August 19, 2021
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel. (202) 775-1918

ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy Empowers Young Armenian Americans

Fourteen High School Leaders from Across America Explore Advocacy and Opportunities in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC – A stellar group of fourteen Armenian American high school students and recent graduates came to Washington, DC to take their commitment to pro-Artsakh/Armenia activism to the next level during the inaugural session of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy.

“The Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy participants brought boundless enthusiasm and dedication to the inaugural session of the ANCA’s high school program, learning Armenian American federal advocacy best-practices, exploring future career opportunities, and sharing insights and inspirations to take back to their schools and communities,” said ANCA Programs Director Alex Manoukian. “Encouraging pro-Armenian civic participation and community organizing at the high school level opens up exciting new academic and professional horizons for these students.”

Summer Academy participants were chosen based on a rigorous application process focusing on academic excellence and proven pro-Artsakh/Armenia efforts through groups, including the Armenian Youth Federation, Armenian churches and organizations, schools, student groups, and individual initiatives. The inaugural class included Alik Artinian, Nyrah Balabanian, Arya Balian, Mary Bejanyan, Vana Dakarian, Sevan Derderian, Garni Khanzadian, Hrag Kouyoumjian, Nicole Kramer, Sevan Krikorian, Tony Ordoukhanian, Talar Sarkissian, Hovsep Seferian, and Nareh Vartanian. Each shared their expectations and impressions of the program in testimonials shared below and videos available on the ANCA social media channels.

During the August 9th to 13th program, Summer Academy participants explored Armenia and Artsakh diplomatic challenges and opportunities in discussions with former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans and Artsakh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan. Big Whig Media founders Ken and Keith Nahigian discussed the broader Washington DC political media scene and effective communication strategies during a tour of their state-of-the-art multi-media studio located just blocks from the White House. Battling Armenian Genocide denial in academic and community settings took center stage during a discussion with Dr. Khatchig Mouradian, the Armenia and Georgia Area Specialist at the Library of Congress.

Summer academy participants were introduced to a wide range of career opportunities on Capitol Hill, international development, advocacy, and consulting by successful Armenian Americans in each of the areas. Congressional staff members Monique Bolsajian, Casey Davison, and Lucine Mikhanjian – all alumni of the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program – shared the journeys that led them to Capitol Hill and their impact in U.S. policymaking. Nina Etyemezian introduced the world of international development – from working directly for USAID to running her own firm. Charles Yessaian discussed careers in advocacy, sharing his professional path from Congressional staffer to chief operating officer of the successful bipartisan JMH Consulting firm. Julian Setian, President and CEO of SOSi, hosted an engaging interactive roundtable discussion around the themes of Armenian identity and American professional aspirations.

The ANCA’s Washington DC team focused on best practices of Armenian American grassroots advocacy with intensive sessions on the organization’s 360-degree agenda to defend Artsakh safety and security, promote stronger U.S.-Armenia ties, secure justice for the Armenian Genocide and support at-risk diasporan Armenian communities in the Middle East and around the world. Executive Director Aram Hamparian and Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan led in-depth discussions on the policy priorities advanced on Capitol Hill, including mock-meetings to share effective advocacy techniques for future Congressional visits. ANCA National Board Member Ani Tchaghlasian offered a deep dive into the history of Artsakh negotiations, the role of the OSCE Minsk Group, the concepts of remedial secession and remedial recognition, and ANCA efforts to support Artsakh sovereignty. ANCA IT Director Nerses Semerjian and Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian shared the myriad of ANCA tools of pro-Armenian advocacy and communication priorities in encouraging broader Armenian American community civic participation and expanding outreach to media and U.S. political leaders. Programs Director Manoukian encouraged participants to explore the full range of ANCA-sponsored national and regional internships and post-graduate programs, encouraging participants to consider careers in policy, politics, and media.

The global reach of the Armenian National Committee network of offices was spotlighted through individual presentations by ANC International Program Director Gevorg Ghukasyan, ANC Middle East Executive Director Vera Yacoubian, European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy Communications Director Harout Chirinian, ANC Canada Executive Director Sevag Belian, and ANC Australia Executive Director Haig Kayserian.

ANCA Summer Academy participants stayed at the ANCA Aramian House, a landmark property in downtown Washington, DC which serves as the home and permanent headquarters of the ANCA’s signature youth programs. The Aramian House is named in honor of the late community leader and philanthropist Martha Aramian of Providence, Rhode Island.

The ANCA Summer Academy was named after Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian in recognition for their lifetime of selfless service and sacrifice for the Armenian community and cause, through a generous grant by their daughter and son-in-law, Arsho and Adour Aghjayan, and grandson, Nareg.

The ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy is the latest in the series of youth empowerment and career development programs including the Leo Sarkisian Internship Program, Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Fellowship, and the ANCA Rising Leaders Program – which features the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill Day.


In Their Own Words: Summer Academy Participants Enthusiastic About Innovative ANCA Program

 

Alik Artinian
Rising Senior, Armenian Mesrobian School | Pico Rivera, CA

“The ANCA Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy has been a wonderful, eye opening experience which I will never forget. I am very grateful that I was given the opportunity to participate in this program and meet many experienced individuals who shared their valuable knowledge. I learned many new things about the American Government, advocacy, politics, and had an in depth look into the work of the ANCA . This program gave me more motivation to fight for the Armenian Cause and believe in my ability to make change. I highly encourage young Armenians to participate in this program where they will meet many wonderful people and make unforgettable memories.”

