Armenian Assembly Celebrates 40 Years of Intern Program in Washington 

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WASHINGTON — The Armenian Assembly of America celebrated the 40th year of its internship program, which provides opportunities for the next generation of Armenian Americans to participate in public service 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, DC 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 Rep. 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 US 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 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.”

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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, US 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 Rita Balian, a long-time Assembly Trustee, whose late husband, Vartkess, 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 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.