ANCA to Celebrate Hovig Apo Saghdejian’s Legacy of Youth Empowerment

July 2nd program will salute the successes of the ANCA’s landmark career development program named in his honor

On July 2, 2024, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) will host a special gathering to honor the legacy of community advocate Hovig Apo Saghdejian, namesake of the Capital Gateway Program that has, over the past two decades, empowered hundreds of young Armenian Americans to pursue careers in public service.

Launched in 2003, the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program (CGP) has helped secure permanent employment and professional internships for hundreds of young Armenian American professionals and students in Washington, DC. For over a century, the ANCA family has developed countless relationships in and around Capitol Hill, identifying a wide range of job-related opportunities in the nation’s capital. The CGP utilizes these resources and contacts to help candidates identify and secure jobs that fit their interests and ambitions. The Program was named after Hovig Apo Saghdejian, a beloved young community leader who lost his life in a tragic car accident in 2004 and whose eternal memory continues to inspire new generations of Armenian Americans.

“My family is proud of my brother’s legacy – which lives on in the hearts and minds of each ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program fellow,” shared Hovig’s sister Nayiri Saghdejian. “Like my entire family, Hovig was so very committed to the Armenian Cause and our Hairenik. It is fitting that this ANCA program, which bears his name, continues to inspire new generations of ANCA rising leaders committed to serving our common cause,” added Saghdejian.

“A hallmark program of the ANCA, the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program has helped usher countless young Armenians into the halls of power in Washington DC. An instrumental part of our mission — the activation and empowerment of new generations of Armenian-American professionals and leaders — hinges on vital initiatives like the Capital Gateway Program,” stated ANCA Chair Raffi Hamparian. “By honoring Hovig’s legacy, and through the steadfast support of the Saghdejian family, we can help Armenian youth throughout the nation realize their dreams.”

The Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program offers several key benefits to its fellows: housing at The Aramian House with waived fees for the first three months; a series of enrichment seminars during the first two weeks of each session, on topics such as resumes, cover letters, networking, interviewing, and professionalism, which are presented by program alumni; personalized mentorship matched to each fellow’s interests, where fellows are responsible for maintaining the mentor relationship; and office space provided by the ANCA for fellows to use as a productive environment for their job search during weekdays until they secure an internship or employment.

“I’m so thankful for the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program, as it changed the trajectory of my professional career and life. The CGP program exposed me to a new city, to new opportunities, and to friends, colleagues, and mentors I would never have met if not for the Fellowship. I’m so proud to now serve as the Chair of the Capital Gateway Program Advisory Committee and give back to young Armenians who, like me when I arrived in 2017, are looking for an opportunity to make a difference and an impact in our nation’s capital,” stated Tadeh Issakhanian.

Hovig, a 23-year-old community activist from Fresno, lost his life in 2004 in a tragic car accident. Hovig’s father, Apo, his late mother, Rosine, and sister, Nayiri, established the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Memorial Fund, the principal of which is held by the ANCA in perpetuity. The annual income the Fund produces is used to support the ANCA Capital Gateway Program, named in Hovig’s memory. Family, friends, and supporters continue to add to this Fund to help ensure the program’s expansion.

Beyond their transformative support for the growth of the Gateway Program in the United States, the Saghdejian family has also honored Hovig’s legacy in the Armenian homeland. Immediately after Hovig’s passing, they donated a home to the needy residents of the small village of Haykavan, located in a war-ravaged Hadrut region of southern Artsakh.  They also built a chapel (madour) in the village of Ayroum, where Hovig worked during his Land and Culture Organization campaign in Armenia.  This beautiful chapel – a gathering place for the village residents – represents the town’s only spiritual center.

Hovig’s sudden and tragic death was not only a great loss for his family, but also for his many friends, the Armenian American community in the Central Valley, and for Armenians around the nation and the world.  He was an exemplary son, brother, grandson, nephew, and friend who left a legacy of love for his family and friends and of selfless devotion to his fellow Armenians and his cultural heritage.  Hovig was, fittingly, laid to rest in Fresno’s historic Ararat Masis Cemetery, alongside Armenian national hero Soghomon Tehlirian.

Hovig Apo Saghdejian was born on December 31, 1980, in Fresno, California.  He completed his elementary education at the Armenian Community School of Fresno.  After graduation from the Armenian school, Hovig attended Kastner Intermediate and later Clovis West High School, where he received his high school diploma as an Advanced Placement Scholar with Honors.

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).  After graduating from Clovis West in 1998, Hovig attended Fresno City College, California State University, Fresno, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in Interdisciplinary Studies, with an emphasis on economics, philosophy, and film studies.  While attending college, Hovig was active in the Armenian Students’ Association.  He also received numerous honors, including the Armenian Relief Society Merit Scholarship and the Foundation West Merit Scholarship.

Hovig’s family instilled in him a passion for his Armenian culture. As an active member of AYF and Homenetmen, as both a scout and athlete, he contributed to the welfare of the Armenian American community and reinforced his commitment to his homeland. He traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, with the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Society to broaden his cultural understanding.

As a devoted son of the Saghdejian family, Hovig lived a life of commitment to the Armenian Cause and his ancient Armenian 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.

His memory and spirit continue through the work of his family and the lives of Armenian-American youth who can realize their full potential through the Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program.