WASHINGTON, DC – Following up on a successful first session, the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) Rising Leaders program brought yet another group of bright Armenian American student leaders to the nation’s capital to participate in its annual three-day career development and civic education immersion seminar.
From March 26th to 28th, the participants, whose studies largely focus on international relations and policymaking, welcomed the opportunity to explore career-starter best practices, while advancing the Armenian American community’s pro-Artsakh/Armenia priorities.
“Witnessing the potential of our 2023 ANCA Rising Leaders participants was truly empowering. They entered every conversation with an open mind and expressed their diverse views creating meaningful dialogue,” said ANCA Youth Programs Associate Director Tatevik Khachatryan. “Our Session #2 participants closed this year’s program off strong and we are eager to see where they go. The ANCA team would like to thank everyone that participated, our guest speakers, and gracious donors that made it all possible.”
During the three-day program, participants sat down with Congressional leaders, government, media, and communications experts to learn about the many career opportunities that exist in Washington D.C., while honing their pro-Artsakh/Armenia engagement skills.
Once again this session, the ANCA collaborated with the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Eastern and Western U.S. in hosting the events, made possible through a generous contribution by Dean Shahinian, Esq. and the family and friends of the late ANCA activist Lucine Kouchakdjian.
“Rising Leaders builds fundamental skills necessary for professional and personal growth,” said AYF-YOARF Eastern US Central Executive Member Areni Margossian. “The AYF-YOARF receives overwhelmingly positive feedback from AYFers who have gone through the program and we want to see more of our members participate as we continue this partnership.”
Exploring Career Opportunities in the Nation’s Capital
Consistent with tradition, the first day of the Rising Leaders program focused on career development, with a full schedule of interactive presentations by the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Advisory Committee (CGPAC) focusing on job search fundamentals, from resume preparation, effective “elevator pitches,” and LinkedIn use to an overview of the Washington, DC internship and job market. CGPAC leaders Tadeh Issakhanian, Arsen Markarov, and Areni Margossian – all alumni of the Capital Gateway Program who have excelled in their chosen professions –shared insights on best practices in embarking on their post-university job search and offered one-on-one mentoring to the Rising Leaders.
Break the Blockade: Pro-Artsakh/Armenia Civic Engagement and the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day
Effective advocacy for pro-Artsakh and Armenia priorities took center stage during keynote remarks by ANCA Programs Director Alex Galitsky and ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, who outlined the ANCA’s targeted legislative campaign to stop all U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, send emergency assistance to Artsakh, and hold Azerbaijan accountable for the 110+ day blockade of Artsakh and ongoing anti-Armenian aggression. Participants learned first-hand about Artsakh foreign policy and domestic challenges from Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Ambassador to the United States. They also learned about careers in media from Charlie Mahtesian, Senior Politics Editor of Politico, who shared the important role of the media in shedding light on community concerns.
These discussions culminated in the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day, where participants visited with over 400 Congressional offices to educate elected officials and staff about Azerbaijan’s Artsakh blockade and Armenian American community support for at least $75 million in U.S. aid to Artsakh and $100 million in aid to Armenia as part of the fiscal year 2024 foreign aid bill. Participants also met with members of the Congressional Armenian Staff Association (CASA), who shared insights on careers on Capitol Hill and the importance of expanding the Armenian American presence in Washington DC’s policy-making community.
ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian inspired with closing remarks for the session, offered at a reception held at the ANCA Aramian House. Hamparian stressed that effective pro-Artsakh/Armenia civic engagement requires “heart, strength, and mind: a heart devoted to supporting the people of Artsakh, Armenia, and communities around the world; strength to stand up to the Azerbaijani and Turkish Governments seeking the destruction of the Armenian homeland; and the mind to strategically advocate and secure justice for the Armenian nation.”
ANCA Rising Leaders Speak Out on Inspiring Program
The second session of the 2023 ANCA Rising Leaders included participants from across the U.S., listed here in alphabetical order: Tenny Alaverdian, Sergey Arakelyan, Roberta Arevyan, Isabella Balian, Narek Hakobyan, Emma Harutyunyan, Sofia Kirchen, Kevork Madenlian, Martin Makaryan, Herag Menachian, Jero Mouradian, Sophia Papazian, Anna Ramazyan, Nver Saghatelyan, Aren Sanikian, Areen Tazian, Alexis Tolmajian, and Hayk Yengibaryan.
Villanova University political science major Isabella Balian, who is a leader at the university’s Armenian Students Association, said the Rising Leaders Program surpassed her expectations. “Throughout the course of two days, I was able to get advice on my career search, gain insight from professionals about careers in government positions, and meet with Congressional staffers to discuss current resolutions and legislation aimed towards strengthening U.S-Armenia ties, defending Artsakh and securing justice for the Armenian Genocide. I was pleasantly surprised at the willingness of politicians and staffers to hear us out and take the time to interact with us. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to interact with congressional staffers regarding Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and gain a better idea of the way Armenian Americans are fighting for justice every day in our nation’s capital.”
