WASHINGTON, DC — The support of the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund has fueled the growth of the ANCA Capital Gateway Program, expanding opportunities for promising Armenian graduates to pursue careers in government, media, and the public policy world, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Family, friends and community activists from around the country will gather this weekend to honor the memory of Hovig, a 23-year old community activist from Fresno, California, who lost his life one year ago in a tragic car accident. Last year, Hovig’s father Apo, his mother Rosine, and sister, Nayiri established the Memorial Fund in Hovig’s memory. These funds will be held in perpetuity, with all the income from fund using to finance the participation of young Armenian Americans in the ANCA Capital Gateway Program. This innovative program provides qualified college students and graduates the opportunity to secure part-time internship and full-time government, public policy, and media-related job opportunities in the nation’s capital.
Three recent graduates from top California universities participated in the Capital Gateway program though the assistance of the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund, which has received well over $55,000 from more than 250 donors over the past year.
Ani Bedrosian, the first Saghdejian Memorial fellow arrived in Washington DC in December, 2004. A graduate of Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelors Degree in Communications, she was the first Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fellow. Bedrosian, whose older brother Ara is a former Capitol Hill staffer, quickly secured an internship with New Jersey Republican Congressman James Saxton. Serving in this position, she gained valuable experience on the inner workings of Capitol Hill. Within three months, she secured a full-time position as Executive Assistant to another New Jersey Republican Congressman, Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
Bedrosian commented on the important role the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fellowship played in starting her career on Capitol Hill. “As a Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fellow, I have been given a unique opportunity to carry on Hovig’s legacy of service. With the help of the ANCA and the Capital Gateway Program, I am currently working at Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo’s Congressional office in Washington, DC. I would like to thank the Saghdejian family for giving young Armenians like me the opportunity to keep alive Hovig’s wonderful legacy by making a difference in the American political system.”
Bedrosian was soon followed by Andrew Gregorian in early January of 2005. A graduate of UCLA with a Bachelors Degree in Philosophy, Gregorian was quickly offered several internships with California and Oregon Congressional offices. He chose to work with Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer. His internship soon turned into a paid position, focusing on constituent relations activities. Gregorian is currently exploring new political opportunities both on and off Capitol Hill.
“Being in Washington DC has been a life changing experience,” explained Gregorian. “I am indebted to the Saghdejian Memorial Fund for giving me the opportunity to come to our nation’s capital and help in the cause that was so important to Hovig. We will all continue to work to contribute to the work that meant so much to him.”
The most recent Capital Gateway Saghdejian Memorial Fellow is Vasken Kassakhian. A graduate of UC Berkeley in 2003 with a Bachelors Degree in English Literature, Kassakhian arrived in Washington, DC in June, 2005, with several years of political work already on his resume. A veteran campaign worker, Kassakhian has proven his political acumen in local, state and congressional races, working with the Schiff for Congress, Scott for State Senate and, most recently, for his brother, Ardy Kassakhian, in his successful race for Glendale City Clerk. Prior to his arrival to Washington, DC, the ANCA had arranged an internship for Kassakhian with Rep. Schiff through mid-August. He is using his internship to help him obtain the experience to secure a permanent position on the Hill.
“I feel incredibly honored to be a Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Fellow and am greatly indebted to all those who contributed to this fellowship fund for providing me with the opportunity to come to Washington D.C. and learn about the political process firsthand,” explained Kassakhian. “Ultimately, it’s through initiatives like the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fellowship Fund that we will empower the next generation of Armenian Americans to effect positive change in their communities.”
Hovig’s sudden and tragic death last year has been a great loss for his family, friends, and the Armenian American community–in the Central Valley and around the nation. He was an exemplary son, brother, grandson, nephew, and friend, who left a legacy of love for his family and friends, and of selfless devotion to his fellow Armenians and his cultural heritage. This proud son of the Armenian nation was laid to rest at Fresno’s historic Ararat Masis Cemetery, in the shadow of Armenian national hero Soghomon Tehlirian.
Hovig Apo Saghdejian was born on December 31, 1980 in Fresno, California. He completed his elementary education at the Armenian Community School of Fresno. After graduation from the Armenian school, Hovig attended Kastner Intermediate and later Clovis West High School, where he received his high school diploma, as an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honors.
Early in life, Hovig became a member of the Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts, and he joined the ranks of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF). These were the stepping-stones on which Hovig continued to live his life.
After graduating from Clovis West in 1998, Hovig attended Fresno City College, California State University of Fresno, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in Interdisciplinary Studies, with an emphasis on economics, philosophy and film studies. While attending college, Hovig was active in the Armenian Student’s Association. He also received numerous honors, such as the Armenian Relief Society Merit Scholarship and Foundation West Merit Scholarship. Hovig had a passion for his Armenian culture that was instilled by his family. As an active member of AYF and Homenetmen, as both a Scout and athlete, 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.
As a devoted son of the Saghdejian family, Hovig lived a life of commitment to the Armenian Cause and his ancient Armenian homeland. He breathed life into the ideals of his youth by working to preserve and reinvent Armenian identity in America, while bringing a sense of optimism to the people of Armenia for a better future. As a volunteer with the Land and Culture organization, Hovig traveled to Armenia during the summer of 2003 to work as a volunteer in Ayroum, developing infrastructure and self-sustainability for the impoverished population of this village. Beyond the value of the hard work that contributed significantly to the well being of the villagers, Hovig’s efforts helped bring hope to all he came in contact with that the future held better things for the people of Armenia. Commenting on his time in Ayroum, in a testimonial on the Land and Culture website, Hovig explained that, “I know that when I reflect back on this experience I will feel ecstatic about the work we accomplished, the things we saw, and the bonds we forged.”
Hovig performed his civic duties by being politically involved, not only with the ANCA, but also with Congressman George Radanovich and State Assemblymember Steve Samuelian on campaign and public policy projects.
Hovig enjoyed life, family, and friends. He had a very special bond with his parents, Apo and Rosine, and sister, Nayiri. He spent his spare time helping his mother at the Adult Day Care Center, and his father with the family business.
Besides being confident, intelligent, and a driven young man, Hovig was also lovable, caring, witty, comical, laid back and very, very charming. He was a fine young man who always wore a smile on his face and somehow always managed to brighten up a room.