WASHINGTON, DC – It’s been a packed summer of legislative advocacy for the 14 Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Leo Sarkisian, Maral Melkonian Avetisyan and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program interns and fellows.
Over the course of more than 100 Congressional meetings, these university students, high schoolers and recent graduates joined with ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian and Government Affairs director Tereza Yerimyan in giving voice to the views and values of hundreds of thousands of Americans of Armenian heritage all across the United States. They echoed concerns that were raised over the summer by local ANCA chapters and more than 50-thousand ANCA Rapid Responders, supporting the survival of Artsakh and the security of Armenia, holding Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable for their crimes, and ensuring appropriate Armenian Genocide education in schools across the country.
The ANCA’s signature summer programs coincided with US House and Senate consideration of key legislation, including the Fiscal Year 2023 foreign aid bill and National Defense Authorization Act, two measures that provide the ANCA with legislative opportunities to zero out military aid to Azerbaijan and expand US aid to Armenia and Artsakh.
“We are excited to work with a new cohort of Armenian advocates in the Leo Sarkisian (LSI), Maral Melkonian Avetisyan, and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Internship and Fellowship programs,” said program director Alex Manoukian. “The experiences the interns undergo over the course of this program will broaden their horizons and open them up to a broad array of new opportunities in Washington, DC and beyond. The skills the interns hone during their six-week stay here will stay with them for years to come, empowering them as effective activists for Hai Tahd.”
The LSI program — 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 spread across the world. For the fourth year, the LSI is running concurrently with the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship, named in memory of the devoted youth advocate who dedicated her life to helping her Armenian homeland. They are joined by summer interns participating through the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program.
ANCA summer program participants 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 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 2022 ANCA Leo Sarkisian interns are Gregory Codilian, Aram Gevorgian, Alex Guldjian, Ani Jamgotchian, Natalia Matossian, Lar Tabakian, Tara Tazian, Victoria Topalian and Christian Yerelekian. Joining them are ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow Melody Seraydarian and Capital Gateway Program interns Sune Hamparian, Zabelle Hamparian, Aram Hess and Stephen Pidedjian.
Meet the 2022 ANCA Summer Interns:
Gregory Codilian is a rising junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying political science. He is the treasurer of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Orange County “Ashot Yergat” Chapter.
“I have been searching for an opportunity to combine my interests in government and law with work that will further Hai Tahd, so this internship seemed like the perfect choice for me. Working with other Armenians while also learning the many skills needed to excel in a professional work environment was another major aspect of the internship that has reinforced my gratitude for this opportunity to learn from the ANCA here in Washington, DC,” explained Codilian.
Aram Gevorgian is completing his undergraduate studies in international studies and German and beginning his master’s program in international studies at the University of Denver. He is involved in the Armenians of Colorado organization and conducts personal research on self-determination in breakaway states, specifically Artsakh.
“I believe it is the duty of every Armenian to ensure the survival and prosperity of the Armenian nation, and I believe working to advance Armenian interests in DC will give me guidance on how to best serve Armenia and Artsakh, identify new opportunities to advance the Armenian Cause, and how I can contribute to the Cause in the academic world, as well as my future professional career,” stated Gevorgian.
Alex Guldjian is a rising junior at Loyola Marymount University studying business law and marketing. He is the public relations chairperson of the AYF Orange County “Ashot Yergat” Chapter and the events and social chair of the Loyola Marymount University’s Armenian Students Association.
“Working for the ANCA’s Leo Sarkisian Internship Program provides an amazing opportunity for me to apply my interest in law and media to advocate for the Armenian cause in a federal setting in Washington, DC. As my goal is to create a network of high-profile Armenian individuals in the sports, entertainment, and tech industries, the program allows me to develop my networking skills and advance the policies of the Hai Tahd on a federal level,” noted Guldjian.
Aram Hess is an 18-year-old student from Switzerland, studying law at the University of Bern. “I am eternally grateful for the opportunities this internship has given me. Coming from an Armenian-Swiss background and being raised by politically active parents, my passion for Hai Tahd and socio-political activism has only increased throughout the last years. Therefore, this ANCA program is the ideal outlet for me to fulfill my political potential. I hope to not only help myself but also the Armenian community by gaining valuable insights on how the policy-making world functions,” remarked Hess.
Sune Hamparian is a rising high school junior. She’s been a member of the AYF Washington DC “Sevan” Junior for over six years and was recently elected to serve as chair. She enjoys volunteering at the ANCA and learning about the world of politics. “Having served in the AYF and worked on humanitarian projects in the Armenian homeland, I was eager to bring my time and talents to the ANCA as a summer fellow. I have enjoyed learning about the inner-workings of Congressional politics and, even more so, gratified to have been able to bring my contribution to the ANCA’s policy-driven advocacy here in our nation’s capital,” said Hamparian.
Zabelle Hamparian is a rising sophomore at Chapman University, studying business administration, hoping to pursue a career in international business. She is the public relations chairperson of the AYF Pasadena “Nigol Touman” Chapter. “I am thrilled to be volunteering with the ANCA in Washington, DC this summer. My experience with the ANCA and its dedicated staff has taught me how to effectively advance our common cause and in the process, become a better AYF member. This experience has exposed me to the federal policy matters that can strengthen both Armenia and Artsakh. Given the serious challenges facing our homeland, the work of the ANCA has never been more important. For this reason, I am glad to be here at the ANCA. Together, we are working to advance the Armenian Cause with a great team of staffers, interns and volunteers,” noted Hamparian.
