By Jennifer Goetz
Internships can serve as a valuable learning tool for college students, but not all of them provide the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on Capitol Hill alongside our nation’s leaders.
This past summer, a student from the College traveled to Washington D.C. to partake in the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly Internship Program at the Armenian Assembly of America.
Shant Bekarian, a senior psychology major, was one of 14 college students selected to spend eight weeks learning about the policy-making process in the nation’s capital.
The organization has helped more than 1,000 participants learn in-depth about their Armenian heritage while finding careers in D.C. such as in congressional offices, government agencies and media outlets, according to the Armenian Assembly of America’s website.
The internship involved several office tasks, researching and writing memos, and other responsibilities.
“One special aspect of the Terjenian-Thomas Assembly internship is the alumni who visit the interns and share their own experiences and advice,” said Danielle Saroyan, public affairs associate at the Armenian Assembly of America.
The Armenian Assembly of America states that the internship program is open to all college students of Armenian descent. After securing the internship, students are given responsibilities and tasks that coincide with their education level and performance ability.
Joseph Piatt, the internship program director, said that it is important in providing students with real-world experience and creating future leaders for the Armenian-American community.
“We do this particular program to develop the next generation of leaders and build our contacts in D.C. through positive work and connection,” Piatt said.
During his time with the Armenian Assembly, Bekarian spent six weeks interning at the Office of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with representative Robert Avedisyan.
Bekarian also had the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill with representatives Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.
“I got a huge insight into the U.S. political system and how politicians think,” Bekarian said.
Some of the additional activities included meeting with senators and other government leaders in their offices in Capitol Hill.
In those meetings, interns could talk to America’s elected officials about current events and topics that are important to the Armenian-American community.
“Lecture Series” were also offered as a part of the internship program for students to ignite discussion about Armenian-American issues and what can be done to resolve them.
“Here at the Armenian Assembly, we advocate year-round promoting public awareness of Armenian issues, including national reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, foreign aid to Armenia and Artsakh, and a peaceful resolution to Azerbaijan’s aggressions against the citizens of Artsakh,” Saroyan said.
According to the Armenian Assembly of America, its main objective is to “secure universal reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide.”
On April 24, 1915, the Young Turk government organized the genocide of Armenians from the Ottoman Empire.
The Armenian Assembly of America states the genocide lasted from 1915 to 1923, and “resulted in the deportation of nearly 2,000,000 Armenians, of whom 1,500,000 men, women, and children were killed.”
“(The Armenian Assembly) wants to get the Armenian genocide recognized in the U.S.,” Bekarian said.
One of Bekarian’s many assignments was to make a digital copy to preserve the information about the genocide.
Although working an unpaid internship isn’t always ideal, Bekarian said that his experience made everything worth it in the end.
“My roots play a huge role in my life,” he said. “My strong ties to the Armenian community are why I decided to take an unpaid role in D.C.”
As he took on new challenges, learned about U.S. policies and fought for change, Bekarian was able to gain a new perspective.
“Working for a non-profit really opens yours eyes, and you see a really humane side of people. People really looking to make a change,” he said.