ANCA Rising Leaders program inspires next generation of Armenian American advocates

Student leaders bring diverse backgrounds and interests to Washington

Participants of ANCA Rising Leaders 2023 Session 1 with ANCA staff on Capitol Hill as they start a full day of pro-Artsakh/Armenia advocacy.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) Rising Leaders program brought a remarkable group of Armenian American youth leaders from across the US to our nation’s capital for a unique three-day career development and civic education immersion seminar. Students participating in the first of two sessions, held on March 14 to 16, had the opportunity to delve into policy, politics and media careers, while simultaneously advancing the Armenian American community’s pro-Artsakh/Armenia priorities. 

“Our 2023 ANCA Rising Leaders brought unique perspectives into everything they did. We had a wide range of academic backgrounds, including political science, public health, and engineering,” said ANCA Youth Programs associate director Tatevik Khachatryan. “It’s truly inspiring seeing what they are capable of and imagining all they have to offer. Session #1 of the ANCA Rising Leaders 2023 was an outstanding success, and we extend our heartfelt gratitude to our program partners, esteemed speakers, generous donors, and above all, our phenomenal participants for their invaluable contributions.” 

Session one students took the opportunity to visit Washington, DC for three days during their spring break week. During the course of the program, participants sat down with Congressional leaders, government, media and communications experts to learn about the many career opportunities that exist in Washington, DC. This opportunity allowed individuals to also connect and network with other Armenian Americans from across the country.  

Once again this year, the ANCA collaborated with the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Eastern and Western US in hosting the events, made possible through a generous contribution by Dean Shahinian, Esq. and the family and friends of the late ANCA activist Lucine Kouchakdjian. 

“The AYF was excited to have strong participation from our members in the Rising Leaders program – an extension of our Armenian American community leadership development activities,” stated AYF Western Region Central Executive member Alex Manoukian, who traveled to Washington to help administer the program. “We look forward to participants sharing lessons learned with their chapters and expanding AYF participation in local ANC endeavors.”

AYF Western Region Central Executive Member Alex Manoukian was one of the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill day team leaders, where participants visited over 350 Congressional offices.

The ANCA looks forward to welcoming Session 2 participants to Washington, DC from March 26-29. 

Planning for the Future: Career Opportunities in the Nation’s Capital

The first day of the Rising Leaders program focused on career development with a full day of interactive presentations by the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Advisory Committee (CGPAC) focusing on job search fundamentals, from resume preparation, effective “elevator pitches” and LinkedIn use to an overview of the Washington, DC internship and job market. CGPAC chair emeritus Maria Martirosyan Issakhanian and leaders Tadeh Issakhanian and Arsen Markarov – all alumni of the Capital Gateway Program who have excelled in their chosen careers – offered one-on-one mentoring to the Rising Leaders and insights on best practices in embarking on their post-university job search.

ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Chair Emeritus Maria Martirosyan Issakhanian discusses how to prepare an effective resume with ANCA Rising Leaders 2023 Session 1 participants.

Armenian Cause 101: Pro-Artsakh/Armenia Advocacy and the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day

Effective advocacy for pro-Artsakh and Armenia priorities took center stage during keynote remarks by ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian and ANCA Government Affairs director Tereza Yerimyan, who outlined the ANCA’s targeted legislative campaign to stop all US military aid to Azerbaijan, send emergency assistance to Artsakh and hold Azerbaijan accountable for the 100-plus day blockade of Artsakh and ongoing anti-Armenian aggression. Participants learned first-hand about Artsakh foreign policy and domestic challenges from Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Ambassador to the United States. They also learned about careers in foreign policy from Greg Aftandilian, a professor and foreign policy expert whose career has spanned the State Department and Congress.

Congressional Armenian Staff Association (CASA) members share insights on their Capitol Hill Careers as part of Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day.

These discussions culminated in the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day, where participants visited with over 350 Congressional offices to educate elected officials and staff about Azerbaijan’s Artsakh blockade and Armenian American community support for at least $75 million in US aid to Artsakh and $100 million in aid to Armenia as part of the fiscal year 2024 foreign aid bill. Participants also met with members of the Congressional Armenian Staff Association (CASA), who shared insights on careers on Capitol Hill and the importance of expanding Armenian American presence in Washington, DC’s policy-making community.

Rising Leaders attendees also connected with the greater Washington, DC Armenian community, participating in traditional Armenian dance classes organized by the Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Association and led by internationally-renowned Armenian folk dance instructor Gagik Kinosyan.  

