WASHINGTON, DC – A bright and determined group of students from across the U.S. arrived at the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) offices for the 31st annual session of the Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship Program, a landmark civic initiative that trains Armenian American youth to serve as effective ambassadors of the Armenian Cause.
“For over 30 years, the ANCA has been blessed with over 200 bright and committed university students – from across North and South America and around the world – all committed to expanding their leadership and advocacy skills in service to the Armenian Cause,” said ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian. “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 – Alyssa Dermenjian, Paul Iskajyan, Nayiri Partamian and Peter Sahagian – chosen through a competitive application process, are looking forward to a life changing experience, with the hope of making a difference on a nation-wide scale.
Interns, who participate in a wide variety of projects based on their individual interests, 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.
The first week included an in-depth discussion with Nagorno Karabakh Republic Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan regarding the challenges and opportunities facing Artsakh and the Armenian nation. Later in the week, interns joined with Armenian Ambassador Grigor Hovhannisyan in celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Voice of America – Armenia Service with the dedicated journalists of the department and community leaders who have supported the program. The annual tradition of cheering on pro-Armenia Senate and House members at the charity Congressional Baseball game continued – with the Republican team winning this year.
The ANCA Leo Sarkisian Summer Internship is running in parallel to a series of summer legal fellowships, organized in coordination with the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program. Shahan Goenjian, Knarik Gasparyan and Anna Mehrabyan are spending the summer researching a broad range of Armenian rights and reparations related issues – all the while exploring various legal opportunities Washington DC has to offer.
Alyssa Dermenjian is a junior at the California State University of Northridge. She is majoring in Political Science- Law and Science and minoring in English- Writing and Rhetoric. Alyssa is a former intern of the ANCA-Western Region and is currently serving on the Government Affairs committee. She is also an active member in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) – North Valley “Artsakh” Chapter, With Our Soldiers AYF Campaign, Armenian Relief Society (ARS) – North Valley “Lori” Chapter and a member of the ARS Javakhk Fund Committee.
“I am honored to participate in the Leo Sarkisian Internship. I am eager to learn how the Armenian nation is represented within the American political system. I intend on applying this knowledge and acquired skills to educate other on the importance of unity and community involvement.” She added: “I look forward to putting my new skills to work here in America, and in my future work in Armenia and Javakhk.”
Paul Iskajyan is a rising junior at U.C. Berkeley, majoring in Political Science with a concentration in International Relations and minoring in public policy. He is currently serving in his second year as a board member for Berkeley’s Armenian Students’ Association (ASA). He is also involved in his school government and is the Chief of Retention for Student Action, a student political party. Apart from the Leo Sarkisian Internship he is active in the Armenian Youth Federation, ANCA Hye-Votes, Habitat for Humanity, Homenetmen, and his Residential College.
“Just a few days into the program it is very clear that this incredible opportunity puts young Armenians in positions to affect change. Not only are we applying what we learned in our classrooms to real world politics, but we are also learning from the program and our Armenian peers.”
A recent graduate and 2016 Fulbright Finalist-Austria from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Vienna, Austria, Nayiri Partamian possesses a B.A. in International Studies with a focus in European Languages in German, French, Italian and Croatian. She is also active in the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), United Human Rights Council (UHRC), the AYF’s With Our Soldiers (WOS) campaign in the Western Region. Her main interest is business relations between Armenia and the West.
“I hope to better understand the cross-cultural relations between Armenians and other similar cultures: Lebanese, Serbians, Greeks, etc. through business relations conducted between their countries. Armenia has been building business relations with France for example with France-Arménie International Résau (FAIR) and although I do wish to see Armenia become part of the EU someday, I am here to first learn about how Armenia conducts private business relations with countries aside from their own neighbors in the Caucasus.”
Peter Sahagian is a rising senior at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. He is currently studying International Relations, with a concentration in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as Arabic. At Tufts, Peter is a member of the local Armenian Club and attends events, dinners, and dances at both Tufts and other northeastern universities. In addition to his studies, Peter is a parishioner of the Armenian Church at Hye Pointe in Haverhill, MA and an active member of the Church’s chapter of the ACYOA. He also worked as a volunteer-intern for the United Independent Party in Massachusetts where he helped campaign to raise voter registration and party awareness.
“I hope to gain invaluable work experience from a professional setting that I will take with me as I begin my career after college. I have always been interested in my culture and heritage which is reflected in my work at church. However, I have not been heavily involved in the nationwide Armenian-American community and the organizations that serve its interests. Therefore, I am immersing myself in ANCA’s Leo Sarkisian Internship program as it provides me with just the opportunity to help realize the goals of the Armenian Americans everywhere.”
Knarik Gasparyan holds M.Sc. in Security Studies from UCL School of Public Policy and is currently a Juris Doctor Candidate at USC Gould School of Law. Her interests include international and cyber security, Intellectual Property and Government Relations law.
“The Law Fellowship is a unique opportunity to be exposed to the many facets of the legal profession, and gain first-hand experience in international law and government relations arena. Be it working with the attorneys on relevant legal issues, participating in events or networking with prominent legal practitioners and academics, it all helps me to better understand the field and the stakeholders, expanding what I believed possible for my legal career.”
Shahan Goenjian is a third year law student at the Pepperdine University School of Law, and member of the Armenian Law Students Association. He is interested in a legal career in the shipping industry, which entails international business, maritime, and insurance law. He received his B.A in History with a minor in Economics from the University of California – Riverside.
“The legal internship serves a dual purpose – both for the community and for me, personally,” explained Goenjian. “The Armenian Cause is furthered and as a law student I am gaining valuable legal research and writing experience which will undoubtedly help me procure further employment as a legal professional.”
Anna Mehrabyan is a rising 2nd year student at American University seeking a B.A. in Law and Society with a minor in International Service. She is a Politics, Policy, and Law Scholar, and will be graduating with the rest of her program in 2018. She is the current Vice President of the Armenian Students Association of American University and helped organize cultural events and showcases last year. Anna is also an avid singer of Armenian folk music and often gives concerts at St. Stepanos Church in New Jersey. She is incredibly passionate about constitutional law and hopes to attend law school after receiving her undergraduate degree.
“I am incredibly excited to work with the team as part of the Capital Gateway Program,” said Mehrabyan. “I hope to learn more about the legal history of Armenia and the international law surrounding its existence and issues.”