Students Explore Pro-Armenian Advocacy and Professional Opportunities in Nation’s Capital
WASHINGTON, DC – A stellar group of Armenian American youth leaders from across the U.S. took their pro-Artsakh/Armenia advocacy to the next level during the Armenian National Committee of America’s “Rising Leaders: Career Development and Civic Education” program, a unique 3-day immersion seminar that encourages students to explore careers in policy, politics and media while advancing Armenian American community priorities.
“Our 2022 ANCA Rising Leaders brought their A-game to Washington, DC – inspiring everyone they engaged during three days of career exploration and ANCA advocacy,” said ANCA Programs Director Alex Manoukian. “All our ANCA youth empowerment programs are laser-focused on providing the best opportunities for Armenian American students to excel professionally while expanding the Armenian American civic voice in all levels of government, policy, and media. We are thankful to our program partners, our captivating speakers, our generous donors, and, of course, our incredible participants for making ANCA Rising Leaders 2022 such a success.”
During two separate three-day sessions, coinciding with Spring Break timelines at major universities, participants sat down with Congressional leaders, international development specialists, government, media, and communication experts to learn more about the myriad of career opportunities in the nation’s capital and to connect with the growing Armenian American professional network in the nation’s capital
Once again, the ANCA teamed up with the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Eastern and Western U.S. and the Georgetown University Armenian Students Association (Georgetown ASA) in hosting these unique student-focused events, generously supported by Dean Shahinian and the family of the late ANCA activist Lucine Kouchakdjian. Throughout the weekend, the ANCA and AYF discussed the broad range of youth empowerment programs both organizations host – in Washington, DC, and communities across the US, as well as in Armenia and Artsakh – offering a variety of internship and volunteer options for students to explore during while in college and beyond.
Planning for the Future: Career Opportunities in the Nation’s Capital
The first day of the Rising Leaders program focused on career development with a full day of interactive presentations by the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Advisory Committee (CGPAC) focusing on job search fundamentals, from resume preparation and networking 101 to an overview of the Washington, DC internship and job market. CGPAC Chair Maria Martirosyan and Board members Tadeh Issakhanian, Areni Margossian, Arsen Markarov, and Lucine Mikhanjian – all alumni of the Capital Gateway Program who have excelled in their chosen careers – offered one-on-one mentoring to the Rising Leaders and insights on best practices of embarking on their post-university job search.
ANCA National Board Member Ani Tchaghlasian offered keynote remarks during the first session, explaining how she has balanced her career in finance with Armenian American advocacy priorities and the important role that every Armenian American can play – whatever their career choices – in defending Artsakh, supporting Armenia, and securing justice for the Armenian Genocide. “Our ANCA Rising Leaders are inspiring – each bringing their particular career interests and unique take on Armenian American advocacy priorities to Washington DC, to learn from industry experts and hone their advocacy skills in service to our community and cause,” said Tchaghlasian. “The ANCA looks forward to working with each and every one of these leaders throughout their university years and beyond to help take youth involvement in U.S. policymaking to the next level.”
ANCA National Board Member Zanku Armenian offered the career exploration keynote during the second session, presenting a deep dive into effective public policy and communication strategies and how to leverage a keen understanding of social media and traditional media in advancing Armenian American priorities. “Communicating the realities of the 2020 Artsakh war and Azerbaijan’s ongoing attacks on the Armenian Homeland to the Administration and Congress – and in U.S. media – are paramount in our ongoing efforts to hold Aliyev and Erdogan accountable for their genocidal actions, to get life-saving U.S. assistance to the people of Artsakh, and to zero-out military aid to Azerbaijan,” explained Armenian. “The ANCA Rising Leaders and the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day play a critical role in offering hands-on advocacy and media training to Armenian American youth ready to take their pro-Artsakh advocacy to the next level.”
Insights into government relations, international development, and media careers in Washington DC were offered by Karoun Tcholakian from the Department of Health and Human Services Department of Global Affairs; Sam Tatevosyan, Director of Government Relations at McDonald’s Corporation; Mannik Sakayan, an independent consultant on policy and advocacy with decades of Capitol Hill experience; Greg Aftandilian, a professor and foreign policy expert whose career has spanned the State Department and Congress; Nina Etyemezian, an international development executive with decades of experience at USAID and other global initiatives; Taleen Mekhdjavakian, Senior Director of Government Affairs at Fresenius Medical Care; Mher Setian, President and CEO of SOSi International; Bob Sogegian, CEO at Exovera; Aaron Sherinian, global communications and public relations expert with a career spanning US Foreign Service to the UN Agency, and a score of philanthropic organizations; and Charlie Mahtesian, Senior Politics Editor at Politico.
