WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America’s (Assembly) Washington, D.C. summer internship program ended on a high note in a year that motivated interns experiencing an unusually rich calendar of extraordinary events, such as the Centennial Celebration of Armenia’s First Republic and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival Featuring “Armenia: Coming Home.” This summer was especially valuable to our community’s next generation of promising leaders. This year’s participants interacted with government officials, policymakers, local leaders from various fields and organizations, and internship program alumni.
Founded in 1977, the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program in Washington. D.C. was the first internship program offered by an Armenian organization in our nation’s capital, and has over 1,000 intern alumni. For eight weeks each summer, the program gives college students of Armenian descent an opportunity to learn about the policy-making process.
The Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program class of 2018 included:
- Tamar Barsamian from Sherborn, Massachusetts attending Loyola University of Maryland, interned at the Smithsonian Institute’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.
- Franklin Chelebian from Palos Verdes Estates, California attending Chapman University, interned with Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA).
- Catherine Conrow from Ross, California attending University of California Berkeley, interned with Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA).
- Ariana Cruickshank from Edgewater, New Jersey attending Ramapo College, interned with Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ).
- Artin DerSimonian from Kittery, Maine attending Champlain College, interned at the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States.
- Robert George from Bethesda, Maryland attending Fairfield University, interned at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
- David Karamardian from Newport Coast, California attending Duke University, interned at Applied Predictive Technologies.
- Victoria Khederian from Bloomfield Township, Michigan attending University of Michigan, interned with Congressman Paul Mitchell (R-MI).
- Alexander Keledjian from Los Angeles, California attending Southwestern Law School, interned with Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI).
- Aidan Mussalli from Glendale, California attending Glendale Community College, interned with the Armenian National Institute (ANI).
- Azniv Nalbandian from Andover, Massachusetts attending Pennsylvania State University, interned at the Eurasia Foundation.
- Nick Norian from Corte Madera, CA attending California Polytechnic University, interned at the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia to the United States.
- Lena Richardson from Shaker Heights, Ohio attending University of Dayton, interned at the Armenian Assembly of America’s Public Affairs Department.
- Mireille Samra from Boca Raton, Florida attending Lynn University, interned with Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL).
- Gurgen Tadevosyan from Yerevan, Armenia attending New York University in Abu Dhabi, interned with the Armenian National Institute (ANI).
- Lincoln Zaleski from Boston, Massachusetts attending the College of William and Mary, interned with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).
“As the summer comes to an end, so does my internship for Armenian Caucus Co-Vice Chair Representative Gus Bilirakis. This internship was invaluable and truly exceeded all of my expectations. I was able to learn so much being in a fast-paced environment with an office of Floridians, who made the office feel like home,” stated Mireille Samra.
Through the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program, participants are offered extensive educational opportunities via the Capital Ideas program, which provides interns a forum to ask questions to elected officials about current topics, national and international. This summer’s participants met with Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member and Armenian Caucus Co-Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Armenian Caucus Vice Co-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), and the office of Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI).
With the backdrop of recent developments in Armenia, this summer’s class had the unique opportunity to meet with Armenia’s President Armen Sarkissian and First Lady Nouneh Sarkissian. In addition, Armenia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan also met with the Armenian Assembly summer internship participants and engaged in a conversation about democratic developments in Armenia and the Velvet Revolution.
The group met and heard directly from Ambassador of Armenia to the United States Grigor Hovhannissian and Artaskh (Nagorno Karabakh) Representative to the United States Robert Avetisyan. These Representatives offered their insights on the development and goals for the future, and held in-depth conversations with the participants.
“The experience of working in Washington, D.C. this summer with the Armenian Assembly of America was truly unmatched,” stated Lena Richardson. “The opportunity to learn so much about U.S.-Armenia relations in the nation’s capital through meeting with numerous prominent leaders and professionals was a very unique experience, especially right after the Velvet Revolution in Armenia. The Assembly provided us interns with unparalleled experiences that taught us so much,” she added.
The students were in Washington, D.C. for an exceptional year, including the chance to see Armenia featured on the National Mall as part of the Smithsonian Institute’s 2018 Folklife Festival. They attended the Folklife Festival’s narratives and talks about important topics, participated in traditional dancing, and enjoyed the cooking demonstrations of food most familiar to them.
“Working at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival was really touching and special to me. I had the opportunity to introduce Armenian culture to everybody, both Armenian and non-Armenian, who came to visit Washington, D.C. It was heartwarming to witness Americans learning about and appreciating Armenian culture,” stated Tamar Barsamian.
As part of the Assembly’s Lecture Series, the intern class learned about U.S. foreign policy toward Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Assembly invites experts and leaders in their fields to review current political issues, with a focus on the South Caucasus. This year’s group met with U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Program Manager Noris Balabanian, Library of Congress Armenian and Georgian Specialist Dr. Levon Avdoyan, Federal Communications Commission Attorney-Advisor and Armenian Assembly intern alumna (class of 2002) Lauren Garry-Boggio, Eurasia Foundation Program Manager Hrach Topalyan, American Jewish Committee (AJC) Political Outreach Director Julie Fishman Ryman and Assistant Policy Director Benjamin Rogers, and Armenian National Institute (ANI) Director Dr. Rouben Adalian.
The students explored Washington with special tours of the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, and the U.S. Department of State. They attended hearings, briefings, and conferences, including the 22nd Vardanants Day Lecture at the Library of Congress, the Congressional Briefing to Commemorate the 44th Anniversary of the Illegal Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, The Wilson Center’s Annual Haleh Esfandiari Forum: Protecting America’s Global Leadership with Senator Chris Van Hollen, and more.
Following the success of last year’s week-long high school internship pilot program, Colette Nishanian from Newport Beach, California and Tiffany Martirossian from Ashburn, Virginia interned in the Armenian Assembly of America’s office.
“Being interns at the Armenian Assembly of America, we are provided with many opportunities to get a close look at what is happening in our world today. We were also fortunate enough to visit the Library of Congress and attend the 22nd Vardanants Day Armenian Lecture Series,” Nishanian and Martirossian said. “Opportunities like this one, which we would not have been given without the Armenian Assembly, occur once in a lifetime and are extremely valuable in building our future careers,” they added.
The Armenian Assembly of America Summer Internship Programs – both in Washington, D.C. and Yerevan, Armenia – have been celebrated and strongly supported by the Armenian community with major gifts from the Richard Tufenkian Memorial Fund, the John Hanessian Scholarship Fund, the Armen Astarjian Scholarship Fund, the Ohanian Memorial Fund, Ann Hintlian, Ann Nahigian, James and Connie Melikian, the Knights of Vartan, the Estate of Haig J. Boyadjian, and the Estate of George Judge Karabedian (George Kay), as well as generous contributions in memory of former Assembly Board Members Dr. Lionel Galstaun, Peter Kezirian, and John O’Connor. In 2003, the Armenian 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.
“It has been an honor for me to coordinate the Armenian Assembly of America’s Terjenian-Thomas Internship Program this summer. I am very happy to have witnessed how rich the Armenian American community is with the next generation of active and inquisitive students, and how passionate they all are about strengthening U.S.-Armenia relations. These interns proved to be wonderful young professionals, and all performed wonderfully at their individual internship placements,” stated this summer’s internship program coordinator, Milena Davtyan. She is a Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program alumna (class of 2017) from Salt Lake City, Utah who attends the University of Utah.
To find out more about the 2018 summer interns’ journey in Washington, D.C., visit the Assembly’s Intern Blog, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Stay tuned for updates on the Armenian Assembly’s summer internship program in Yerevan, Armenia!
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.