WEEK 6: Summer Internship Blog '17 by John Bandek

Throughout the past six weeks as interns for the ANCA, we have been privileged to learn about the workings of the day to day tasks the ANCA Glendale Chapter undergoes. Furthermore, it is a prerogative for us to be interning right when an important event occurs that pertains to the Armenian-American community such as the Americana at Brand billboard incident that arose during our fifth week. Due to this unexpected event, we were able to use the skills we had acquired over the past weeks to empirically work with our advisor, Margarita Baghdasaryan, the ANCA board, along with many others to properly represent the Armenian voice in the Glendale Community.

Unlike other regular Mondays, where we would have a meeting with a public official, a workshop to help improve our skillsets or a set of tasks to complete in the office, we spent the first day of the week attentively listening and carefully reading about the Americana at Brand billboard situation. Briefly speaking, we learned that there was a request made to have an advertisement for the documentary “Architects of Denial” put up on the Americana billboard; however, this request was denied because the Americana at Brand believed the film was “too political”. Amongst ourselves, us interns discussed the practical methods we would personally take to address this issue. After our discussion, we then compared our personal procedures to the steps ANCA was going to take and had a conversation as to why ANCA was going to take the following steps.

The next day was the first day when all the interns arrived to work earlier than ever. We all were very anxious as to what the day was going to bring, and did not want to miss out on anything. Knowing the day was a Tuesday, the day when city council holds their weekly meetings, we began the day by writing two to three minute speeches about our opinions in regards to the Americana issue. As interns, we worked together to narrow down our opinions to specific talking-points that would better represent our voice at the meeting. At 6 o’clock in the evening, we met at city hall to voice our concerns. This was the first time I had personally voiced my opinion at a city council meeting. I was fascinated to see how simple the process is to voice your opinion and was proud to see all the other Armenians and non-Armenians that voiced their opinions relating to this issue.

On Wednesday, we arrived to work to see an office filled with busy people and non stop ringing phones. We were told that on Thursday, the ANCA will be holding a press conference at the public park located at the center of the Americana. We spent the day emailing human rights organizations along with other groups that we had formed coalitions with in the past years asking for their attendance and support.

The next day, at 11 o’clock, the press conference began by former ANCA-WR Executive Director, Elen Asatryan with an introduction of all the public officials who were present — many of whom we had met during the previous weeks of our internship through workshops and meetings. These individuals include but are not limited to; California State Senator, Mr. Anthony Portantino, Glendale City Mayor, Honorable Vartan Gharpetian, Glendale City Councilmembers, Mr. Ara Najarian, Mr. Zareh Sinanyan, Mrs. Paula Devine, and Mr. Vrej Aghajanian, Glendale City Clerk, Mr. Ardashes Kassakhian, Glendale Unified School District President, Ms. Nayri Nahabedian, GUSD Board members, Dr. Armine Gharpetian, and Mr. Shant Sahakian, and from Glendale Community College Board of Trustees Dr. Armine Hacopian and Yvette Vartanian Davis.

Through the press conference we learned that the Americana at Brand had sent a response to the ANCA right as they were setting up the microphones that same exact morning condemning, “violence and atrocities of any form anywhere in the world, including the Armenian Genocide that has impacted the lives of Armenians in our community.” The letter also stated that Caruso Affiliated will display the advertisement at the Americana at Brand, at no cost to the producers.

The press conference continued with statements by California State Senator, Mr. Anthony Portantino, ANCA Glendale Chair, Mr. Artin Manoukian, City of Glendale Mayor, Mr. Vartan Gharpetian, Executive Producer of “Architects of Denial”, Mr. Dean Cain, and former Armenian Bar Association chairman Mr. Garo Ghazarian. At the end of the press conference, we went around greeting and thanking all the individuals that dedicated time from their busy schedules in attending the conference. We returned to the office where we prepared for a meeting with California State Senator for the 25th District, Mr. Anthony Portantino and the ANCA Western Region Interns. During the meeting, we learned about Mr. Portantino’s background and the continuous support he makes to the Armenian community, whether it be from visiting schools to learn more about their Armenian dual-language programs to being chair of the committee on CA Armenian and Artsakh Mutual Trade Commission. We learned about his future goals in helping the Armenian community and received a lot of advice regarding careers in politics.

This week taught me many things: always be prepared for unexpected events, work together as a team to accomplish tasks faster and more effectively, and always have an action plan. I am very proud of the ANCA which properly handled this situation, and thankful to have had the opportunity to experience this event from behind the scenes.  