Armenian Cause 101: Pro-Artsakh/Armenia Advocacy and the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day
Effective advocacy for pro-Artsakh and Armenia priorities took center stage during keynote remarks by ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian and ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, who outlined the ANCA’s focused campaign to stop all U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, hold Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable for war crimes during the 2020 Artsakh war and thereafter, and securing $50 million in U.S. assistance to Artsakh to help the over 100,000 ethnically cleansed indigenous Armenian population of Artsakh return to their ancestral homes. Participants learned first-hand about Artsakh foreign policy and domestic challenges from Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Ambassador to the United States.
These discussions culminated in the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day, a full day of Capitol Hill discussions with Members of Congress including Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA), as well as Congressional staff on strengthening U.S.-Armenia ties, supporting Artsakh freedom, and securing justice for the Armenian Genocide. Lucine Kouchadjian’s son, Ara, offered poignant remarks to Rising Leaders participants about his mother’s life-long passion for advocating for the Armenian homeland and commitment to expanding the Armenian American community’s voice in the nation’s capital.
In Their Own Words: ANCA Rising Leaders Speak Out on Inspiring Program
The 2022 ANCA Rising Leaders included participants from across the U.S. and Canada, listed here in alphabetical order: Claudia Aklian, Anjelique Alexander, Aram Apanian, Alexander Badoyan, Nyrah Balabanian, Nareg Balian, Lori Baronian, Mari Bijimenian, Beiyna Chaparian, Brandon Fregenti, Taguhi Gurunyan, Leana Hacopian, Areni Hamparian, Zabelle Hamparian, Galy Jackmakjian, Nareg Kassardjian, Abraham Kiwanian, Narod Kiwanian, Garine Koushagjian, Jibid Melkonian, Danielle Mikaelian, Vaughn Nahapetian, Aram Parnagian, Hovsep Seferian, Lar Tabakian, Alexis Tolmajian, Meghry Tutunjian, and James Zobian.
In individual video spotlights shared throughout the weekend, participants recounted their efforts to advance the Armenian Cause through activism in their local ANC, AYF, campus Armenian Students Association (ASA), Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Association dance groups, Homenetmen, Armenian Church Youth Organization of America (ACYOA), and other youth groups.
The full set of videos will be posted to the ANCA’s social media channels and can be found on the ANCA’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdr-wcXFvNMtj0fFSCBK7pPdmlH0DBXoH
The University at Buffalo graduate Aram Parnagian explained, “The ANCA Rising Leaders Program inspires youth to be politically active and professionally successful through an Armenian lens.” Alexis Tolmajian from the University of California, Los Angeles concurred, noting, “The ANCA is an asset in pushing forth the Armenian Cause in America.”
Clark University student Beiyna Chaparian explained, “I am very passionate about being involved in my community. I have been a member of the AYF from a very young age and am always ready to take on important projects within the community. I am grateful to have this opportunity to learn how to advocate for my people and I will always strive to further the Armenian Cause in whatever I do.”
“It should be the goal of every Armenian to thrive in their field and give back to the motherland,” said Robinson Secondary student Hovsep Seferyan, who had previously participated in the ANCA Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy. “The ANCA gives us the tools to do just that.”
Alexander Badoyan from Armenian Mesrobian School explained, “Since I was in 9th grade, I’ve known I wanted to be involved in government and help out the Armenian community. Joining the Rising Leaders program not only showed me that I could do both, but helped me find career pathways as well. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be able to talk to important Armenian leaders in Washington DC alongside the ANCA.”
A Word of Thanks: Dean Shahinian and Kouchakdjian Family Continue Commitment to Youth Education and Empowerment
Longtime ANCA supporter Dean Shahinian is again the major sponsor of this unique youth development program along with the family and friends of Lucine Kouchakdjian.
Dean Shahinian served in the federal government in various capacities for over 30 years, including 16 years at the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, where he worked with Committee Chairs on numerous bills and laws, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Act. In the Armenian community, he has served on the boards of St. Nersess Seminary and the Armenian Students Association. He has also served multiple terms on the Diocesan Council of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.
For dozens of years, living in the Washington, DC area – in addition to her cultural, education, and charitable work with a broad range of community organizations – the late Lucine Zadoian Kouchakdjian organized highly effective ANCA campaigns to foster a forward-leaning spirit of civic responsibility among Armenian Americans across the nation’s capital. The Rising Leaders Capitol Hill day was named in memory of her lifetime of service to the Armenian Cause following her passing last year.