Nyrah Balabanian
Incoming Freshman at Stevens Institute of Technology | Hoboken, NJ

“I am so grateful that I was able to be part of the inaugural program of the ANCA Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy. I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak with Dr. Khatchig Mouradian and Ms. Ani Tchaghlasian to discuss important issues about combating Armenian Genocide denial and conflict in the Artsakh region. This program has inspired me to advocate for the Armenian Cause beyond the use of social media and make my voice heard on Capitol Hill.”

Arya Balian
Rising Senior at National Cathedral School | Washington, DC

“From meeting with professionals in both the public and private sectors to cultivating important advocacy skills, I have learned so much from the ANCA Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy. I have gained further insight into the extensive ANC network, while also making strong friendships that I hope to maintain for years to come. I have loved my experience and am so grateful for this amazing opportunity. I would recommend the program to any and all young Armenian Americans who hope to expand their civic engagement in tandem with their Armenian identity.”

Mary Bejanyan
Rising Senior at Herbert Hoover High School | Glendale, CA

“From meeting with professionals in both the public and private sectors to cultivating important advocacy skills, I have learned so much from the ANCA Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy. I have gained further insight into the extensive ANC network, while also making strong friendships that I hope to maintain for years to come. I have loved my experience and am so grateful for this amazing opportunity. I would recommend the program to any and all young Armenian Americans who hope to expand their civic engagement in tandem with their Armenian identity.”

Vana Dakarian
Rising Senior at Elgin High School | Elgin, IL

“It has been an honor to participate in the ANCA Haroutioun and Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy. In just five short days, we spoke with professionals, learned about advocating for the Armenian Cause, and explored careers in politics, policy, and media. I encourage all Armenian youth to participate in this one-of-a-kind opportunity, to learn, explore the nation’s capital, and form great friendships.”

Sevan Derderian
Rising Senior, Holy Martyrs Ferrahian High School | Encino, CA

“Never had I thought I would become an activist in five days. I entered the ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy expecting to gain valuable insights to the inner workings of the ANCA’s agenda. Not only did I gain this insight, but I was also equipped with the experience and the skill set I need to become a more active member of the Armenian community. Through captivating discussions with experienced professionals in fields spanning from diplomacy to international development, my peers and I were able to truly absorb what it means to advocate for the Armenian Cause, as well as discover careers in a plethora of areas. I am incredibly grateful that I have learned so much in such a short span of time, and also that I will be leaving the academy having formed brand new lifelong friendships. I can’t wait to utilize my newfound learnings in real-world activism.”

Garni Khanzadian
Incoming Freshman at University of California, Riverside | Riverside, CA

“After the Artsakh War in 2020, many Armenian youth were left feeling helpless, and this program opened my eyes to all the things we can do to help our brothers and sisters. The guests who spoke to us during this trip came from all different backgrounds, and we got a chance to listen to so many stories about them helping to spread the Armenian Cause. Thanks to the Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy, I met lifelong friends from all over the country, and made memories that will last forever.”

Hrag Kouyoumjian
Incoming Freshman at Los Angeles Pierce College | Woodland Hills, CA

“Being a part of the ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy opened my eyes as an an American-Armenian living in a widely diverse community. Although we are a relatively small nation within America, powerful grassroots organizations such as the ANCA help us amplify our voice. It’s important for the future generations of the American-Armenian community to be part of policy change and advocacy.”

Nicole Kramer
Rising Senior at the Agnes Irwin School | Wayne, PA

“The ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy has been the most enlightening experience for any Armenian teen that would like to get closer to their community. I am so excited to be a part of ANCA in all of their future endeavors, and I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to have grown closer to my peers and have new ideas on ways to spread the Armenian Cause to my own community.”

Sevan Krikorian
Incoming Freshman at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona | Pomona, CA

“I came into this program not knowing what to expect. All that I knew was ANCA was a family I wanted to be a part of, and the Summer Academy was an incredible place to start. Throughout this week, not only have I been intensively educated in the Armenian Cause, but I have grown as an advocate for our people. I am very grateful for this experience, and highly encourage Armenian youth to attend the Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy!”

Tony Ordoukhanian
Incoming Freshman at Pasadena City College | Pasadena, CA

“The ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy was not only the best vacation I’ve ever had, but the most influential experience for my educational and political journey. With all my new friends, touring the nation’s capital, and exploring many opportunities, I’ve cherished lots of memories and knowledge to apply in my college endeavors. I strongly recommend this program for every student whether you choose to go into politics or not.”

Talar Sarkissian
Rising Junior at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School | Hollywood, CA

“A day in the life of an ANCA representative in Washington is so deeply interesting; from meeting members of government, to developing lobbying strategies, our days were filled with challenging yet meaningful work. The unique feeling of representing the Armenian community, being able to share our concerns and make positive change opened my eyes to the very real and fascinating work the ANCA engages in daily in Washington, DC. I look forward to continuing my participation and service when I return home.”

Hovsep Seferian
Rising Junior at Robinson Secondary School | Fairfax, VA

“Living in the Washington DC area, I have always known about the important work that happens right down the street on Capitol Hill. I could have never imagined, however, the important role that it plays for the Armenian community and cause. During the ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy, I made friends from all over the country and I learned things that I didn’t even know were there to learn. The job of the Armenian Diaspora is to do everything we can to help our motherland, and the work being done at the ANCA does all that and more, and to experience the behind the scenes of everything has opened my eyes and motivated me to not only be the best advocate for the Hai Tahd I can be, but also the best Armenian I can be in general.”

Nareh Vartanian
Rising Senior at The Prairie School | Racine, WI

“During the ANCA Haroutioun & Elizabeth Kasparian Summer Academy, I was presented with a fresh outlook on the definition of what it means to be Armenian, and I was able to immerse myself into a community that has taught me so much about the Armenian Cause. This was an unforgettable experience, and I will happily take away all the valuable lessons I learned here and apply them to my daily life.”

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