WEEK 5: Summer Internship Blog '17 by Tatevik Mkrthchyan

The fifth week of our internship consisted of workshops with the GCC Board of Trustees Vice President, Ann Ransford and California State assembly member Adrin Nazarian. Furthermore, we prepared the scholarship application on behalf of the ANCA Glendale for Armenian young readers, in an effort to promote biliteracy. Ann Ransford provided us with valuable information concerning the principles of successful fundraising. Adrin Nazarian helped us bridge the gap between the responsibilities of being a politician in California while representing the people of the Armenian community.

During our informative meeting with Ann Ransford, she mentioned several strategic steps that are an indispensable part of successful fundraising. First of all, we learned that the initiators of a given fundraising project must know their own facts in order to represent themselves as a reliable organization advocating for a worthy cause. In conjunction with trustworthy self-representation, it is necessary to identify the interests of one’s intended audience and enthusiastically explain their goals. Moreover, utilizing creative approaches will increase the likelihood of the completion of the project.

As It has been previously mentioned, we decided that an active way to promote biliteracy among Armenian-Americans would be through a scholarship funded by ANCA. Individuals hoping to participate in the scholarship opportunity would be required to read a book written in Armenian, then prepare a presentation discussing its prevalent themes. This will encourage Armenian youth to speak in their native language, thereby preserving the sense of national identity that accompanies it. We drafted an application specifying the requirements for participation, as well as guidelines for judges to assist them in standardizing their decisions. In addition, we compiled a list of books and brief summaries to be presented as options for participants.

We ended the week with a conference with assembly member Adrin Nazarian, who detailed his path to involvement in politics. The interns raised questions regarding his motivation to serve as an elected official of his district. He elaborated upon the importance of gaining experience in different fields to become increasingly aware of the needs of the district’s population. Throughout the discussion, Mr. Nazarian emphasized that the most interesting aspects of his current position are the constant learning opportunities that arise on a daily basis. Furthermore, he explained that he has no one priority that he dedicates his entire attention to; instead, he prioritizes all the issues that arise on the job as he feels they are all equally important. A common word of advice suggested by both Mrs. Ransford and Mr. Nazarian was to always express gratitude towards the individuals who offer support and to not take any act of assistance for granted.

Last but not least, our team continued to work on protesting Americana at Brand’s decision to reject advertising space to be used for the film Architects of Denial. We focused on preparing and dispersing the action alert to “End Americana’s Gag Rule” on social media, as well as on drafting letters addressing public officials to inform them of this issue. We encouraged the community of Glendale to take a stand against the insensitivity of the Americana at Brand’s management.

WEEK 4: Summer Internship '17 by Manushak Agazaryan

By the end of the fourth week at ANCA Glendale, we gained a better understanding of how to utilize social media to the best of our advantage and the importance of correct marketing by meeting with Shant Sahakyan, a GUSD Board member who has a background in marketing. We learned about the role of a Glendale City Mayor by meeting with Vartan Gharpetian and gained more insight into the changes that are coming to Glendale’s transportation system by meeting with Metro and Metrolink board member as well as Glendale City Councilman, Ara Najarian.

On Monday, Shant Sahakyan came to GYC where we held a productive conversation about social media marketing and how to specifically reach the largest audience in the most effective way. Mr. Sahakyan’s interest in marketing and design grew from a very young age and he has been able to utilize the skills he’s gained to give back to his community by helping numerous non-profit organizations. He pointed out that although social media is a great platform to use, one must keep in mind that it’s also a platform that is accessible to everyone. To be effective and compelling, one must produce the most interesting and eye catching content, because on social media one is faced with endless competition for attention. Having a successful business in website design, Mr. Sahakyan is aware that knowing your audience is a key in making an advertisement powerful.

The following day, we had the opportunity to meet with Vartan Gharpetian, the Glendale City Mayor. Mayor Gharpetian discussed his journey and long-lasting efforts that got him to where he is today, including his involvement in the Historic Preservation Commission, Parks, Recreation & Community Service Commission, Design Review Board, and the Housing Authority. Amongst other positions, he has served in the Glendale Police Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, all of which led up to his 2015 election to City Council. We inquired him about the duties of a city mayor; he explained that setting the agenda, runnings meetings and most importantly representing the city residents are amongst those responsibilities. Subsequently, Mayor Gharpetian gave wonderful advice on how to be active citizens in the community and Armenian Americans who care about the issues that it faces. Finally, we conversed about issues in Glendale he along with the Councilmembers are currently addressing, including the affordable housing, traffic, and so on.