Sofia Kirchen, a first-year UC Berkeley student studying international relations explained, “taking part in the ANCA’s Rising Leaders Program on Capitol Hill was the perfect opportunity to further my passion for politics and grassroots activism as it pertains to Hai Tahd, leaving me with tangible opportunities to expand my academic and future career opportunities. I am so grateful to everyone at ANCA for the opportunity to engage with various policymakers and their foreign policy staffers at such a critical time for the Armenian Cause. It’s one thing to study politics and political science from an outside glance. But to be able to jump right in and gain hands-on experience remains something that just can’t be beat.”
Kevork Madenlian, a recent University of Southern California graduate with a degree in screenwriting and animation, noted: “ANCA’s Rising Leaders program expertly prepared me for the political landscape that we, as Armenians, find ourselves in America today. Not only was I trained in how to further my professional goals and sharpen my networking skills, I was also taught how to advocate for issues pertaining to Armenia and Artsakh with hands-on experience at Capitol Hill. Whether you’re interested in taking the next steps for your career, or for dedicating yourself to the Armenian cause, ANCA and the Rising Leaders program have a place for you.”
Martin Makaryan, a recent UCLA graduate with a degree in political science and global studies explained: “The ANCA Rising Leaders program was a unique opportunity to not only meet bright fellow Armenian peers, learn from Armenian professionals on how to advance in our careers, and more importantly to advocate for Armenia and Artsakh, but to also uplift ourselves as Armenian-Americans in the current national crisis that we find ourselves in. With Artsakh blockaded for more than 100 days, Azerbaijan and the genocidal regime of Ilham Aliyev still enjoying the impunity afforded by the U.S. and the international community, and the very fate of the Armenian statehood under jeopardy, it is easy to fall into the trap of imagined helplessness when, in fact, each one of us has a role to play in our national struggle – however small that role may seem.”
Fourth-year UCLA student Herag Menachian, studying political science and entrepreneurship, has long been active in the AYF and Homenetmen Armenian Athletic and Scouting organization. “The ANCA Rising Leaders program provided me with a new outlook on advocacy for Armenia and Artsakh, one which I will continue my efforts in for the years to come,” explained Menachian.
First-year UC Berkeley student Sophia Papazian is studying political science and is active in campus student government, Cal’s Armenian Students Association, and Homenetmen’s “Ararat” and “Hrashq” chapters. “The ANCA Rising Leaders Program equipped me with the invaluable skills needed to excel in any professional field, especially one in government and politics. I was able to strengthen my interpersonal and public speaking skills, meet with admirable members of the House of Representatives and Senate, and work alongside intelligent and driven peers that share my passion for advocacy and supporting the Armenian cause. Finding a community that I know will support me in my future endeavors is comforting and motivating. The ANCA truly made a dream job of mine feel much more tangible and attainable,” stated Papazian.
Anna Ramazyan, a junior at UCLA majoring in Biological Anthropology, has a leadership role with the All-Armenian Student Association. “Through the Rising Leaders program, I not only gained invaluable leadership experience and expanded my network of fellow Armenians, but I also discovered the power and importance of advocacy for Artsakh. It has inspired me to continue to use my voice and platform to raise awareness and fight for justice for my homeland,” noted Ramazyan.
Nver Saghatelyan is a student at Johns Hopkins University who hails from Armenia, and works actively through his organization – SIS Education – to provide similar international education opportunities for youth from the Homeland. “Throughout the ANCA Rising Leaders Program, I experienced a remarkable synthesis of cultural identity, professional growth, and the establishment of enduring connections. This comprehensive initiative cultivated a sense of unity among us as we collectively endeavored to champion the cause of Armenian American heritage within the nation’s capital. With ANCA’s guidance, we are uniquely prepared to navigate the intricate corridors of Washington D.C., striving to amplify our collective voice and ensuring that the aspirations of the Armenian American community are not only heard but seamlessly woven into the tapestry of the U.S. policy discourse,” stated Saghatelyan.
Areen Tazian is a junior studying political science at UCLA, who is active with the AYF Hollywood “Mousa Ler” Chapter. “The ANCA Rising Leaders Program provided me with an outlet to gain invaluable knowledge and experience pertaining to domestic and foreign politics and allowed me to merge my passions for both Armenian and American affairs. I will undoubtedly carry the information, skills, and fire ignited in me throughout my educational and professional development, and will employ them in advancing Hai Tahd’s short-term objectives, long-term goals, and the greater Armenian Cause. Պայքարը կը Շարունակուի – the struggle continues,” explained Tazian.
Hayk Yengibaryan is a first-year student at Princeton University, studying politics, who has interned at the Armenian Consulate in Los Angeles. “The Rising Leaders program was truly an amazing experience. The people I met were truly unique stand-out individuals who wanted to advance the Armenian cause. Being able to step foot in the capital and advocate for my ancestral homeland was a one-of-a-kind experience and one I’ll cherish forever. The program was extremely helpful and truly cemented my interest in a potential career on Capitol Hill,” stated Yengibaryan.
A Word of Thanks: Dean Shahinian and Kouchakdjian Family Continue their Commitment to Youth Education and Empowerment
Longtime ANCA supporter Dean Shahinian, Esq. 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.
For more information, email RisingLeaders@anca.org or simply register today by visiting anca.org/risingleaders.