In Their Own Words: ANCA Rising Leaders speak out on inspiring program

The 2023 ANCA Rising Leaders included participants from across the US and Canada, listed here in alphabetical order: Tade Aghakian, Kristina Aleksanyan, Evan Aronow, Nareh Aseyan, Karen Aywazian, Neli Aghaghali Babayans, Aram Eskandarian, Tsoline Gevorkian, Soseh Hovasapian, Maral Krikorian, Araz Madenlian, Hovig Ohanian, Milana Parehjan, Raffi Sarrafian, Mara Tarpinian and Isabell Yaralian. 

Evan Aronow, a student from Rutgers University told us about his experience. “The ANCA’s Rising Leaders Program was a unique and eye-opening experience for me. I was able to learn more about the work of the ANCA in our local communities and got to experience firsthand what it’s like to advocate for Armenian issues on Capitol Hill. This further invigorated me to speak up for our people, both in my community at home and in Washington, DC. Beyond that, I forged lasting relationships with my ungers and made many memories. I would wholeheartedly recommend the program to any young Armenians who care about elevating and fighting for the Armenian Cause.” 

Aram Eskandarian, who studies political science at American University, explained, “I got so much out of the Rising Leaders Program. I loved meeting and chatting with everyone and discovering that many of us had so much in common even though we were from all over the country.” Commenting on the career development portion of the program, Eskandarian said, “I had no idea what an ‘elevator pitch’ was or how LinkedIn or networking worked. I also was not very aware of how Capitol Hill advocacy worked, and I got to experience it firsthand. The last and most important thing I got out of the Rising Leaders Program was a closer connection to my Armenian heritage, and with that, more passion to help advocate for Armenian issues in my everyday life, whether it be to friends, family, politicians or the general public.”

Tsoline Gevorkian, a student at the University of Vermont, expressed how the program harnessed her passions. “The ANCA Rising Leaders program harnessed my passion for Hai Tahd, as it taught me how to effectively work towards advocating for Armenia and Artsakh.” 

Maral Krikorian, who is studying computer science at the University of Houston, explained, “I learned how to advocate and pursue what I am very strongly passionate about and to always participate and help Armenia in any way possible, whether it is raising money, showing up to events and even advocating to the government so that our voices will be heard. What I got out of this program was to never stop working and improving; there are many opportunities open for everyone, and most importantly, there are multiple ways to help Armenia get back on its feet.”

Soseh Hovasapian, studying medicine at Cornell University said, “I had an incredibly enriching experience learning more about ANCA’s Armenian advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. I am grateful to have participated in the Rising Leaders Program, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear and learn from some of the most knowledgeable experts in the field. Moving forward, I plan to utilize the knowledge I gained to educate my peers at Cornell and promote, as well as actively partake in, efforts that contribute to the advancement of our Hai Tahd – our collective struggle for a free, independent and united Armenia.”

Raffi Sarrafian, an engineering student at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told us, “Through the ANCA Rising Leaders Program, I was able to meet people from across the US and learn how I can use my voice and network to make an impact in my local and national Armenian community. I highly encourage people of all majors to do this program as it is a great way to grow your network, understand how lobbying works and learn how to make sure our voices and concerns are heard by the members of Congress.”

Isabell Yaralian, who studies government at Boise State University, noted, “The Rising Leaders program was an inspiring experience that taught me how I can advocate for Armenia and Artsakh through American democracy to help our homeland.” 

A Word of Thanks: Dean Shahinian and Kouchakdjian family continue commitment to youth education and empowerment

Longtime ANCA supporter Dean Shahinian is again the major sponsor of this unique youth development program along with the family and friends of Lucine Kouchakdjian.

Shahinian served in the federal government in various capacities for over 30 years, including 16 years at the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, where he worked with committee chairs on numerous bills and laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. In the Armenian community, he has served on the boards of St. Nersess Seminary and the Armenian Students’ Association. He has also served multiple terms on the Diocesan Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.

For dozens of years, living in the Washington, DC area – in addition to her cultural, education and charitable work with a broad range of community organizations – the late Lucine Zadoian Kouchakdjian organized highly-effective ANCA campaigns to foster a forward-leaning spirit of civic responsibility among Armenian Americans across the nation’s capital. The Rising Leaders Capitol Hill day was named in memory of her lifetime of service to the Armenian Cause following her passing last year.

ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan with ANCA Rising Leaders following a meeting with Oklahoma Senator James Lankford’s office, focusing on the Artsakh blockade and the need to cut all military aid to Azerbaijan.
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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