Armenian Assembly of America Completes 40th Year of Internship Program in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) celebrated the 40th year of its program, which provides opportunities for the next generation of Armenian Americans to participate in public service internships in Washington. The Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program, founded in 1977, was the first internship program offered by an Armenian organization in America. For eight weeks each summer, the program gives college students of Armenian descent an opportunity to gain exposure to the policy-making process in our nation’s capital. Over 1,000 students have completed internships through the Assembly.

The Terjenian-Thomas Assembly class of 2017 interns included Lara Avsharian from California, Shant Bekarian from New Jersey, Taylor Boole from North Carolina, Milena Davtyan from Utah, Samantha Dore from Washington, Emily Hagopian from New Jersey, Mateos Hayes from Tennessee, Nicholas Jundanian from Maryland, David Madey from California, Lidia Nalbandyan from Utah, Hugh Rabjohns from Illinois, Axel Sarkissian from California, Alain Tamazian from California, and Sasha Tavitian from Washington. This summer’s internship program was led by Intern Coordinator Robert Arzoumanian, an alumnus from the 2016 program.

“I was honored to have the opportunity to return to Washington, D.C. as this year’s Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Intern Coordinator. It was great to see students from all around the country working together to help the Armenian American community. The Assembly interns were all incredibly intelligent and their passion for their work was contagious. It was a pleasure to work with them and I hope they use the knowledge and experience they gained this summer to continue improving their communities,” Arzoumanian said.

Through the Assembly’s Lecture Series, participants met with Members of Congress, including 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 Vice Co-Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA). As part of the Capitol Ideas, the interns sat down with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Program Manager Noris Balabanian, Artsakh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, and Armenian Church of America Eastern Diocesan Legate Archbishop Vicken Aykazian. Additionally, they discussed future careers with many Assembly intern alumni, including U.S. Embassy in Armenia Political and Economic Deputy Chief Ruben Harutunian, Nahigian Strategies President Keith Nahigian, and Department of Justice Senior Counsel for National Security and Assembly Board Member Aram Gavoor.

“Congresswoman Speier is one of two Armenian American Representatives in the United States Congress, and I hold her in high regard. She proves her dedication to her work everyday, and I am fortunate to have interned in her office.  I looked forward to work everyday.  It was an incredible experience to hear her story, along with other professionals I met who work in the U.S. Government from meetings organized by the Armenian Assembly,” stated David Madey, a student at the University of California Davis who interned with Rep. Speier. “I believe the Congressional internship position is perhaps one of the most invaluable experiences to have for someone my age, and I am incredibly grateful to have had this one-of-a-kind opportunity,” he added.

They had the opportunity to learn more about their cultural heritage and the Armenian Genocide in conversations and lectures with Armenian National Institute (ANI) Director Dr. Rouben Adalian and Library of Congress Armenian and Georgian Specialist Dr. Levon Avdoyan. The students explored Washington with special tours of Capitol Hill, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and the World Bank, where they saw the Armenian art exhibit which features paintings and sculptures from the Balian Art Collection on loan to the Bank since 2007. The Terjenian-Thomas Assembly interns were also graciously hosted by Mrs. Rita Balian, a long-time Assembly Trustee, whose late husband Mr. Vartkess Balian served on the Assembly’s Board of Directors during its early pivotal years.

“It was a great experience being involved with the Armenian Assembly of America Internship Program this summer. We learned a great deal about our Armenian heritage as well as the factors that influence Armenian American relations,” said Taylor Boole, a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who interned with Rep. George Holding (R-NC).

In addition to UC Davis and UNC Chapel Hill, Assembly interns arrived from Stanford University, University of California Los Angeles, University of Southern California, California Polytechnic State University, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, The College of New Jersey, Emerson College, University of Washington, Wake Forest University, Texas Christian University, Brigham Young University, and Salt Lake Community College.

From its earliest phases and over the past four decades, the Armenian Assembly Summer Internship Program has 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.

To find out more about the 2017 summer interns’ journey in Washington, D.C., visit the Assembly’s Intern Blog, Facebook, and Twitter.

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©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

Photo Caption 1: Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Interns and Armenian National Institute (ANI) Director Dr. Rouben Adalian with Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who visited Armenia in 1991 and observed the referendum for independence from the Soviet Union

Photo Caption 2 (L-R): Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. George Holding (R-NC), Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)

Photo Caption 3 (L-R): Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member and Armenian Caucus Vice Co-Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

Armenian Assembly’s Gala Honors Past and Present Interns

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) Joins Armenian Assembly to Bestow Ken Khachigian with Public Service Awards

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Last weekend, with the enthusiastic support and leadership of former Assembly interns Diane Barsam and Sosy Hachikian, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) held its successful “Celebrating the Future” Gala at the Newport Beach Country Club honoring the past forty years of over a thousand Assembly interns. Guests traveled from all over California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, and Washington, D.C. to attend the sold out event that featured an intern alumni discussion panel with Katherine Sarafian and Michael Agbabian, moderated by Kathryn Mgrublian.

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House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) headlined the evening and addressed the audience about U.S.-Armenia relations and his experience with the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program participants.

“Growing up in Orange County, I first heard of the Armenian Genocide from those who had been orphaned as a result of the atrocities. The stories I heard were shocking, and have stuck with me to this day. As a global leader in human rights, it is imperative for the United States to stand on principle and recognize the annihilation of the Armenians,” said Rep. Royce. “The Armenian Assembly of America’s Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program gives me hope for the future, as deepening the Armenian American community’s involvement in our nation’s capital will help steer our country in the right direction on this issue.”

