BOSTON, Mass.—The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region will recognize the accomplishments of its 2023 ANCA Leo Sarkisian summer interns – Olivia Abajian (NY), Vahagn Boudakian (NY), Tsoline Gevorkian (MA), Emma Lopez (CT), Ruby Topalian (MD) and Nver Saghatelyan (MD) – at this year’s 17th Annual ANCA Eastern Region Endowment Fund Awards Program, United for Artsakh, at the Royal Sonesta Boston Hotel on Saturday, October 7, 2023.
Founded in 1986, the ANCA LSI program is named in memory of the late ANCA Eastern Region community leader Leo Sarkisian. LSI provides students from both the eastern and western U.S. and Canada with an opportunity to participate in a six-week intensive program in Washington, D.C., designed to give them the tools to advance issues of concern to the Armenian-American community on the federal, state and local level. Now in its 36th year, the program has hundreds of alumni worldwide.
During their six-week stay in the nation’s capital, interns participated in various activities carefully planned by the ANCA office in Washington, D.C. In fact, in three days, interns visited 535 offices encouraging members to cosign a letter led by Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA) to cease all military aid to Azerbaijan – their efforts acquired 54 cosponsors for the letter, setting the course for what the rest of their internship would entail. The remaining weeks would encompass multiple lectures by several key members of Washington’s Armenian-American political elite, who offered the interns their experiences in a variety of fields, encompassing state government, journalism, lobbying, consulting and ambassadorship.
Interns for the LSI program are selected through a competitive application process, with their acceptance being based on several criteria, including academic excellence, demonstrated leadership and community involvement. Interns are provided with room and board in the ANCA Aramian House, donated by generous sister donors Martha and Sue Aramian and Margo Aramian Regan.
The Eastern Region interns from this year’s internship all shared a collective focus on advancing the Armenian Cause in the political, economic and social realms of society as they brought a wealth of experience from their professional and educational backgrounds. The interns shared a range of passion, encompassing the collective fields of government and politics, international relations, psychology, sociology, political science, international studies, economics, and Middle Eastern and European languages and cultures, all of which form a strong foundation for the next generation of activists and the future of the Armenian-American community.
“The many talents and accomplishments of our youth, as well as their drive and motivation, make me confident in the future of the ANCA and Hai Tahd. I have the pleasure of recognizing the interns at this year’s awards dinner and hope my words will continue to empower them and encourage our youth to join the tireless fight for justice for Artsakh, Armenia and the Armenian nation,” said Steve Mesrobian, ANCA Eastern Region Board member.
The 2023 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Eastern Region interns recognized at the Awards Program are Olivia Abajian, Vahagn Boudakian, Tsoline Gevorkian, Emma Lopez, Ruby Topalian and Nver Saghatelyan.
Olivia Abajian is a current freshman at the University of Maryland, majoring in government and politics with a concentration in international relations. Abajian is the editor-in-chief of the Terrapin Yearbook and a member of Phi Sigma Sigma. Bringing her Armenian background onto campus, she is also a member of UMD’s Armenian Students Association and an active member of the AYF-YOARF “Hyortik” Chapter at home.
Vahagn Boudakian, who is pursuing a major in political science with a minor in psychology at Brooklyn College CUNY, actively contributed to refugee relief efforts following the 2020 war and contributed to the war efforts. He is hopeful to employ the new skills acquired from the internship to “further the cause of Armenia’s progress.”
Tsoline Gevorkian, a lifelong member of the AYF, currently serves as the treasurer of the Middlesex County West AYF Chapter. At the University of Vermont, she studies psychology and sociology as a rising junior. Gevorkian credits the internship for allowing her to gain more knowledge about American politics and giving her more confidence toward one day hosting her own AYF educational lecture. It was more important – and a source of pride – that she could spend her summer “fighting for our brothers and sisters in Artsakh and for an Azad Angakh Miatsyal Haiastan.”
Emma Lopez, who recently graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in political science, wore many hats at her local Armenian Students Association, where she served as vice president, secretary and social media manager. At her home parish, St. George Armenian Church, she is an active member of the local ACYOA, where she also regularly volunteers in community events. She looks forward to using her new skills and experiences to enrich her home community.
Nver Saghatelyan, a student at John Hopkins University, is majoring in international studies and economics. He saw the internship as an opportunity to familiarize himself with the dynamics of American politics and to bring his new lessons back home to Armenia and Artsakh, where he hopes to use these experiences to “challenge the status quo and contribute to peaceful resolutions in contrast to the ongoing tensions and violence.”
Lastly, Ruby Topalian, a rising sophomore at Trinity College Dublin, is pursuing a dual bachelor’s program through Columbia University. At Trinity College Dublin, she studies Middle Eastern and European languages and cultures, especially focusing on Arabic and Italian. At Columbia, she studies political science. According to her, the internship reconnected her to her Armenian heritage, and as an editor on multiple campus publications, she looks forward to leveraging her position to encourage her peers to become educated about Armenian-American issues, hoping that her efforts will create more activists for the Armenian Cause.
Hosted by the ANC of Eastern Massachusetts, the evening will feature a cocktail reception and silent auction beginning at 6 p.m. and a seated dinner and an awards program at 7 p.m. During the dinner presentation, the region will present deserving honorees with awards, including the inaugural ANCA Eastern Region Excellence in Education Award to Houry Boyamian; the inaugural ANCA Eastern Region Advocacy Award to Dr. Michael Rubin; the ANCA Eastern Region Vahan Cardashian Award to lifelong activists Joseph Dagdigian of the ANC of Merrimack Valley and Barkev Kaligian of the ANC of Eastern Massachusetts; and the ANCA Eastern Region Freedom Award, which will be presented to Congresswoman Katherine Clark.
“While the evening will be appropriately somber given the current situation in Artsakh, we are depending on our community to fully support the ANCA Eastern Region’s fundraiser, which will be dedicated to the people of Artsakh and the work we must do together for the continued existence of Artsakh and Armenia,” said Ara Nazarian, ANCA Eastern Region Endowment Fund Awards Program committee chair.