Birthright Armenia Alumni Leadership Recognition Awards

Since Birthright Armenia’s very first group of sponsored volunteers in 2004, we’ve undergone changes and improvements, shifts and expansions, but our philosophy on alums has remained the same—namely the belief that our alumni base is our greatest asset. We’ve had the good fortune to watch our alums grow as leaders from the time they were volunteers, following their careers and supporting them along their professional paths. With a strong alumni network of 1,700+ from 49 different countries, we find it only fitting to announce our new Birthright Armenia Alumni Leadership Recognition Awards program that recognizes the standouts in terms of their level of engagement and achievements. And in so doing, we’d like to recognize three individuals who have been singled out as best exemplifying the leadership qualities in the categories outlined below:  




                    Professional Achievement Award 

                    Mentorship Award

                    Young Philanthropist Award

                    Civic Participation Award

                    Artistic/ Cultural Achievement Award

                    Spirit of Birthright Armenia/ Depi Hayk Award


Congratulations go out to our 2018 award winners Lilly Djaniants, Jamie Kolar, and Nelli Martirosyan each of whom receives a $1,000 contribution to the 501(c)(3) or registered non-profit organization of their choice.


The Professional Achievement Award goes to Lilly Djaniants, 37 (2009).  

Lilly was born in Baku and fled Azerbaijan with her family in 1988, settling in Gyumri three days before the devastating Spitak earthquake. Following that disaster, her family resettled in a refugee shelter outside of Etchmiadzin until moving to the United States in 1992. After completing her architecture education in the US and working in New York on the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site post-9/11, Lilly joined Birthright Armenia for three months in 2009 as a volunteer at TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, eventually leading her to the opportunity to become the construction manager during the building of TUMO. She made her first ever visit to Artsakh as a Birthright volunteer, and there got inspired to continue investing professionally in Armenia, realizing the potential she had to contribute to economic and urban development.  In 2013 as a Luys Fellow, she earned her MA in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University, where she received the Kinne Fellowship for her research on how urban development can begin to initiate both economic and political stability in the post-conflict territory of Artsakh. In 2013 she joined Tim Flynn Architects and the IDeA foundation in Yerevan, working on the urban renewal master plan of Dilijan and managing the development of Eco-Village in Artsakh. She has also advised Gyumri Project Hope on its urban renewal initiatives. Lilly’s designated non-profit organization for her $1000 award is the Tufenkian Foundation.

The Mentorship Award goes to Jamie Kolar, 34 (2013).

Jamie was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. She received her BA in Psychology from UCLA in 2005 and is a firefighter/paramedic for the Los Angeles County Fire Department and a clinical instructor at the UCLA David Geffen Medical School Paramedic Program. As a Birthright volunteer from May-August 2013 she served at the Gyumri Station of Ambulance Service, Ministry of Emergency Situations, and World Vision Gyumri Area Development Program (ADP). She also spent one month teaching first aid, trauma assessments and victim removal with the Yerevan Fire Department and Rescue Team. Although originally committed to only six weeks of service, Jamie ended up staying in Armenia for a year to train and mentor.

 Through Jamie’s service she saw Armenia’s needs up close, and envisioned a role for herself in continuing to pass on her skills and knowledge to residents all over the country to fill the observed gaps. She founded a non-profit organization called Aid to Armenia (ATA) in June 2013 to continue and expand upon her work with the emergency medical services in Armenia. In 2015 for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, Jamie designed and implemented the “100 Villages” project throughout Armenia, serving as a first aid teacher to countless Armenians on how to deal with trauma, emergency care, bleeding control, splinting for broken bones, and basic first aid, providing life-saving strategies and skills. In addition to the distribution of over 1,800 first aid kits to the villages and families with the greatest need, she is dedicated to continuing aid training village by village, home to home. Her designated organization for the $1000 award money is Armenian Engineers and Scientists of America (AESA), which will earmark the funds for ATA’s summer project work in Armenia.       

The Give Back Service Award goes to Nelli Martirosyan, 36 (2007).

Nelli was born in Armenia, leaving as a teenager with her family for a new life in Los Angeles, CA. She volunteered at the Ministry of Education and Science while a Birthright Armenia volunteer in the summer of 2007, and ever since, she’s continued on her lifelong path of serving Armenia, specifically in the field of education. She received her BA from Berkeley and MA from Columbia, and has a PhD dissertation in the works from UCLA. In 2008 Nelli spent two months in Karabakh carrying out a “Next Step” Alumni Grant project focused on youth development in Tsmakahogh village in Martakert that empowered, inspired and assisted the village youth to be engaged in meaningful acts of service in their local community. In 2014 Nelli and her husband Stepan co-founded a non-profit organization called Hayrenaser Organization, whose mission is to contribute to the preservation and development of Armenia’s independent statehood by identifying and addressing critical challenges. Hayrenaser’s first project was to completely rebuild and enlarge the school of Lernahovit village in Kashatagh region of Artsakh.  The following summer the organization completely reconstructed the school of Vurgavan village, also in the Kashatagh region; and built a new community administration center along with a health clinic. This project transmitted a new hope to the villagers for a better future in their town, many of whom up until then were thinking about leaving. Today their children are able to study in a modern and comfortable school where their health is not endangered. Hayrenaser’s latest project is the rebuilding of Herik village school in the Moshatagh region, completed and reopened in 2016. It is located 45 kilometers north east of Kashatagh’s central region of Berdzor. To date, Hayrenaser has raised over $350,000 for the renovation of all three schools and another $50,000 that directly supports the family members of our fallen heroes. Nelli’s designated non-profit for the $1000 award money is Hyrenaser.    

We know many more of our alumni are accomplishing great things for your community and homeland, so we are creating a nomination process to help us learn more about those achievements. These awards will be given no more than once a year. Alumni can nominate themselves or submit a fellow alums name to be considered for one of the following categories:


1)      Professional Achievement:  This award recognizes outstanding achievement in any professional field and honors those alumni whose unique professional achievements have brought distinction to themself by adding real benefit to their chosen local communities via their contributions. 

2)      Mentorship Award:  This award recognizes an alumni candidate who has given of their time to share their skills and expertise with others, individually or within an organization.   In doing so, they have provided significant leadership to a community and/or significantly impacted and improved the lives of others.   

3)      Young Philanthropist/Give Back Service:  This award recognizes an alum who has either individually contributed a meaningful amount to an existing NGO or has shown leadership in fundraising for the benefit of others.   

4)      Civic Participation/Public Service:  This award honors alumni who have shown leadership in community affairs and service that has benefited society on the local, state or national level.   

5)      Artistic/Cultural Achievement:  This award recognizes an alum who demonstrates innovative and creative contributions and exemplary commitment and leadership in the field of public art and/or the preservation of Armenian culture.

6)      Spirit of Birthright Armenia Award:  This award recognizes the alum who truly epitomizes both the volunteer spirit and Armenian spirit, and consistently demonstrates an ability and interest to engage and impact his/her community long after community service is completed. 



 Nominations for 2019 recognition awards must be submitted between September 1st  2018 and April 30th, 2019. Announcements will be made in the first quarter of 2019. Please submit answers to the following five questions to alumni@birthrightarmenia.am with the subject line: Alumni Leadership Recognition Award Nominee

1)      Name of BR/AVC alum for consideration, self or other.

2)      Nomination is for which of the six outlined categories?

3)      Reason for nomination including specific actions/projects and length of involvement.

4)      What has changed/improved as a result of the alum’s actions/specific involvement, and how?

5)      Your name and BR/DH year of participation.




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