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An Unforgettable Summer

Mireille Samra (center right) with Armenian American interns on Capitol Hill

By Mireille Samra
Special Guest Contributor

After packing my five very heavy suit cases, I felt prepared to enter my direct flight to Washington D.C. Why might a South Florida native fly to Washington D.C. other then touring all the national monuments and museums? The simplest answer is to learn. My name is Mireille Samra and I am currently enrolled in the Armenian Assembly of America’s Terjenian-Thomas Summer Internship Program in Washington, D.C. Through the internship with the Assembly, I was placed on Capitol Hill, in the Office of Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Vice Chairman of the Armenian Caucus in Congress.

President of Armenia, Armen Sargsyan with Mireille Samra at the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, D.C.

As an intern with the Armenian Assembly this summer, I have gained several new professional and personal connections. I was able to meet the President of Armenia twice in one day, along with the honorable First Lady of Armenia, on their first official visit to the U.S. So far, the 2018 class of Assembly interns have met with several community, political, and industry leaders. Early on, we met with the Director of the Armenian National Institute (ANI), Dr. Ruben Adalian. ANI provides historical information concerning the Armenian Genocide. In addition, the Assembly program provides us with direct meetings with elected officials, such as Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Congressman Bilirakis, and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), to name a few.

Armenian Assembly interns talking with Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) in his Capitol Hill office.

Currently, I have only been in D.C. for about one month. In that short amount of time, I have been learning things I could have never expected to learn, from how the metro (subway) system works, and the fact that finding parking in Washington, D.C. is like winning the lottery! Growing up, I’ve been known for always taking opportunities and not thinking much about them. Truthfully, this internship has taught me a lot. A typical workweek is Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 6:00pm, most days. Working on Capitol Hill, the people you meet are endless. Just last week I was giving a tour of the Capitol when the Queen of Jordan Rania Al-Abdullah walked by a few feet away from me! Something that keeps the internship on the Hill very interesting is that no two days are ever the same. For any Armenian American that is passionate about working hard in a big city and learning, the summer internship with the Armenian Assembly of America is a must before graduating.

Mireille Samra is a resident of Boca Raton, Florida and an active member of the South Florida Armenian American community. She graduated from Spanish River High School and currently studies Criminal Justice at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

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Armenian Student Associations in the U.S. Pen Letter in Solidarity with Student-Driven Movement in Armenia

Mother Armenia overlooking the latest peaceful demonstrations in Yerevan, Armenia on April 25, 2018. (Photo credit: Bared Maronian of Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Armenian Student Associations (ASA) from universities across the United States have assembled and penned a letter in solidarity with what they are calling a “student-driven democratization movement” taking place in Armenia.

“As members of a new generation in the diaspora, we stand with our Armenian counterparts in their quest to combat corruption and ensure democratic governance,” reads a part of the letter written by five Washington D.C.-area ASAs, and endorsed by 13 other ASAs across the country.

Tereza Sarkisyan, a graduate student at American University who is from Boca Raton, FL, told FLArmenians.com, “It’s true that in order for a political movement to succeed it must include the students and young adults who care about the future of their country. Armenian American students are proud of the youth in Armenia for instilling new hope and a desire to change in all of the Armenian people around the world. We want them to know that they are not alone. We stand with them and we’re proud to be Armenian because of them. The resilience of the Armenian people has inspired us and I hope this letter is but one of many steps taken to bridge the gap that exists between the diaspora and Armenia,” Sarkisyan said.

The letter goes on to state: “As students of the diaspora, we have the unique privilege to observe the unfolding events through a non-partisan lens and for this reason, can amplify the voices of our fellow student activists in Hayastan adding to their momentum,” reads another part of the letter. “We aim to be a uniting force that will empower the Armenian people to continue to set an example of a nonviolent, yet effective democratization movement.’

Read the letter in its entirety below.

***

To the people of The Republic of Armenia:

We, as representatives of Armenian Student Associations across the United States, would like to express our solidarity with the student-driven democratization movement in the Republic of Armenia. As members of a new generation in the diaspora, we stand with our Armenian counterparts in their quest to combat corruption and ensure democratic governance.

We believe that the unbounded corruption of the undemocratically elected elite has directly led to the stunted growth and development in our homeland. However, we are hopeful and confident that this is the dawn of a major turning point for Armenia.

Though there is reason to celebrate the resignation of Serge Sarkisian as a victory, the struggle for a democratic transition continues. It is time for us, as the Diasporan community, to unite and acknowledge the grievances of the Armenian people and back the nascent democratization movement.

As students of the Diaspora, we have the unique privilege to observe the unfolding events through a non-partisan lens and for this reason, can amplify the voices of our fellow student activists in Hayastan adding to their momentum. We aim to be a uniting force that will empower the Armenian people to continue to set an example of a nonviolent, yet effective democratization movement.

We seek to join the likes of the Armenian Diaspora around the world who have stood with our brothers and sisters. We believe we must strengthen the dialogue and cooperation between the diaspora and citizens of the Republic of Armenia in aiding Armenia’s democratic transition.

We encourage the adoption of democratic electoral processes in Armenia and support a fair, democratic transition. We reject the legitimacy of any election that is carried out via bribery, coercion, or any form of electoral fraud. As such, we also support you in your rejection of the Republican Party of Armenia.

We call on members of the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA), who currently hold majority seats in Parliament, to uphold their promise and support the election of a people’s prime minister, in order to better represent the voices of the Armenian people, and moreover to be a part of the solution, for the future of their children.