On Thursday, we visited City Hall once again to meet with Councilmember Ara Najarian. Mr. Najarian explained his background and his journey to becoming a lawyer and later on a City Council Member. His journey in public service started when he was elected to be on the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees. He served there for two years after which he was elected as a Glendale city council member. Prior to his election to  council member, Najarian served on the Transportation and Parking Commission.  His interests in improving transportation in Glendale continues today as he is a board member at Metro and Metrolink. Subsequently, our conversation concentrated on Glendale’s public transportation and the improvements we will soon see. The city is on the road to increase connections to Downtown LA, have all electric buses that are more efficient and environmentally friendly, as well as expand all public transportation lines. With these new advancements, the city hopes to better accommodate to its residence and keep up with the ever so changing culture of transportation.

The remaining days of the week were spent in the GYC office working on various projects. An important task we were assigned was drafting a press release regarding the rejection of a billboard space for the documentary “Architects of Denial” by the Americana at Brand. The documentary, through first hand survivor stories and expert historian analysis, tells the  atrocities of the Armenian Genocide and the consequences that follow the denial of such crimes against humanity. Our team enjoyed working on this project as we felt it is part of our responsibility as an organization in Glendale to inform the public. This is a topic that we are all passionate about, we hope that our efforts will result in a change.

WEEK 3: Summer Internship '17 by Lilit Bazikyan

The third week of our internship at the ANCA-Glendale consisted of our cooperation with the Western Region interns again in discussing issues that concern our local, national and international Armenian communities led by Razmig Sarkissian. We also connected with Tereza Yeremyan, former ANCA Western Region’s Government Affairs Director, who is now in charge of the ANCA Leo Sarkisian internship program in Washington D.C.

On Monday, we made our way to the Western Region office where Razmig Sarkissian initiated a discussion about being an effective leader and a community organizer. This led to us discussing the different issues we know of in our local, national and international Armenian communities. At the local level, we identified issues such as lack of representation in the local government, the rise of rent prices, and increased assimilation. At the national level, we are faced with Turkish lobbyists combating our initiatives, lack of representation of Armenians in the media, as well as, the recognition of Armenians as a minority. Looking at the bigger picture, we recognized issues in Armenia and Armenia’s diaspora. These included the lack of Armenian military power, emigration from Armenia, and the abuse of the environment. It was alleviating that along with the issues we were able to recognize, we were simultaneously coming up with different ways with which we are able to combat them. Especially at the local and national levels, we realized that we each can do our little part to move in the right direction.

On Tuesday and Wednesday we spent our time at the Glendale Youth Center office discussing various issues that were especially important to us and coming up with concrete steps to overcoming them. One concern of ours is the declining use of Armenian within the Armenian youth. We see this as a challenge that every individual can have an impact on. We have decided to communicate strictly in Armenian at the office and have even begun texting in Armenian with Armenian letters. Another step we are taking is making sure our youth has material to read in Armenian that reflects their interests. We each will soon be writing pieces about pop culture and publishing them in hopes of producing non-intimidating Armenian reading material that will encourage the youth to read more in our native language.

On Thursday we had the chance to speak with Tereza Yeremyan in Washington D.C. and she filled us in about what the interns are doing there as well as ANCA-Washington D.C.’s efforts at Capitol Hill. The current interns at D.C. are all working on various projects, one of which being Advocate For Artsakh. This thunderclap campaign advocates for demining, securing borders and providing rehabilitation assistance. Additionally, we were informed about the different ways that the ANCA raises awareness regarding the Armenian cause. They promote positive federal relationships that contribute to trade and aid to both Armenia and Artsakh, security and safety in Artsakh, and of course the recognition of the Armenian genocide. ANCA also provides opportunities like the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program and the above mentioned Leo Sarkisian Internship Program that give Armenian youth, from all over the nation, a chance to go to D.C. and gain experience in various fields. This way, interest in working in D.C. increases amongst our youth and we are able to have advocates for the Armenian cause in powerful positions. ANCA-Washington D.C. also partners up with various organizations and creates a great network for their interns, allowing them to make connections and potentially find jobs in D.C. that suits their best interests.

This third week of this internship has been all about coming together and making the changes we want to see in our communities all the while looking beyond them to the bigger picture and being able to understand the real impact we, as individuals, can make.

Make your impactful contribution and #AdvocateForArtsakh by clicking here: www.anca.org/artsakh



WEEK 2: Summer Internship '17 by Cynthia Avedian

During our second week as ANCA Glendale interns, we learned about Asbarez, met Glendale City Council Member Zareh Sinanyan, were introduced to the ANCA Western Region Hye Votes campaign, and engaged in an informative discussion with GUSD Board of Education President, Nayiri Nahabedian.

