WASHINGTON, DC – Apo Saghdejian and his daughter Nayiri traveled to Washington, DC last month to join with ANCA leaders and young Armenians from across America to take part in the blessing and dedication of the ANCA Capital Gateway House in honor of Hovig Apo Saghdejian, the 23-year-old student from Fresno, California whose life of community leadership and public service was cut short, in July of 2004, by a tragic car accident.
The ANCA Capital Gateway Program, established in 2003, helps Armenian American college students and recent graduates from across the U.S. to pursue careers in public policy, through three month grants of free housing, access to the ANCA network of contacts and resources, and hands-on training on how to find work in the governmental, political, policy, and media worlds.
Over the years, the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway House, located in the heart of Washington DC, has housed over 150 program fellows, ANCA summer interns, staff, and volunteers.
“The Saghdejian family, a proud pillar of our community and Cause, in turning their great sorrow into selfless service to a new generation of Armenian youth, truly stands as a role model of caring and generosity for Armenians from across America and around the world,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “In honoring Hovig’s legacy, Apo and Nayiri are – in a very powerful and far-reaching way – empowering young Armenians to get involved, to give back, and to grow stronger, both for themselves and for our nation.”
Soorp Khatch Armenian Church Pastor, Reverend Father Sarkis Aktavoukian offered the Armenian Apostolic house blessing, and followed this sacred service with warm words in honor of Hovig’s legacy, and in appreciation of his family’s dedication to creating opportunities for a new generation of Armenian youth to become involved in public service. After the Der Hayr’s remarks, both ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Executive Director Aram Hamparian, speaking before an assembled group of current and past Gateway fellows, shared their great respect and profound appreciation for the Saghdejian family’s deep and abiding commitment to both Hovig’s legacy and the ancient and sacred Cause that he served. Apo Saghdejian closed the program with touching words of remembrance for his lost son, and warm words of hope for the future of the Armenian nation.
The Saghdejian family support for the Capital Gateway Program has long been a labor of love, beginning with the establishment of the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund in 2004, which raised well over $50,000 for the program in just a few short months. Since then, family and friends have honored the memory of Hovig’s late mother, Rosine Saghdejian, who passed away in 2006, and Apo’s mother, Sona Saghdejian, who died in 2010, through additional contributions to the fund. With their most recent gift of $25,000, made on the occasion of the Capital Gateway House dedication, the fund is now over $100,000. These funds will be held in perpetuity, with only the income being used to finance the participation of young Armenian Americans in the Gateway Program.
Hovig’s sister Nayiri, shared her thoughts following the ceremony: “My father and I were pleased to have this opportunity to visit with our friends in Washington for the dedication of the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway House as a living memorial to my brother’s legacy. We were especially gratified to have the opportunity to spend time with some of the talented young Armenians that have been empowered by our family fund, to get started on careers of public service and lifetimes of community sacrifice for a cause greater than themselves.”
The Hovig Apo Saghdejian Fellowship fund has, on an ongoing basis, sponsored a Capital Gateway Fellow, covering his/her housing and providing a full range of support services – from improving the design of their resumes and sharpening their interview skills, to making the right introductions and integrating them into the growing network of Armenian American public policy professionals in the nation’s capital. As one Hovig Apo Saghdejian Fellow secures a full-time public policy job and graduates from the program, another has been brought to Washington, DC to take his or her place, ensuring a succession of fellowships that, over the years, has placed dozens of Armenian American youth in the key positions. Typically, each fellow has been able to secure a full-time position within three to six months.
For detailed information about the Capital Gateway Program, visit: www.anca.org/gateway .
Hovig Apo Saghdejian: Inspirational Youth Leader and Community Activist
Hovig Apo Saghdejian was born on December 31, 1980 in Fresno, California. Early in life, Hovig became a member of the Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union and Scouts, and he joined the ranks of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF), contributing to the welfare of the Armenian American community and reinforcing his commitment to his Homeland.
He breathed life into the ideals of his youth by working to preserve and reinvent Armenian identity in America, while bringing a sense of optimism to the people of Armenia for a better future. As a volunteer with the Land and Culture organization, Hovig traveled to Armenia during the summer of 2003 to work as a volunteer in Ayroum, developing infrastructure and self-sustainability for the impoverished population of this village. Beyond the value of the hard work that contributed significantly to the well being of the villagers, Hovig’s efforts helped bring hope to all he came in contact with that the future held better things for the people of Armenia. Commenting on his time in Ayroum, in a testimonial on the Land and Culture website, Hovig explained that, “I know that when I reflect back on this experience I will feel ecstatic about the work we accomplished, the things we saw, and the bonds we forged.”
Hovig attended Fresno City College, California State University of Fresno, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in Interdisciplinary Studies, with an emphasis on economics, philosophy and film studies. He performed his civic duties by being politically involved, not only with the ANCA, but also with Congressman George Radanovich and State Assemblymember Steve Samuelian on campaign and public policy projects.
Hovig enjoyed life, family, and friends. He had a very special bond with his parents, Apo and Rosine, and sister, Nayiri. He spent his spare time helping his mother at the Adult Day Care Center, and his father with the family business.