WASHINGTON, DC – With the release this week of a interactive DVD, recent Armenian university graduates have a new way to learn about the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Capital Gateway Program and its groundbreaking efforts to help open doors to political and media related job opportunities in the nation’s Capital. The “Youth of a Nation” 10-minute video highlighting the benefits and successes of the program, features interviews with Members of Congress and program graduates, as well as a host of resources for future applicants.
Prepared by the ANCA Western Region office and unveiled at its annual gala in Los Angeles, “Youth of a Nation” gives potential applicants and supporters a chance to meet Capital Gateway fellows, hear first hand about how the program works, and benefit from their experiences looking for jobs in Washington, DC. Young film-maker and MTV “Rock-the-Vote” veteran Ara Soudjian and outgoing ANCA Western Region Executive Director Ardashes Kassakhian traveled to the Capital to speak to Capital Gateway staff, participants as well as Members of Congress to give a complete picture of the unique program. The DVD Capital Gateway Eduation project was made possible through a charitable contribution by Mr. and Mrs. John and Asdghig Bedrosian.
In addition to the documentary, the Capital Gateway DVD includes an extensive photo gallery featuring Capital Gateway participants, past and present, as well as necessary application forms, additional information about the program and its successes and an on-line method to support the program. “Youth of a Nation” has already been shown at meetings with the UCLA Armenian Students Association as well as several Southern California College Campuses.
Launched in August 2003, through a generous donation from the Cafesjian Family Foundation, the ANCA Capital Gateway Program assists Armenian Americans across the U.S. in finding job opportunities on Capitol Hill or other government offices, the media, and think tanks in Washington, D.C. The program builds on the successful 20-year old ANCA “Leo Sarkisian” summer internship program, which has brought hundreds of youth leaders to Washington, D.C. to learn about the American political process and the growing role Armenian Americans play in advancing a broad range of advocacy issues.
Qualified Capital Gateway Program Fellows are provided free housing and full use of ANCA facilities and staff support in their quest for the right job or internship in the Nation’s Capital. More than 20 participants in the program have secured positions in a myriad of locations including with Members of Congress, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Export-Import Bank, Congressional Quarterly, Center for the Prevention of Genocide, and the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Hovig Apo Saghdejian” Fellows Arrive in Washington, DC
The Winter 2004 Capital Gateway Program Fellows include two “Hovig Apo Saghdejian” fellows from Southern California – Ani Bedrossian and Andrew Gregorian. Bedrosian, a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, is currently interning with House Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism Chairman Jim Saxton (R-NJ). Gregorian, a UCLA graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, who arrived in the program just last week, is currently interviewing for several positions on Capitol Hill. A third “Hovig Apo Saghdejian” fellow, Serouj Aprahamian of Orange County, California, recently completed a three-month tenure as a volunteer in the ANCA office, and has returned to contribute to the advocacy efforts of his local Armenian Youth Federation chapter.
The Hovig Apo Saghdejian Fellowship of the Capital Gateway Program was created and named in memory of the young man, who perished in an automobile accident in June 2004. The Fellowship fund has collected nearly $60,000 to date through the loving efforts of Hovig’s parents, Apo and Rosine Saghedejian, and sister Nayiri. This fund will, on an ongoing basis, sponsor fellows, by covering their housing and providing a full range of support services – from improving the design of their resumes and sharpening their interview skills, to making the right introductions and integrating them into the growing network of Armenian American public policy professionals in the nation’s capital.
“These fine young Armenians, Serouj, Ani, and Andrew – and all those that will follow – honor Hovig’s legacy of respect for our Armenian heritage and commitment to community service,” said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “Even at an early age, in the very best tradition of our long history, Hovig understood the critical importance of each generation contributing to the future of the Armenian nation. He rebuilt homes in Armenia, strengthened our community here in the United States, and got involved in local political campaigns. His young life was cut short by tragedy – and we were all deprived of a lifetime of service, love and friendship. Hovig’s loss remains a painful tragedy for our community, in Fresno and around the country. He remains in our prayers, and, although the pain will never pass, we draw a measure of comfort, knowing that, in his memory, scores of young Armenians will make great contributions to our future as a nation.”
Hovig Apo Saghdejian was born on December 31, 1980 in Fresno, California. An active member of a number of community organizations, including the Armenian National Committee of America, Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts, the Armenian Youth Federation and the Land and Culture Organization, he contributed to the welfare of the Armenian American community and reinforced his commitment to his Homeland. He visited Armenia with the Land and Culture Organization, and traveled to Beirut, Lebanon with the Hamazkayin Cultural Society to broaden his cultural understanding. At an early age, Hovig was already politically active, volunteering with the office of Congressman George Radanovich and State Assemblymember Steve Samuelian on campaign and public policy projects.
In addition to the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Fellowship, the Capital Gateway program has received substantial support from longtime ANCA benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Frank and Barbara Hekimian and the Armenian American Veterans Post of Milford, Massachusetts (AAVO). Founded in 1946 by returning veterans of World War II and later expanded to include veterans of the Korean War, the AAVO has been a devoted contributor to community organizations and projects. They have been recognized for their generosity in newspapers, official proclamations, and through the appreciation of the many recipients of their humanitarian gifts.
Members of Congress Encourage Graduates to Come to Washington
The Capital Gateway Program continues to receive praise from Members of Congress, who have urged graduates to take advantage of all the program has to offer.
Speaking on camera in “Youth of a Nation,” Rep. Anna Eshoo, an outspoken activist on Armenian American concerns who is of Armenian and Assyrian ancestry, urged young politically minded individuals to apply. “If there were an offer on the table to come to Washington, DC, the power center of the world, work in the Congress – not outside by inside the tent – in an office internship. If you have that offer – with housing taken care of – with the internship being created – why wouldn’t you take advantage of it? . . . The Capital Gateway means that the gates will swing open, they have already been prepared for you, come here, learn, grow and have it be a substantive part of your life.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) pointed the benefits of the Program. “It’s just a great experience because you see the actual workings of Congress. You learn how bills are put together, how they respond to constituents. You certainly, as an Armenian American, would learn to what extent people have knowledge of Armenian issues.” Rep. Pallone also noted the importance increasing the number of Armenian Americans active on Capital Hill. “It’s a great learning experience obviously for the individual, for the young person, but I also think it helps the Members of Congress and other staff because the whole idea is that there is an Armenian American face so that people can see some of the areas of concern are and interact with people of all ethnic groups.”
Southern California Representatives Adam Schiff and Diane Watson were equally enthusiastic about the program. “This is a gateway to the Capital. It’s just a great way for young people to come out and test the waters and see if this is the right challenge for them,” explained Rep. Schiff in speaking to the “Youth of a Nation” team.
“If you are just out of college and you are looking towards the future in terms of a career, come to the nation’s capital. If you are not decided yet as to what you want to do, but you have that education, come and take a look. And maybe you can come back and take my seat, or a seat in the Senate, or – who knows – you could be President. That opportunity is there for you. So I invite you to come,” said Rep. Watson.