On Monday, we visited Asbarez and met with the English Editor, Ara Khachatourian. He introduces us to the history of Asbarez and the importance of having a media outlet for the Armenian community. Founded in Fresno in 1908, Asbarez covered the Armenian Genocide and the establishment of the first Armenian Republic among other historical events. In 1997, Asbarez became the first Armenian newspaper to have a website, and published both in English and Armenian. Since Asbarez is in direct contact with Armenia, when something occurs regarding Armenia, non-Armenian media sources seek out Asbarez as a reliable source. Mr. Khachatourian took us to the archives where we had an opportunity to see Asbarez’s very first publication. Currently, they are working on making all their archived newspapers electronic and accessible to the public. The newspaper is also looking to expand their coverage by adding a S.T.E.M. section where the everso growing fields will be reported on in more detail.  

On Wednesday, we met with Glendale City Council Member, Zareh Sinanyan, who has served as the Glendale city Mayor in 2014 and is now continuing his second term in office. Mr. Sinanyan discussed his background and the difficulties he encountered in his efforts in getting elected to city council. Council Member Sinanyan introduced us to some of prevalent issue in Glendale, such as the lack of proportional representation  in Glendale city government including the Police and Fire departments, and how he, along with other council members, have worked to increase minority representation in these sectors. We also discussed issues that disproportionately affect the Armenian American population as well as Glendale residents at large, such as affordable housing, rising cost of living and public transportation.

Soon after speaking with Council Member Sinanyan, we joined the ANCA Western Region interns to meet the former Director of the Hye Votes campaign, Anna Arakelyan. The Hye Votes Campaign was initiated by ANCA Western Region in order to educate the Armenian American community about the electoral process, register them to vote and provide electoral assistance during elections. Ms. Arakelyan informed us about the different trends in Armenian voter turnout, and how the Hye Votes campaign has, over the span of many years, build an Armenian political capital by significantly increasing the number of registered Armenian voters, as well as, Armenian voter turnout. She also crushed common myths about registering to vote, such as, registering to vote will make you more likely to be called for jury duty. Ms. Arakelyan also stressed the importance of voting and knowing that each vote is significant in making a difference. We learned about the functions of Hye Votes and how adjustments are made to keep up with the demand of the population that is eager to vote but unable to without assistance.

We concluded the week by meeting with the GUSD Board of Education President, Nayiri Nahabedian. We learned about her inspiring journey of choosing a career path and overcoming the obstacles she was faced with. We also discussed the importance of the Foreign Language Academies of Glendale (F.L.A.G.) program that offers dual immersion language programs. The goals of this program include the development of high levels of language proficiency and literacy in both english and a second language, such as Armenian, as well as, an appreciation and understanding of diverse cultures. In addition, we briefly touched upon the Children’s Savings Account Act that Ms. Nahabedian worked on with Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. It is meant to tackle wealth inequality and ensure every child has the opportunity, without any financial burdens, to continue their education after high school.


WEEK 1: Summer Internship '17 by Collett Simonian

During our first week as interns at ANCA Glendale, we were introduced to the different aspects of this internship such as an outline of the knowledge we would gain upon its completion. In order to familiarize ourselves with the ever-evolving mission of ANCA, we spoke with well-respected individuals like Murad Topalian as well as Elen Asatryan. Furthermore, we expanded our understanding of the responsibilities and structure of local government via a tour of City Hall and an educational from Glendale City Clerk, Ardy Kassakhian.

Specifically, Mr. Topalian told a captivating story of his journey with ANCA, which he began as a vibrant member of the AYF who was passionate about the Armenian cause. Through occasional historical anecdotes, he elaborated on ANCA’s origins and the changes it underwent to become the successful organization it is today.

In our exciting tour of City Hall led by Leo Zalyan, we were able to ask limitless questions regarding the specifics of a successful city government. We also discussed the various uses of tax dollars, as well as the roles and responsibilities of different departments. The following day, an analogy used by Ardy Kassakhian clarified how a corporate model is utilized as the “mirepoix” of local government. For example, he explained how the board of directors of any given business parallel the Council Members of a city, while the position of a CEO translates to the role of City Manager.

The week was concluded with a workshop by former Executive Director of ANCA Western Region, Elen Asatryan, about the ways in which ANCA has built an Armenian political capital in the diaspora from the grassroots up. We examined trends of local government politics throughout the years, and issues the Armenian community has faced.

As the week neared its end, it became evident that we, not only as ANCA Glendale interns but also as members of the Armenian American community, have a responsibility to contribute to local government and to ensure that it represents the people effectively. In essence, this week was a glance into how ANCA’s mission has always been responsive to the changes in the needs of the people it represents, and how we can prepare ourselves to take increasingly active roles in each of our communities.