WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over thirty Armenian American high school-age students shared Artsakh’s powerful story of perseverance and commitment to freedom with Congressional leaders during the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy. Over the span of two separate week-long sessions held in early August, students met with Washington, D.C.’s Armenian American professionals and learned about career and academic goals in policy, politics, media and finance.
“Participants in the Kasparian Summer Academy brought their remarkable personal devotion for the Armenian cause to our nation’s capital, where they served as effective advocates for their brothers and sisters in Artsakh amid Azerbaijan’s genocidal blockade,” stated ANCA Programs Coordinator Nareg Aghjayan. “Alongside non-stop advocacy efforts, these students also explored avenues to professional and academic success, all the while, making new friends for life.”
Summer Academy participants were chosen based on a rigorous application process focusing on academic excellence and proven pro-Artsakh/Armenia efforts through groups, including the Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian churches and organizations, schools, student groups and individual initiatives. The ANCA expanded the program to two sessions, in order to accommodate unprecedented interest from youth across the U.S.
The first session of the Summer Academy, held from July 31st to August 4th included Diran Deichmann, Nairi Garibian, Aris Givelekian, Meghri Hamparian, Athena Hovanessian, Aram Kedeshian, Arek Kedeshian, Karine Kevorkian, Anton Khechoyan, Zaven Kouchakdjian, Daniel Markarov, John Nenedzhyan, Vartkaes Pamboukian, Seta Sahagian, Lori Sarafian, Maral Sarafian, and Vartan Yildiz.
The second session of the program, held from August 7th to 11th included Zabella Aslanian, Anna Baghdassarian, Tigran Bdoyan, Andrew Gorgissian, Areg Horoupian, Grace Hovsepian, Vincent Hovsepian, Sophia Karabetian, Jackalyn Karamanougian, Hagop Khayalian, Zepure Merdinian, Alec Sarkissian, Lori Sarkissian, Simon Soghomonian, and Nyrie Tavidian.
Each shared their expectations and impressions of the program in testimonials shared below and videos available on the ANCA social media channels. Videos are available on the ANCA YouTube channel.
During the two sessions, Summer Academy participants explored the diplomatic challenges facing Armenia and Artsakh in discussions with ANCA National Board Member Ani Tchaghlasian. Big Whig Media founders Ken and Keith Nahigian discussed the broader political media scene in Washington and effective communication strategies during a tour of their state-of-the-art multi-media studio located just blocks from the White House. Armenian genealogy expert and ARF Eastern Region Central Committee member George Aghjayan led discussions on the evolution of Armenian identity and explored what justice would look like for the Armenian nation, which continues to battle a present-day Genocide in Artsakh. Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, the Armenia and Georgia Area Specialist at the Library of Congress, shared the vast treasures of the Library’s growing Armenian collection. Participants also had a special Executive Director’s tour of the Woodrow Wilson House, learning about the U.S. president’s pivotal role in launching the US government’s first major international humanitarian assistance program during the Armenian Genocide.
Summer Academy participants were introduced to a wide range of career opportunities on Capitol Hill, international development, advocacy and consulting by successful Armenian Americans in their respective fields. Congressional Armenian Staff Association (CASA) leaders and members shared the journeys that led them to Capitol Hill and their impact in U.S. policymaking. Spotlighting Washington, D.C.’s robust consulting world, Deloitte’s Armenian Senior Managers Tadeh Issakhanian and Sipan Ohannesian shared their experiences and discussed career growth opportunities.
The ANCA’s Washington D.C. team focused on best practices of Armenian American grassroots advocacy with intensive sessions on the organization’s 360-degree agenda to defend Artsakh safety and security, promote stronger U.S.-Armenia ties and secure justice for the Armenian Genocide. Executive Director Aram Hamparian and Programs Director Alex Galitsky led in-depth discussions on the policy priorities advanced on Capitol Hill, including mock meetings to share effective advocacy techniques for future Congressional visits. ANC Artsakh Executive Director Gev Iskajyan shared the daily realities and political challenges facing the people of Artsakh in interactive Zoom sessions from Stepanakert. ANCA IT Director Nerses Semerjian shared the myriad of ANCA tools of pro-Armenian advocacy and communication priorities in encouraging broader Armenian American community civic participation and expanding outreach to media and U.S. political leaders.
During both sessions, participants visited with all U.S. Senate and House offices, calling on Congressional leaders to send a humanitarian airlift to Artsakh and end U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. With Semerjian’s assistance, first-session participants prepared a video urging Armenian Americans and allies to join them in their pro-Artsakh efforts through advocacy across the U.S.
The ANCA Summer Academy is named after Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian in recognition of their lifetime of selfless service and sacrifice for the Armenian community and cause, through a generous grant by their daughter and son-in-law, Arsho and Adour Aghjayan, and grandson, Nareg Aghjayan, who ran this year’s program. In presentations to the students, Nareg encouraged participants to explore the full range of ANCA-sponsored national and regional internships and post-graduate programs, as they consider careers in policy, politics, and media.
ANCA Summer Academy participants stayed at the ANCA Aramian House, a landmark property in downtown Washington, D.C. which serves as the home and permanent headquarters of the ANCA’s signature youth programs. The Aramian House is named in honor of the late community leader and philanthropist Martha Aramian of Providence, Rhode Island.
The ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy is the latest in the series of youth leadership and career development programs including the Leo Sarkisian Internship Program, Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship, and the ANCA Rising Leaders Program – which features the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day.
In Their Own Words: Summer Academy Participants Share Their Experiences in the Innovative Program
“Thanks to the Kasparian Summer Academy, my passion for the Armenian Cause has deepened immensely.” – Zabella Aslanian, Saddle River NJ
“The combination of education and hands-on advocacy has forever changed my understanding of the Armenian Cause and how to help my community in a meaningful way.” – Anna Baghdassarian, Woodstock NY
“Participating in the ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy at the Aramian House was a transformative experience that deepened my understanding of Armenian issues and advocacy. The connections I made and the info I absorbed, have become an enduring part of my personal and intellectual growth.” – Tigran Bdoyan, Ghanna OH
“The Kasparian Summer Academy was an opportunity to meet new Armenian friends but also encouraged us to advocate for the Armenian Cause. I think the best part was when we worked together as a whole, because this gave us an opportunity to get closer to one another while also realizing how much we relate to each other.” – Nairi Garibian, Longmeadow MA
“The Kasparian Summer Academy was an amazing experience for me. I was able to take my passion for politics to the next level and learn in great detail about the political world, especially in relation to Armenia. And last but not least, I am grateful for the friends that I made along the way.” – Areg Horoupian, Belmont CA
“A huge thank you to the entire ANCA team for putting on a memorable and inspiring program for the upcoming Armenian youth in our efforts to bring justice to Armenia and Artsakh.” – Athena Hovanessian, Las Vegas NV
“The ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy has given me the opportunity to get involved and stay involved in my Armenian community. I learned how to properly advocate for the Armenian Cause and Artsakh, met the ANCA staff learning about their different roles and made lifelong friendships with people who are incredibly passionate to help strengthen our Armenian community.” – Grace Hovsepian, Altadena CA
“The Kasparian Summer Academy not only provided countless networking opportunities, but allowed me to share perspectives with Armenians around the world who have used policy to advance our Cause.” – Vincent Hovsepian, Los Angeles CA
“The ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy taught me how to effectively advocate for legislation that helps Armenians in Artsakh who are suffering the effects of the blockade. While learning about the ANCA and its vital role in the Diaspora, I made lifelong friendships and memories I will always carry with me.” – Jackalyn Karamanougian, La Puente CA
“Participating in the ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy was truly an amazing experience. Over the course of a week I was not only taught how to advocate for Armenian issues but was also given the opportunity to practice what I learned by going to Capitol Hill and bringing the current issues we face as a community to the attention of the staffs of House of Representatives members.” – Arek Kedeshian, Pasadena CA
“The Kasparian Summer Academy enlightened me to a new understanding of policy and Armenian advocacy. Furthermore, my love for DC has grown even more and I hope to return in the near future.” – Hagop Khayalian, Los Angeles, CA
“I loved learning about the Armenian and American political systems, while also becoming more educated about my heritage and the ongoing situation in Artsakh. I am very happy to have made more Armenian friends from all across the country, and plan to keep in touch with them for years to come.” – Anton Khechoyan, Englewood, CO
“Throughout the past week, I have gained a very deep insight on the issues that affect the Armenian people, how to help solve these issues, and the ways that Turkey and Azerbaijan create and allow these issues to happen. I learned all of this while being surrounded by fellow Armenian youth from across the country, all with different experiences and perspectives.” – Zaven Kouchakdjian, Sudbury, MA
“I walked in with a strong but narrow understanding of my Armenian-ness; yet afterward, I can say that I have learned so much more about my people and my place in the world as an Armenian in the Diaspora.” – Arsen Markarov, San Francisco, CA
“Though my interests don’t fall into the political world, I enjoyed learning more about the politics that help us advance Hai Tahd. I was also grateful to have had the opportunity to connect with the local Armenians who work at the ANCA and to have met Armenians from around the world who had decided to attend this program.” – Vartkaes Pamboukian, Gaithersburg, MD
“From an early age, we enhanced our activism skills in order to ensure the future of Artsakh is safe in our hands. The connections we made with the interns and all those we had conversations with will truly be the ties to sustain our ongoing fight.” – Seta Sahagian, Mahwah, NJ
“I really enjoyed being able to go to Congress and advocating for Armenia with my fellow interns. The lectures were very educational and forced us to think critically about Armenia and specifically how we educate others about our concerns.” – Maral Sarafian, Paramus, NJ
“The ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy has given me the opportunity of a lifetime. I thank everyone who has put their time and effort into making this internship what it is.” – Alec Sarkissian, West Sacramento CA
“As someone who felt uneducated about the political situation in Armenia, this week was fantastic. I didn’t just learn, but I met new people and made new friends.” – Simon Soghomonian, Springfield, VA
“Thanks to the ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy allowed me to network with successful Armenians in the nation’s capital and form lifelong friendships with other young Armenians who share the same passion for advancing the Armenian Cause.” – Nyrie Tavidian, Glendale, CA
“I thoroughly learned about the current situation of Armenia and Artsakh which I was later able to advocate for on Capitol Hill. I was also able to meet with other Armenians that work on Capitol Hill providing me with valuable insight and connections with those Armenians.” – Vartan Yildiz, Edgewater, NJ