ANCA summer interns advance Armenian American policy priorities in nation’s capital

Six-week training session prepares students as future leaders for the Armenian community and cause

ANCA Programs Coordinator Garen Meguerditchian (far left) with the 2024 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship and Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship participants

WASHINGTON—A bright and determined group of students from across the U.S. and Canada are participating in the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) 38th annual session of the Leo Sarkisian (LSI) Summer Internship and the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship, landmark civic initiatives that train Armenian American youth to serve as effective ambassadors of the Armenian cause.

“For close to four decades, the ANCA has been blessed with hundreds of bright and committed university students — from across North America and around the world — all committed to expanding their leadership and advocacy skills in service to the Armenian cause,” said ANCA Programs Coordinator Garen Meguerditchian. “Today they serve in all aspects of Armenian American community life — advancing American civic virtues and the Armenian nation’s core values wherever they go.”

Each of this year’s interns — Nareh Aseyan, Armen Bagdassarian, Antriana Bigiazian, Mane Davityan, Vana Hovsepian, Alice Kalachian, Lorig Korajian, Maral Krikorian, Anna Lieggi, Sabrina Tomarci and Renee Van Leeuwen — chosen through a competitive application process, are looking forward to a life-changing experience, with the hope of making a difference on a nationwide scale.

Interns participate in a wide variety of projects based on their individual interests and are given the opportunity to gain hands-on experience within the American political system. Their bi-weekly lecture series features guest speakers, including public officials and Armenian American leaders.

2024 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship and Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship participants with Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA), the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Subcommittee on Europe

The ANCA LSI and Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship are integral parts of the ANCA’s youth empowerment and professional development efforts, including the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, which helps university students and graduates find internships and permanent positions in congressional offices, as well as a host of other government agencies and policy groups. The ANCA also hosts the Rising Leaders career development program for university students, the Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy for high school students and the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Days to expand youth civic engagement. 

Established in 1986 and named after the ANCA Eastern U.S. leader Leo Sarkisian, a pioneer of ANCA grassroots advocacy, the LSI program is a cornerstone of the ANCA’s nationwide efforts to educate, motivate and activate Armenian American youth to expand advocacy efforts in their hometowns and campuses. It was augmented in 2019 with the establishment of the Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship, established as a living legacy to a devoted youth leader whose community activism and commitment to the Armenian homeland continue to inspire new generations of young Armenian Americans.

During the six-week Washington, D.C. program, interns live at the Aramian House, named in honor of the late community leader and philanthropist Martha Aramian of Providence, Rhode Island, and located a short distance from the ANCA’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.

Meet the 2024 ANCA Leo Sarkisian Interns and Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellow:

Nareh Aseyan is a rising sophomore at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School, where she studies international relations with concentrations in pre-law and global security. Her passion for advocacy, particularly for the Armenian cause, is evident as she participates in her third ANCA program. In addition to her work with the ANCA, she is a senior member of the AYF and a news host for Z89 Radio. In her academic pursuits, she frequently enrolls in courses such as American government and politics and political theory to deepen her understanding of American politics and their relation to Armenia.

“The ANCA Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actively work toward my future goals while making a tangible difference for the Armenian cause. I am eager to learn, grow and contribute to the empowerment of the Armenian community. This program is an incredible opportunity to gain practical experience and make a real difference,” said Aseyan.

Armen Bagdassarian is a rising sophomore at Emory University studying business administration and political science. He’s originally from Watertown, Massachusetts, where he had the opportunity to serve as a principal’s assistant at Erebuni Armenian School, a K-12 cultural school for the area’s Armenian community. In college, he works as a director for IMUNA, a U.N.-affiliated nonprofit, as a business analyst for Consult Your Community and organizes Emory’s annual TEDx conference each year. 