Ani Jamgotchian is a rising sophomore at the University of California, Davis studying international relations and economics. She is a longtime Homenetmen member and is the vice-president of the University of California, Davis Armenian Students Association.
“My goal in applying for the ANCA’s Leo Sarkisian Internship is to grow my knowledge and experience navigating the corridors of the federal government, as well as understanding how the needs of the Armenian people are brought to and supported by our representatives. These lessons will help me improve my advocacy skills and further the goals of Hai Tahd,” stated Jamgotchian.
Natalia Matossian is a recent graduate of Tulane University. She majored in earth and environmental sciences and minored in marine biology and political science. She is interested in careers in environmental policy.
“Throughout the duration of the Leo Sarkisian internship, I hope to gain a deep understanding of Hai Tahd so that I can educate myself, as well as others, about the importance of Armenian culture, current events, and paths forward. Hoping to work in policy in the future, this internship is the perfect opportunity to learn more about activism, collaborate with like-minded individuals, and gain first-hand insight from leaders about the American political system especially as it relates to the Armenian-American cause,” noted Matossian.
Stephen Pidedjian is a rising sophomore from New York, majoring in International Relations and minoring in Finance and Spanish at Tufts University. He is an active member of the Armenian Church Organization of America and the Tufts University Armenian Club.
“I look forward to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the inner workings of the American political system and learn about Armenian lobbying and how it affects the greater Armenian community. Moreover, I am eager to enhance my communication skills, further enrich my cultural background, and expand my Armenian network. I am excited to learn what it takes to effectively influence Congress to enact meaningful change so that I may use these practices to promote efforts that further Hai Tahd in my university community,” stated Pidedjian.
Melody Seraydarian is a rising sophomore from Los Angeles, majoring in communication studies and political science. She is a former intern of the ANCA-Western Region, serving on the Community Affairs Committee. She is an active member of the AYF Hollywood “Musa Ler” Chapter. She is a columnist for the Armenian Weekly and actively involved in the Armenian Bar Association.
“As Diasporan Armenians, we have a sacred allegiance to the Armenian Cause. Everyday, we must make sure to assist our homeland, and consequently, our people through our work — regardless of what that work may be. In my case, that work is journalism, policy and law, three pillars that are of maximal importance to myself and my career. The ANCA’s internship program has enabled my peers and I to delve into the heart of our country’s systems and ensure Hai Tahd takes center-stage in the United States’ political sphere. I know that there is an immense amount of work to be done, but through the unwavering power of the people and the grassroots efforts of the ANCA, I have no doubt that our work will not only be complete, but it will flourish. The future of our homeland lies in our hands, and it is up to us — the Armenian youth — to tip the scales in the direction that will position ourselves on the right side of history, the side of history that values justice and the truth. Let’s fight the good fight. Let’s get to work,” remarked Seraydarian.
Lar Tabakian is a rising sophomore from Los Angeles, studying Middle Eastern studies with the hopes of becoming a conflict journalist. She is a former participant in the ANCA Rising Leaders Program, an active member of the AYF Pasadena “Nigol Touman” Chapter and the Armenian Students Association.
“Being able to work with the ANCA and do this internship has opened the avenue to activism beyond what I have ever experienced. Working for tangible change in the nation’s capital instills a sense of purpose, urgency, and amplified passion for the Armenian cause and demonstrates the need for the youth of our people to propel our people forward, no matter where we are on any corner of the globe,” said Tabakian.
Tara Tazian is a rising sophomore, studying public affairs and communication. She is involved in her school’s Armenian Students Association.
“I am thankful to the ANCA for providing me the opportunity to explore career prospects in Washington, DC and gain valuable experience in the political field to expand my knowledge on influencing US policy and educating elected officials about pro-Artsakh and Armenia priorities. Throughout the program, I look forward to improving my advocacy, public speaking, and journalism skills to further the Armenian cause and become what our nation needs,” noted Tazian.
Victoria Topalian is a rising junior at the University of California, Los Angeles, studying political science. Victoria is a former intern of the ANCA-Western Region, serving on the Government Affairs Committee. She is an active member of the AYF Hollywood “Musa Ler” Chapter.
“I hope to gain knowledge of advocacy and understand how to use my future career in law to further Hai Tahd. With the network I create and the skills I build I hope to influence policy that would help the homeland,” remarked Topalian.
Christian Yerelekian is a rising sophomore at the University of Notre Dame, studying political science, business economics and Chinese language and literature. He is the president of Notre Dame’s Armenian Students Association.
“I am very excited to be in the nation’s capital, to educate myself on the process of international law, and how I can be an advocate for correcting the injustices brought upon Armenia and Artsakh through this avenue. I am participating in the LSI Program to experience the world of advocacy in our nation’s capital, and learn how to incorporate this sense of advocacy for the Armenian Cause into a career of international law,” stated Yerelekian.