ANCA Summer Internship: Pro-Artsakh Policy and Purpose in the Nation’s Capital

A portion of the 2022 ANCA summer interns on Capitol Hill with ANCA Programs Director Alex Manoukian

WASHINGTON, DC – Amid ongoing Azerbaijani attacks and Turkish hostility against Artsakh and Armenia, 14 Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Leo Sarkisian, Maral Melkonian Avetisyan and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program interns and fellows spent their summer in Washington, DC – speaking truth to power in the halls of Congress and mobilizing the growing national grassroots movement of Armenian Americans and diverse ethnic, religious and cultural coalition partners committed to the survival of the Armenian people upon their indigenous homeland.

These university students, high schoolers and recent graduates – each bringing their unique backgrounds from states across the US, and interests as diverse as politics and economics, math and sciences – matured personally and professionally as they charted their career paths and maximized their support for the Armenian cause.

Over the course of six weeks in the nation’s capital, ANCA Leo Sarkisian interns Gregory Codilian, Aram Gevorgian, Alex Guldjian, Ani Jamgotchian, Natalia Matossian, Lar Tabakian, Tara Tazian, Victoria Topalian and Christian Yerelekian joined ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer Fellow and Armenian Weekly columnist Melody Seraydarian and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program interns Sune Hamparian, Zabelle Hamparian, Aram Hess and Stephen Pidedjian in over 150 Congressional meetings and visited every single Congressional office to advance pro-Artsakh priorities – to zero-out US military aid to Azerbaijan, increase aid to Artsakh and demand decisive US action to secure Azerbaijan’s release of Armenian POWs. They participated in multinational conferences, including the International Religious Freedom Forum – discussing the destruction of Armenian Christian holy sites in Azerbaijan-occupied Artsakh and Turkey-occupied Western Armenia.

ANCA interns at the International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, DC

Interns and fellows worked closely with ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian and Government Affairs director Tereza Yerimyan to learn the finer points of effective Hai Tahd advocacy. ANCA IT director Nerses Semerjian and the summer team focused on the intricacies of political data collection and the effective use of technology – including the ANCA’s proprietary March to Justice system – to inspire broader community participation in pro-Artsakh and Armenian advocacy and civic discourse.

ANCA interns with Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, during a break from meetings on Capitol Hill

ANCA Programs director Alex Manoukian designed and ran the program, including a deep dive into Artsakh foreign policy with Artsakh representative to the US Robert Avetisyan and effective ways to combat Turkish and Azerbaijani disinformation with Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region chair George Aghjayan. Library of Congress Armenian and Georgian specialist Dr. Khatchig Mouradian shared the historic Armenian books and artifacts in the Library’s 50,000-plus and growing Armenian collection. ANCA chairman emeritus Garo Armenian offered his annual full-day seminar on Armenian geopolitics – once again a favorite of the ANCA fellows. Sam Tatevosyan, director of government affairs of McDonald’s, shared his insights on careers on Capitol Hill and corporate lobbying success, while Prof. Greg Aftandilian discussed foreign policy and careers in both the State Department and Congress. Throughout it all, friendships emerged that are sure to last a lifetime after a memorable summer of activities, during which the 14 ANCA fellows and interns were inseparable.

Library of Congress Armenian and Georgian Specialist Dr. Khatchig Mouradian sharing some of the over 50,000 Armenian items preserved at the Library.

“The ANCA summer internship – inspired by Leo Sarkisian, Maral Melkonian Avetisyan and Hovig Apo Saghdejian – is the cornerstone of our year-round youth empowerment programs – helping generations of Armenian Americans take their rightful place in the ever-expanding world of pro-Artsakh/Armenia advocacy,” said Manoukian. “Their devotion, smarts and can-do attitude, coupled with the ANCA’s targeted legislative agenda and grassroots development program strengthen the second army of the Armenian nation as we battle to ensure security, freedom, and justice for our homeland.”

The 2022 ANCA Summer interns on the last day of the program in a moment of levity and appreciation for Director Alex Manoukian.

ANCA summer interns and fellows shared their impressions of the program and its impetus to expand Hai Tahd advocacy while contributing to their personal and professional growth.

“To say that I had a transformative experience interning at the ANCA in Washington, DC, over these past six weeks is an understatement,” explained Tazian. “The most rewarding moment was when the US House adopted four ANCA-backed pro-Armenian amendments because we had been working on that for weeks calling Congressmen and speaking to staffers at the Capitol.”

Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) with ANCA Exec. Director Aram Hamparian and interns Melody Seraydarian, Natalia Matossian, Tara Tazian, and Lar Tabakian, during one of the many Capitol Hill advocacy days

Yerelekian commented, “My time at LSI has been both eye-opening and inspiring. Throughout the entire process, I have seen my passion for foreign affairs and national defense grow exponentially through the opportunities that the internship offered.”

“I have felt the power and reach of the Hai Tahd on all fronts, through legislative advocacy and beyond,” noted Tabakian. “Thanks to the internship, the Armenian youth have a solid footing because of the work put in, and the rewards we reap.”

“Working at the ANCA has been nothing but productive and insightful given the opportunities made available such as Garo Armenian’s talk on Armenian geopolitics, visiting Sam Tatevosyan at the McDonald’s corporate building, and resume and cover letter resources,” explained Guldjian. “From touring Capitol Hill, presenting Armenian-American priorities in congressional meetings and working alongside such highly-educated and passionate interns, the internship program fostered many ways that we could advocate for the Hai Tahd on all different levels in our communities.”

The ANCA summer interns held over 150 meetings – on Capitol Hill and via Zoom – in support of pro-Artsakh/Armenia amendments to the FY23 National Defense Authorization Act

Jamgotchian explained, “The skills I learned and the friendships I made will serve me well into my future activism and career and for that, I will forever be grateful to the ANCA.”

“What I realized this summer is the importance of our beautiful Armenian community for advancing the Armenian cause. As Armenians we have a beautiful culture that needs to be preserved and I learned that the power of our community is what will help us achieve our goals,” noted Hess.

“It has been such a pleasure working with the ANCA this summer and living with like-minded young Armenians,” noted Gevorgian. “We worked to further Hai Tahd within our own skill sets and received many opportunities to develop ourselves. We received esteemed lecturers, participated in activities in Armenian communities and strengthened our Armenian identity.”

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.

Interns stay at the ANCA Aramian House, seen here as they head to the ANCA offices on the first day of the program.
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The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.
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