New York – Every summer, participants in the AGBU New York Summer Internship Program (NYSIP) tap into an expansive network of industry experts, add a top Manhattan organization to their resumes, and form lifelong friendships with young Armenians from across the diaspora.
This year, the NYSIP interns also helped make AGBU history by celebrating the program’s silver jubilee. Whether they were working, attending educational and cultural events, or exploring the city, every day of NYSIP’s 25th anniversary summer was unforgettable.
In 2012, prominent institutions such as Merrill Lynch, Mirrorball, The New York Resident, the New York University Medical Center and numerous others, benefitted from the enthusiasm and talent that the 30 NYSIP students brought with them from their hometowns in Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Russia, and the UK and across the US. NYSIP supervisor Craig Avedisian, who hosts interns at his law office, discussed why he joined the program, stating, “It is immensely satisfying to impart knowledge, and hopefully wisdom, acquired from years of working in the field, to young adults starting their journey. I am confident that the NYSIP interns learn from this experience and will have more successful and fulfilling careers because of it.” The interns, in turn, took advantage of the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their chosen professions, working under the personal guidance of seasoned specialists who helped them realize their career aspirations.
The students’ hours in the office were complemented by a professional lecture series, which gave them the chance to meet both as a group and one-on-one with leaders in different fields to discuss strategies for job hunting and ways to advance themselves following graduation. Guest speakers included NYSIP Co-Chair Raffi Balian, a foreign service officer with the US State Department; Anna Bruno, a NYSIP supervisor and financial consultant for AXA Advisors; and NYSIP alumnus Serge Kassardjian, a strategic partner in mobile commerce at Google. An interactive entrepreneurship panel organized by NYSIP alumnus Taleen Mangassarian, which featured Hamilton Colwell of Maia Yogurt, Joe Hallett of Company Connector and Nil Sen of Examville, was one of the highlights of the series, leaving interns with insiders’ knowledge of how to establish a start-up company. NYSIP participant Areni Shahinian of Los Angeles, California, reflected on those seminars, and the program as a whole, commenting, “The AGBU Summer Internship Program not only gave me the tools I need to become a successful professional but gave me the confidence and inspiration to strive to be better, as well. It was inspiring to see so many successful Armenians giving back to the community and I look forward to the day when I can supervise my own AGBU intern. Also, thanks to NYSIP, I now have friends around the world who have become my family.”
When they weren’t working, the NYSIP interns could be spotted all across the city taking in New York’s famous landmarks and sites. Picnics in Central Park, tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art, and a celebratory gathering for the 4th of July fireworks were just some of the planned activities that kept the group busy on their weekends and every day in between. While the students immersed themselves in the culture of New York City, they also stayed connected to their Armenian cultural heritage. A special invitation from the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America brought the interns to see the church headquarters. There, they enjoyed a traditional Armenian dinner with His Eminence Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, the Diocesan Primate.
Community service is a key component of NYSIP, and in keeping with an annual tradition, the interns visited the Armenian Home for the Aged in Queens, where they brightened the residents’ day with a talent show. The community service project, known as “Sunshine for Seniors,” is organized by the AGBU Young Professionals of Greater New York (YPGNY) and is just one of the YP group’s many initiatives that have strengthened the internship program over the years. Since 1999, YPGNY has annually sponsored student scholarships for NYSIP and since 2000 has coordinated Mentorship Night, an evening of professional exchange between local young professionals and visiting interns. The success of Mentorship Night prompted the launch of a mentorship program in 2007, which pairs interns with accomplished professionals who offer guidance and advice during regular meetings throughout the summer. Interns and mentors establish a relationship that they often maintain long after the program has concluded, which is a testament to NYSIP’s lasting, positive impact.
At the NYSIP 25th anniversary weekend celebration, the interns saw the ways that, decades from now, they will continue to reap the program’s countless benefits. The weekend festivities, which kicked off on Friday, July 20, 2012 at the anniversary mixer, and continued with the Saturday night gala, reunited hundreds of NYSIP alumni and supporters. They looked back on over two decades of great memories, and celebrated the many individuals who have made the program such a success. The alumni who were present have risen to the top of their fields and they continue to stay active and give back to the AGBU community. The 2012 NYSIP interns are sure to follow in their footsteps. Though their internship program officially ran from June 17 – August 11, 2012, they are now lifelong members of the AGBU family, and can look forward to many more of fun and excitement with the organization.
