates. I am grateful for the opportunity.
Any concerns I had about flying cross-country alone for the first time vanished the moment ANCA Programs director Alex Manoukian greeted me at the airport. We soon arrived at the ANCA Aramian House, located in the heart of downtown Washington, DC – just minutes from the ANCA offices. It felt like my new home away from home.
From the first day of the week-long program, we gained a better understanding of the US political process – how to affect change that will benefit Artsakh, Armenia and our communities, and how to advocate for ourselves. We also learned how to communicate effectively with elected officials – drilling down on issues from the importance of expanded aid to Artsakh, to supporting Armenia security and cutting all military aid to Azerbaijan. We participated in mock-meetings with members of Congress – some friendly, some adversarial – to hone our pro-Artsakh/Armenia arguments. We also got a better understanding of the ANC’s worldwide network through Zoom sessions with various ANC team members from Lebanon to Europe to Australia to our homeland, each providing us with an insider’s view of how they advocate their respective governments.
In addition to pro-Armenia/Artsakh advocacy, we explored potential future careers in politics, economics and media in a hands-on setting, conversing with prominent experts in their respective fields. My eyes were opened wide by this element of the Summer Academy to the various career opportunities available to me here in the nation’s capital. I was particularly interested in our roundtable session with Congressional staff members Monique Bolsajian, Casey Davison, and Lucine Mikhanjian – all alumni of the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program. We discussed their paths to Capitol Hill, their impact on US policy-making and why it’s so important to have more Armenian American voices in the halls of Congress.
The leadership and communications skills I gained last summer had an immediate impact. They helped me find the courage and confidence to run my successful high school student body presidential campaign at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School. I also made a foray into local politics and am currently working with a leading candidate in the 2022 Los Angeles mayoral election.
Perhaps what I will cherish most from the Summer Academy is the friendships that I made with participants. We may have come from states across the US – California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and others – but we all shared the same passion for the Armenian Cause and how to advance it using the new information and education we obtained during the week. I’ll remember the evenings singing karaoke at the Aramian House, Nerses Semerjian’s kebab grilled in the backyard, the late night pizza parties and paddle boating on the Potomac.
Before coming to the Summer Academy, I knew the ANCA was the leading Armenian American advocacy group. They educate, motivate, activate and mobilize Armenian youth and those from other backgrounds on critical topics pertaining to our cause. Throughout the week, I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand the tremendous amount of effort and attention that goes into not only the advocacy efforts but nurturing our youth for both personal and community success. I want to express my gratitude to the ANCA for consistently creating opportunities for individuals in the Diaspora who are motivated to aid the Armenian homeland and our people. ANCs serve as links between governments and our communities worldwide; without them, pro-Armenian policy change would be practically impossible.
I strongly encourage any high school junior, senior or recent graduate interested in pursuing a career in policy, politics, or media – or simply assisting our sacred cause, to apply to the Haroutioun & Elizabeth Summer Academy. You’ll make memories that will last a lifetime.