Intern Class of 2013 Takes to Washington, D.C.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is proud to inform members, supporters and friends that, with the summer 2013 class, over 1,000 college students have completed the Assembly’s Terjenian-Thomas Summer Internship Program over the past 36 years.
The 2013 intern class included Ani Acopian of Easton, Pennsylvania; Ariana Andonian of Rancho Santa Fe, California; Bobby Avakian of Bedford, Massachusetts; Sareen Avsharian of Northridge, California; Alexander Azarian of Old Tappan, New Jersey; Greg Boyajian of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan; Margaret Flatley of Brookfield, Wisconsin; Ava Gurekian of Waltham, Massachusetts; Matthew Hanessian of Chicago, Illinois; Christina Najarian of Far Hills, New Jersey; Norah Petrosyan of Stepanakert, Nagorno Karabakh Republic; Tatiana Sarkissian of Pasadena, California; and Hamlet Tamazian of Malibu, California.
Hailing from every corner of the United States and from around the globe, all thirteen interns arrived in Washington, D.C. this summer to experience living and working in our nation’s capital. “My fellow interns, staff working at the Assembly, and the numerous events of the program made for a truly gratifying professional and personal experience,” stated Assembly Communications intern Bobby Avakian.
In addition to living on campus at Georgetown University and working at various organizations and institutions throughout the Greater Metropolitan D.C. area, the Assembly interns met directly with dozens of Members of Congress, prominent Armenian-Americans and industry leaders.
As part of the “Capitol Ideas” program, this summer Assembly interns met with Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Armenian Genocide resolution sponsors Reps. David Valadao (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA), and fellow Armenian Caucus members Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Nita Lowey (D-NY) and John Sarbanes (D-MD). The Assembly’s “Capitol Ideas” program is designed to give Armenian students unique exposure to U.S. policy makers and the opportunity to engage Congressmen and Congresswomen on issues that matter most to them. Encouraging young Armenians to take an active role in their local community, state, and federal government is a top priority for the Assembly’s Terjenian-Thomas Internship Program.
“Meeting Members of Congress was extremely informative and I was able to learn a great deal more about how our government works. I found all of the Congressmen and Congresswomen extremely knowledgeable and eager to discuss their lives with us, as well as listen to our questions and provide feedback. Overall the various meetings conducted during my stay in Washington made me a better informed individual, especially on issues related to Armenia,” stated Margaret Flatley, a graphic design specialist who interned at Top Shelf Design.
In addition, the Assembly’s “Lecture Series” program is focused on exposing Armenian students to private sector entrepreneurs, academic, religious and civic leaders, and public policy makers in Washington, D.C. Specifically, this year’s class met with Mark Krikorian, Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, Tatoul Markarian, Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United States, Robert Avetisyan, Representative of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the United States, Archbishop Vicken Aykazyan, Legate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, Aram Gavoor, Esq., attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice and a fellow Assembly intern alumnus (class of 2003), Armenia Desk Officers at the U.S. Department of State, Noris Balabanian, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Dr. Levon Avdoyan, Armenia and Georgia Specialist at the Library of Congress, Laurens Ayvazian, Director of the U.S.-Russia Civil Society Partnership Program at the Eurasia Foundation and a fellow Assembly intern alumnus (class of 1979), Mrs. Rita Balian, founder and co-president of the Armenian American Wellness Center and president and CEO of the Armenian American Cultural Association, Ambassador Peter Rosenblatt, Board Member of the American Jewish Committee, Mr. Raffi Balian, U.S. Department of State, and Raffi Hovannisian, first foreign minister of the Republic of Armenia, founding leader of the Heritage Party and 2012 Armenian Presidential Candidate.
“I always knew that Armenians were influential, but I never knew the extent until I came to Washington. Armenians are everywhere-from Capitol Hill, to law schools, to businesses, and more,” stated Ava Gurekian, intern at the Armenian Embassy.
Moreover, interns were able to turn their experiences into insightful analysis and reports for publication. Christina Najarian, intern at the Policy Forum Armenia, kick-started her internship with a column entitled “Armenia’s Quest for a Democratic Identity: A Conversation with Raffi Hovannisian on Armenia,” and continues to provide fresh analysis. Others interning at the Assembly office, such as Bobby Avakian, Hamlet Tamazian, Matthew Hanessian and Alexander Azarian prepared materials and literature that the Assembly provided to Members of Congress and their staff, namely “Analysis: Protests in Turkey Continue to Rage,” “Reflections on Recent House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearings,” and “Recapping Capitol Hill Conferences – Turmoil in Syria and Azerbaijan.”
Complimenting the professional and cultural experiences, all of the interns expressed their joy at the social activities and personal friendships made while living and working together. “As my last week approached and I prepared to leave, I take with me all the things I have learned from my workplace, but more importantly, I will take with me priceless memories from my two months in our nation’s capital,” stated Hamlet Tamazian, who spent his time working on projects for the Central and East European Coalition and the Assembly. “Perhaps as valuable as the skills one acquires in D.C. are the connections one makes. These connections appear in forms of casual acquaintances, professional relationships, high-ranking individuals, and most importantly personal friendships. Friendships we made during an experience as unique as this internship promise to be fruitful and long-lasting. Having assembled a diverse group of like-minded American-Armenians, the Armenian Assembly of America created bridges connecting over a dozen interns from around the world. Coming from all corners of the U.S.A., Canada, Armenia, and even Nagorno-Karabakh, groups like ours have the potential to express a united voice of the Armenian people. It is my great hope that such initiatives continue, and the friendships within our group only strengthen,” he added.
When asked to describe her experience this summer in one word, Voice of America-Armenia service intern Ani Acopian paused and confidently stated “Haygagan.”
This historic milestone was achieved through the accumulation of tireless work, dedicated efforts and passionate commitment to empower future generations of leaders by our benefactors, sponsors, local host families, as well as all the internship program directors, summer coordinators, and of course, the alumni themselves.
“I am proud of what our internship program has meant, the opportunities it has provided over the last 36 years, and most importantly, the achievements of our alumni,” stated Assembly Board Chairman Hirair Hovnanian. “I strongly urge all alumni, if they haven’t already, to re-engage and re-connect with the Assembly and help us take the program and the organization to even greater heights,” said Hovnanian.
Founded in 1977, the Armenian Assembly Summer Internship Program was the first internship program offered by an Armenian organization in America. It has been strongly supported by major gifts from the Richard Tufenkian Memorial Fund, the John Hanessian Scholarship Fund, the Armen Astarjian Scholarship Fund, the Ohanian Memorial Fund, James and Connie Melikian and the Knights of Vartan. In 2003, the Assembly’s Summer Internship Program was renamed in honor of Aram and Florence Terjenian and Annie Thomas after the announcement of their pace-setting $1 million donation to the program.