WASHINGTON, DC — Talar Shekherdimian, a native of La Crescenta, California, is the latest young Armenian American to travel to Washington, DC for the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) Capital Gateway Program. In less than a week following her arrival in the nation’s capital, she successfully secured an internship with the office of California Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA-38), is soon to begin work with a prominent law firm in the area.
Shekherdimian arrived in Washington, DC in January under the auspices of the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fellowship, a special fund established to open up doors for young Armenians seeking opportunities in politics and public service. The fellowship is named in honor Hovig Saghdejian, a 23-year-old youth leader from Fresno, Calif., who tragically passed away in 2004. It was established by his family to serve as a tribute to the their son’s legacy of activism in the Armenian American community.
As a long-time member of the AYF and Homenetmen in Southern California, Shekherdimian was aware of Hovig’s involvement and became acquainted with the program his memorial fund helped establish. She decided to apply for the program after finishing a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from California State University, Long Beach. “I wanted to come to DC to gain experience on the Hill and explore civil and criminal issues in more depth,” said Shekherdimian. “The ANCA Capital Gateway Program provided the perfect opportunity for me to come out here and get a head start on achieving my career goals.”
In addition to exposing Shekherdimian to a host of constituent civil rights issues, working for Rep. Napolitano has given her insight into the inner workings of the American Congress. “Interning on the Hill allows you to really understand how the political system operates and gives you the chance to interact directly with the major decision makers of this country,” she explains. Shekherdimian hopes to use her experience in DC as a stepping-stone for further opportunities in the Department of Justice, and plans to eventually pursue a law degree in Criminal and Juvenile justice.
Two other recent Capital Gateway Fellows, Astine Suleimanyan and Daniel Stepanian-Bennett, have also succeeded in establishing themselves in the nation’s capital. Suleimanyan recently accepted a field-working position with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Stepanian-Bennett found a full-time position with SRCP Media, a Republican-oriented political marketing firm. All three Fellows reside in a two-story apartment provided by the program and located conveniently in the heart of northwest DC.
In the coming months, Capital Gateway Program Director, Serouj Aprahamian, will be looking to expand efforts to promote this unique program on college campuses throughout the country. He recently returned from a trip to New Jersey where he gave a presentation about the program to the Rutgers University Armenian Club and will be making similar presentations at various other schools. The newly launched CampusCause.com (www.campuscause.com) will also directly provide students regularly updated information about the program.
For further details or to access an application for the program, please visit www.anca.org and click on the “Capital Gateway” link, or call (202) 775-1918 and ask for Serouj Aprahamian. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
Photo Caption: Capital Gateway Fellow Talar Shekherdemian, volunteering time at the ANCA, following her Congressional internship.