“Although I go to a university with a very sparse Armenian-American population, I wanted to be able to connect my Armenian heritage to advocacy work within the United States government. In previous years, it felt like there was nothing I could do as an Armenian living in America to aid our nation in one of its most difficult times. The Leo Sarkisian Internship has allowed me to make a real impact as a college student for my homeland. I’m very grateful to the ANCA for offering this opportunity, and I hope to continue working to advance Hai Tahd in the future,” stated Bagdassarian.

Antriana Bigiazian is a rising junior at UC Riverside studying political science and international affairs and double majoring in sociology with a focus on law and society. She began her advocacy journey with the AYF chapter in Athens, Greece, and is now continuing to advocate for Armenian issues within the UC Student Association and Externals Office at Associated Students of UC Riverside. She works closely with the Middle Eastern Student Center to ensure Armenian cultural representation within the space and with allies. She is currently in the process of bringing the first Armenian history student-led course to her campus, in order to ensure Armenian representation and heritage are recognized. She registered Students for Justice in Artsakh at UC Riverside and held representatives accountable to recognize and support the Armenian population in California.

“I am excited to be part of Leo Sarkisian’s internship, because it provides me with the real hand-to-hand experience of what advocacy can look like and its potential as U.S. Armenian residents. I want to bring this gained knowledge and skills to my campus and push for South West Asian & North African lobbying day within the UC Student Association, where we as Armenians can build coalitions with other SWANA individuals and advocate for Armenian issues, ensuring our interconnected struggles are recognized fairly,” shared Bigiazian.

Maneh Davityan is from the Los Angeles region and is a rising junior at UC Berkeley studying legal studies and global studies with a concentration in peace and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa. She is currently on the pre-law track and plans on entering the field of international law. Davityan serves as the director of event planning for the International Relations Council and as the assistant editor of the California Legal Studies Journal. Additionally, she serves as the internal president of the Undergraduate Legal Honors Society. Davityan has been involved in the Armenian community through her school’s Armenian Students Association, as well as attending Armenian Saturday school and Armenian dance classes.

“As someone who is particularly interested in the field of politics and furthering the Armenian cause, this internship has provided me with the opportunity to dive deeper into the intricacies of politics and lawmaking in D.C.,” stated Davityan.

Vana Hovsepian is a recent UCLA graduate with a degree in philosophy, looking to pursue a career in law. She is an active member of her local Glendale, California AYF “Roupen” chapter, as well as a junior advisor for AYF “Shant” chapter. Additionally, she participated in the UCLA Armenian Student Association and was the editor of the UCLA Business-Law Journal.

“I applied to the Leo Sarkisian Internship in order to further my involvement in the advancement of Hai Tahd outside of the Armenian Youth Federation. I believe that this experience will allow me to contribute to the efforts of the ANCA from a legal standpoint, in which I am heavily involved. I hope to use my future education in the legal field to participate in the ANCA as an attorney,” noted Hovsepian.

Alique Kalachian studies psychology with a minor in Armenian Studies at UCLA. She spends most of her time coordinating public relations for AYF-Western United States and serves as an executive member of her AYF Crescenta Valley “Zartonk” chapter. Additionally, Kalachian recently took her oath as a member of the Armenian Relief Society Glendale “Sepan” chapter. After graduation, she plans to pursue clinical psychological research while continuing to advocate for Armenian interests through marketing and politics.

“The distinction between an active and passive diaspora member hinges on one’s satisfaction with their contributions to the community. Not content with simply attending protests, I realized more work was needed to effectively support our homeland. I joined the Leo Sarkisian Internship to better understand my role as an active diaspora member and to learn how to promote Armenian interests internationally with effective messaging,” explained Kalachian.

Lorig Korajian is from Vancouver, British Columbia, studying political science with a concentration in international relations and world politics and a minor in business at Carleton University. She aspires to pursue a career in international human rights law. Korajian is an alumna of Vancouver’s ARS “Araz” Armenian School, Soghomon Tehlirian ARF Badanegan chapter, Homenetmen girls’ volleyball team, Sassoon Dance Camp and the Armenian Variety Show. She is currently active in the AYF and the St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church choir and has participated in her campus Armenian Students Association, ARS Camp Javakhk and the Political Science Society. In 2022, she was an ANCA Kasparian Summer Academy fellow and continues to volunteer with the ANC Canada.

“As an Armenian, I feel the obligation I have to my ancestors to succeed, and it encourages me to pour my heart out into every mission I choose to take on. I advocate so that I may one day see my work, and the work of every activist, be showcased through the triumph of our beautiful Armenia,” stated Korajian.

Maral Krikorian of Houston, Texas is a rising senior at the University of Houston (UofH) majoring in computer science and minoring in mathematics. She is part of Cougar AI — a machine learning organization at UofH — as well as the secretary of the AYF Houston “Dro” chapter, organizing events and managing fundraisers.

“I chose to participate in the ANCA Leo Sarkisian internship in Washington, D.C., to more effectively contribute to Hai Tahd. Through this experience, I aim to strengthen our efforts to support and advance Armenian interests, amplify our collective voice and make a meaningful difference for Armenians,” explained Krikorian.

Anna Lieggi is a proud Armenian-American from Orange County. She is a sophomore at UC Berkeley, majoring in political science and global studies. Her involvement in Model United Nations and Moot Court consistently drives her passion for international and legal issues.  Looking ahead, she hopes to go into a career in international law or policy research, particularly focusing on Eurasian dynamics. Lieggi’s deep-seated commitment to human rights and global politics inspired her to apply for this internship, as it represents a chance to champion Armenian issues and effect meaningful change.

“For me, being able to represent our community and interests in the nation’s capital is an invaluable opportunity. It ensures that our voices, as Armenians, are understood and listened to,” explained Lieggi. 

Sabrina Tomarci of Toronto Canada is a third-year student at the University of Toronto studying political science and public law. During her time at the university, she has been involved in several clubs including as president of the Armenian Students Association, senior editor for the Law Society and executive member of the Law and Business Association. Furthermore, Tomarci’s involvement in the Armenian community extends to attending the local ARS Armenian school and working as a counselor at AGBU Camp Nubar.

“The Leo Sarkisian Program is an opportunity for me to learn more about the American Armenian community as well as gain more real-life experience in politics. I was inspired by my grandfather to always help the Armenian community in any manner possible,” noted Tomarci.

Renee Van Leeuwen of Barnstable, Massachusetts, is a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying political science, economics and Spanish. Since seeking out her university’s Armenian Students Association, she has served as co-president, event coordinator, treasurer and director of outreach. She is a member of the National Association of Armenian Studies and Research in Belmont and active with the Armenian Cultural Foundation in Arlington. Van Leeuwen recently returned from studying abroad in a language intensive program in Madrid, Spain this past spring where she studied government with a European perspective.

“I decided to join the Leo Sarkisian Internship this summer to broaden my knowledge and fulfill my calling as an Armenian to advance Hai Tahd through advocacy in the nation’s capital. I hope to take this amazing opportunity to broaden my knowledge of the U.S. political system as I pursue a career in politics and government. In the future, I look forward to connecting with the homeland through programs like Birthright Armenia,” shared Van Leeuwen.

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.

1 Comment

  1. ANCA must extend its support to exceptionally skilled young Armenians from Artsakh and Armenia who have directly borne the brunt of Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Artsakh. These individuals should boast expertise in human rights and international law, alongside a deep understanding of the US Senate and Congress. Moreover, they should possess the ability to articulate the formidable challenges faced by Armenia, being encompassed by authoritarian Islamic nations.

    Their unwavering dedication to the promotion of peace and justice is paramount. Above all, they should unequivocally underscore Armenia’s critical role as a staunch US ally in the volatile South Caucasus region, rife with common aggressive behavior from neighboring dictatorial regimes.

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