We call on all Armenian Student Association organizations across the U.S. to stand with us against the Republic’s current regime and join the fight for a free and prosperous Armenia.

Getseh ankakh Hayastan! (Long live free Armenia!)

Written by the Armenian Student Associations of Washington, D.C.:

  • Armenian Student Association of American University
  • Armenian Student Association of George Washington University
  • Armenian Student Association of the University of Maryland
  • Armenian Student Association of the University of Virginia
  • Armenian Student Association of Georgetown University

With support from:

  • Armenian Student Association of Michigan State University
  • Armenian Student Association University of Chicago
  • Armenian Student Association Ramapo College
  • Armenian Student Association University of Illinois
  • Armenian Student Association Northeastern University
  • Armenian Student Association Providence College
  • Armenian Student Association University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Armenian Student Association Grand Valley State University
  • Armenian Student Association UC San Diego
  • Armenian Student Association UC Irvine
  • Armenian Student Association UC Riverside
  • Armenian Student Association UC Los Angeles
  • Armenian Student Association California State University of Northridge
  • Armenian Student Association California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
  • Armenian Student Association Santa Monica College
  • Armenian Student Association Tufts University
  • Armenian Student Association Temple University
  • Armenian Student Association Boston University

Other Endorsements:

  • Nina Melkonyan, St. Lawrence University*
  • Ari Alexanian, Purdue University*
  • Armenian Students of George Mason University*
  • Armenian Students of Drexel University*
  • Sophia Yedigarian, Fordham University
  • Armenian Students of St. Louis University
  • Armenian Students of Wayne State University
  • Armenian Students of Brandeis University
  • AEΩ Armenian Fraternity
  • Armenian Students of University of Miami

*Signatories marked with an asterisk (*) are students who chose to sign the letter independent of an official ASA.

If you or your organization would like to be added to the list of endorsements, please e-mail us at dcarmenianstudentassociation@gmail.com.

Armenian Assembly of America Now Accepting Applications for Summer Internship Programs in Washington, Yerevan

You Can Be a Part of the Assembly’s 40th Summer Internship Class

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Applications for the Armenian Assembly of America’s (Assembly) summer internship programs are available, and the deadline for this upcoming summer is fast approaching. The 2017 Terjenian-Thomas Summer Internship Program applications in Washington, D.C. are due on December 1, 2016 and candidates for the Yerevan Internship Program in Armenia will be accepted through January 10, 2017.

This upcoming summer will mark the 40th anniversary year of the Assembly’s internship program for Armenian youth in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1977, the Armenian Assembly Summer Internship Program was the first internship program offered by an Armenian organization in America. Over 1,000 students of Armenian descent have graduated through the Assembly ranks.

Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, Class of 2016 Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Interns,Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Armenian National Institute Director Dr. Rouben Adalian

Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, Class of 2016 Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Interns,Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Armenian National Institute Director Dr. Rouben Adalian

The Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program gives college students of Armenian descent an opportunity to gain exposure to the policy-making process in our nation’s capital for eight weeks each summer. Students accepted to the Washington program are assisted in securing internships in congressional offices, government agencies, media outlets, think-tanks, and non-governmental organizations based on their educational background and interests. Placements have included the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, the Senate, the House, Congressional Committees, Armenian Embassy, Library of Congress, Voice of America, and other media, federal agencies, and think tanks.

In addition, Assembly interns will have the opportunity to discuss Armenian American issues during meetings with Members of Congress, Senators, and other government officials, industry professionals, and noted academics through the Capitol Ideas and Lecture Series programs. These programs provide interns a forum to ask questions and discuss topics important to the Armenian-American community, including current events taking place throughout the world and U.S. foreign policy towards Armenia and Karabakh.

The Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program is made possible by the Memorial Fund established through the generosity of Aram Terjenian, Annie Thomas and Florence Terjenian of Belmont, Massachusetts. Additional support comes from the Richard Tufenkian Memorial Fund, the John Hanessian Scholarship Fund, the Armen Astarjian Scholarship Fund, the Ohanian Memorial Fund, the Estate of Haig J. Boyadjian, the Estate of George Judge Karabedian (George Kay), Mr. & Mrs. James and Connie Melikian, and the Knights of Vartan.

Armenian Assembly of America Regional Director Arpi Vartanian and Class of 2016 Assembly Yerevan Summer Interns with Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan

Armenian Assembly of America Regional Director Arpi Vartanian and Class of 2016 Assembly Yerevan Summer Interns with Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan

The Assembly also offers a similar internship program in Yerevan, Armenia. Now entering its 17th year, the Yerevan Internship Program provides students the opportunity to live and work in one of the most historically and culturally rich countries in the world. Students can work in Armenian government agencies, non-governmental organizations, medical centers, or media outlets. Participants will meet with Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh government officials, including Assembly partner organizations of Armenia Tree Project and HALO Trust, and tour historical sites around the country. Recent placements include the United Nations, Constitutional Court, Civilitas Foundation, International Center for Human Development, and other non-governmental organizations, as well as various government ministries.

For more information on the Assembly internship programs or assistance with the application process, please contact Internship Program Director Joseph Piatt in Washington, D.C. at (202) 393-3434, ext. 336, or via email at jpiatt@aaainc.org. You can find stories, posts, and testimonials from last year’s internship class on the Assembly’s Intern Blogs (Washington, D.C. or Yerevan, Armenia). You can also check out their photo albums (Washington, D.C. or Yerevan, Armenia) on the Assembly’s Internship Alumni Facebook Page.