Glendale, CA – The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) hosted a reception honoring this summer’s ANCA Leo Sarkissian and ANCA-WR interns from the Western United States at its offices on August 24, 2004.
The reception provided the outgoing interns an opportunity to reunite with their friends, share their experiences with their family, and be recognized for their admirable accomplishments by the community. The event also allowed attending newcomers to learn about the ANCA-WR’s mission, programs, and achievements. Finally, the occasion gave representatives of the ANCA-WR a chance to formally thank the interns for their commitment and proactive involvement in the Armenian-American community.
“We are a rich organization,” said Raffi Hamparian, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the ANCA-WR. “Our wealth is derived from the highly capable and active Armenian-American community that has successfully continued to pass the baton of responsibility from one generation to the next. Through these internship programs, we pass the baton to the next generation,” concluded Hamparian.
Last week marked the end of both the ANCA Leo Sarkissian Internship Program in Washington, DC and the ANCA-WR’s inaugural summer internship program for 2004. For over two decades, Armenian-American youth interested in public policy have participated in the Leo Sarkissian Internship Program at the ANCA headquarters in Washington, DC where they not only learn about the American political system but also receive hands-on experience in advancing issues of concern to Armenian-Americans within the democratic process. After deliberate consideration of each applicant’s credentials, this year’s ANCA-WR internship selection committee accepted Ani Garibyan, Garen Kirakosian, Seepan Parseghian, and Shant Taslakian to participate in the two-month internship program in Washington, DC.
Due to the large pool of exceptionally qualified applicants to this year’s program, the ANCA-WR launched its own summer internship program modeled after the Leo Sarkissian program at its offices for the first time. With the dedicated coordination efforts of ANC activist Argam DerHartunian, ANCA-WR staff set forth a project-based internship program and selected five young Armenian-American activists – Nare Avagyan, Nairi Chopurian, Gennadi Gevorgyan, Elina Mnatsakanyan, and Lara Talverdian – through a formal application process with whom they worked side-by-side for a period of six weeks.
“Having been former interns in DC, both Argam and Armen knew how to create the special atmosphere that the ANCA office provides for interns,” explained Ardashes Kassakhian, Executive Director of the ANCA-WR. “It comes from giving each intern real responsibilities and making sure that their input is recognized. People want their work to be meaningful and for it to count. We do that here regardless of whether you are a volunteer, intern or paid staff. We just don’t have any resources to waste,” stated Kassakhian.
Both in Washington, DC and in Glendale, the interns were each assigned projects reflecting the current work of each of the offices. In Washington, DC, interns worked on questionnaires used to gauge candidates seeking elected office this fall regarding their stance on issues such as the Armenian Genocide, aid to Armenia, and the status of Nagorno-Karabagh. In the Western Region offices, Nairi Chopurian formulated a volunteer team of activists to begin registering Armenian-American voters in the Los Angeles area while Elina Mnatsakanyan developed a database of potential grant sources for special projects. Both Leo Sarkissian and ANCA-WR interns devised tools and strategies that each office could use to improve communication with local chapters. On the media outreach end, a number of significant improvements were made to the ANCA-WR’s media tools, and the organization witnessed the publication of Seepan Parseghian’s letter to the editor of “The Hill,” one of the most prestigious journals covering politics in the country.
Parseghian’s letter was in reference to mistakes and omissions he found in an article regarding the Schiff Amendment in which he wrote “As a presidential candidate, Bush made a bold promise to accept the atrocities committed against the Armenians as genocide. However, as president, Bush had many chances to act upon his promise, yet failed to do so, breaking his public promise on this human rights issue.”
The Schiff Amendment is a measure restricting Turkey from using US aid to lobby against recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The amendment passed the House of Representatives during the internship programs, which gave the interns a sense of real accomplishment in applying their learned techniques in communicating with Congressional staff, community members and the media.
With the conclusion of this year’s internship programs, the graduating class of interns began preparing to return to their universities with a renewed sense of purpose. “I loved how this internship gave me the opportunity to see the inner workings of an organization that has done and continues doing so much for the Armenian-American community,” stated Narine Avagyan. “I look forward to doing my part in helping the ANCA advocate for Armenians everywhere.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working 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.