Yerevan program in its sixth year
For six years, the AGBU Yerevan Summer Internship Program (YSIP) has provided Armenian university students from across the diaspora with the unique opportunity to gain valuable hands-on work experience, bond with their global peers, and witness firsthand the natural beauty and ancient landmarks that have been the subject of their studies and their family histories for as long as they can remember. This year, 27 students from Germany, Lebanon, Syria, the UK and the US took advantage of everything that YSIP has to offer, enjoying a complete cultural immersion experience that left all participants already planning a trip back to Armenia when the program came to an end.
On June 25, 2012, planes that had taken off from various parts of the world touched down in Armenia’s Zvartnots Airport, carrying this year’s talented and enthusiastic YSIP participants. The interns immediately settled into their new home and new routine, which was filled with work, weekly language classes at the American University of Armenia and dance classes at the AGBU Nork Children’s Center, as well as volunteer projects. They also met with government officials and community leaders, including the Speaker of the Karabakh Parliament, Ashot Ghulyan, Diaspora Minister, Hranush Hakobyan, and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian, who gave them a well-rounded view of Armenia and Karabakh.
Students were placed in a broad range of organizations, which included the Arabkir Children’s Hospital, the American University of Armenia’s Engineering Department, ArmNews TV, the Ministry of the Diaspora, the United Nations Development Program, and many others. They shadowed neurologists and cardiologists, provided much-needed social services, and even oversaw the construction and development of AGBU’s newest headquarters, a building that will soon stand tall in the heart of the city. Chair of the Department of Neurology at Yerevan State University and supervisor Hovhannes Manvelyan commented on YSIP’s positive impact, stating, “Programs such as these are essential in order to ensure future ties with the homeland especially for those young men and women who have never been to Armenia before and were raised in the diaspora. It’s important for them to come to Armenia, get a better understanding of their culture and make friends.”
The students’ internships opened their eyes to both the complexities and rewards of their chosen career paths, while their daily encounters opened their minds to a country they thought they knew, but which continued to amaze them. They were overwhelmed by the ever-present hospitality, the city’s large squares constantly filled with music and people, and the breathtaking landscapes of the countryside.
As in previous years, highlights of YSIP 2012 included excursions around the country and a journey to Karabakh. Bella Arutyunyan, a University of California, Los Angeles student reflected on her trip, noting, “One of the best experiences this summer was getting the chance to get out of Yerevan and take a four-day trip to Karabakh. Everyone kept telling me how beautiful the wilderness was going to be and how much I was going to love it. In all honesty, however, I didn’t think I could find any connection to a piece of land and a people I didn’t know much about. But if there is one thing I’ve learned from being in Armenia, it’s how important it is to see things with your own eyes because stories alone aren’t enough.” Her words underscored the importance of connecting Armenian youth with their ancestral homeland, which AGBU has accomplished through YSIP and a number of other Armenia-based programs that drew over 500 participants to the country this summer alone.
In addition to the trip to Karabakh, the YSIP group toured the Garni Temple and the architectural wonder, the Geghard Monastery, before climbing Armenia’s highest peak, Mt. Aragats. Gyumri was another destination outside of the capital, where the interns visited the Terchoonian Home, an orphanage that provides shelter and care for more than 20 children. The YSIP interns brightened the children’s day, bringing them new toys, playing together outside and admiring their rug weaving, a favorite hobby in the home. The visit was one that had a lasting impact on intern Kathrine Kazanjian, from the US, who stated, “After this program and the interactions I have had with the people of Armenia – everyone from taxi drivers and sales people to the children of Karabakh and the orphans of Gyumri – I returned home feeling a great sense of responsibility to my homeland and its people. Now, I want to learn even more about where I come from and do more to create a better future for Armenia.”
After six weeks of making memories and making a difference, the YSIP participants prepared for their departure. But they couldn’t leave without showing the youth and staff of the AGBU Nork Center all they had learned during their weekly dance classes. On the evening of July 31, 2012, the group stepped on the Center’s stage for a special performance, hand in hand, to the sound of Armenian music. Their routine drew applause everywhere in the auditorium, as well as praise from their new friends and colleagues. It was one last great moment that they would all share before YSIP officially came to an end. On August 3, 2012, the participants headed home, leaving a part of themselves behind in Armenia.
Established in 1906, AGBU (www.agbu.org) is the world’s largest non-profit Armenian organization. Headquartered in New York City, AGBU preserves and promotes the Armenian identity and heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs, annually touching the lives of some 400,000 Armenians around the world.
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