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County of Los Angeles Civil Service Commission President Greg Kahwajian, who served as special assistant to Governor George Deukmejian, read a letter from Gov. Deukmejian on Khachigian’s deserving of the award and their time working together. Following Gov. Deukmejian’s words, Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chair Van Krikorian presented Kenneth L. Khachigian with the Assembly’s Deukmejian Award for Public Service, which is granted to individuals who embody the qualities of an exemplary public servant.

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Khachigian commented that the award honors both him and Gov. Deukmejian for their work. “I would like to take this opportunity to note that I believe the Armenian Assembly is really honoring George Deukmejian tonight, and not me, for his public service. And I strongly second their urging for you to be involved in this important organization.  I served on its Board for several years, and for them to have Michelle Steel, the Chairman of the Orange County Board of Supervisors and Ed Royce the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee here – two extremely important officials – shows how important it is for you to help them and get involved,” Khachigian said.

Later in his speech, he addressed the students in the audience and offered them advice. He told the future interns to “never hesitate to be ‘jarbeeg’ when the opportunity lies before you.” He concluded: “If you need a role model, there is no one better than that characterized in the life of Courken George Deukmejian.  So to receive the George Deukmejian award for public service is an enormous honor because it means putting my name alongside someone whose stature I could never hope to match.”

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As the program continued, intern alumna Kathryn Mgrublian sat down with intern alumni Katherine Sarafian and Michael Agbabian to discuss their past experiences as interns, their current careers in the media, and any words of wisdom they have for future interns. Both Agbabian and Sarafian were placed in video and media internships in Washington D.C., to which Sarafian pointed out “the beauty of the Armenian Assembly is that they will find an internship for you.”

With Christine Kotchian as the Mistress of Ceremonies, the evening was filled with special presentations, including Michael Sarian, President of Hospital Operations for Prime Healthcare Services, who spoke about his experiences with the new Administration.

Having interned with their son, Richard, Gala Co-Chair Diane Barsam expressed her heart-felt appreciation to the Tufenkian family for endowing the Assembly’s internship program in their son’s memory. Barsam also acknowledged Jim and Connie Melikian, who were in attendance, for their support of the program, as well as the Kezirian family in memory of former Assembly Board Member Peter.

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In addition to Rep. Royce, other elected officials in attendance included Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Supervisor Michele Steel, Newport Beach Mayor Kevin Muldoon, Orange County Supreme Court Judge Gassia Apkarian, Claremont McKenna College Board of Trustees Chair David Mgrublian, South Orange County Community College District Board of Trustees President Timothy Jemal, and Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian (Assembly intern alumni, 1998).

Meghrouni Family Presidential Chair in Armenian Studies at UC Irvine, Dr. Houry Berberian and UC Los Angeles Associate Professor and the Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, Dr. Sebouh Aslanian were present at the Gala, alongside author of “The Hundred-Year Walk: An Armenian Odyssey,” Dawn Anahid MacKeen. MacKeen’s book on her grandfather’s survival during the Armenian Genocide is required reading in Orange County’s La Habra Unified School District, as well as at universities throughout the United States.

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Assembly Board
of Trustees Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian shared updates from the Assembly’s work
in Washington, D.C., Armenia, and Artsakh, and noted future plans for the
organization. Barsamian acknowledged the Board of Trustees and members of the
Assembly’s original National Steering Committee at the Gala. Assembly Board of Directors’ first Chairman from California, Mihran
Agbabian, was also present.
Barsamian spoke to past and present interns, and said: “The
Armenian Assembly interns over the past forty years continue to be successful
and are proven to be great role models for the next generation – from intern
alumni Katherine Sarafian and Michael Agbabian. I look forward to having the
students who attended the Gala and their friends as future intern participants,
and am excited to discover what the future has in store for them.”

The Gala concluded with music and dancing while past interns spoke with high school and college students about their own experiences in the Washington, D.C. and Yerevan, Armenia summer internship programs.

“We would also like to extend our appreciation for the Gala Co-Chairs and Assembly intern alumni, Sosy Hachigian and Diane Barsam, for their hard work and dedication planning this event alongside the Gala Committee and the Assembly’s Western Office in Los Angeles. Thanks to them, this event was a success. We plan to keep this momentum going and maintain a strong relationship with the Armenian community in Orange County as we plan coming advocacy efforts and events,” Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian stated.

“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly, we would also like to thank our generous sponsors, David & Margaret Mgrublian, Antranik & Virginia Zorayan, Carolyn G. Mugar, the Stephen Philibosian Foundation, Bryan & Valina Agbabian, Anthony & Nancy Barsamian, the Dickranian Foundation, John & Gayane Pridjian, Mihran & Elizabeth Agbabian, Al & Diane Cabraloff, Helen Haig, James & Connie Melikian, Richard & Lauren Mushegain, Carol Ann Rustigian, Oscar Tatosian, Annie Totah, and Varuj Babikian & Talin Yacoubian,” the Co-Chairs said.

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 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.

Photo Caption 1: Armenian Assembly intern alumni group photo at the “Celebrating the Future” Gala

Photo Caption 2: Mistress of Ceremonies Christine Kotchian with Gala Co-Chairs Diane Barsam and Sosy Hachigian

Photo Caption 3: House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) awarding Ken Khachigian with a Congressional Certificate of Recognition

Photo Caption 4: Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian honoring Ken Khachigian with the Deukmejian Award for Public Service

Photo Caption 5: Assembly intern alumni Kathryn Mgrublian with Michael Agbabian, award-winning TV producer, and Katherine Sarafian, Pixar producer.

Photo Caption 6: Ralph and Savey Tufenkian

Photo Caption 7: Ken Khachigian, Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian, Rep. Royce, Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, and Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny