THO Team

Turkish Heritage Organization (THO) , a non-profit organization working to promote discussion and dialogue around issues of importance in the U.S.-Turkey bilateral relationship as well as Turkey’s role in the international community.

Ali Cinar

President, Turkish Heritage Organization and Senior Diplomatic Journalist

A Turkish American, Cinar has dedicated much of his life to Turkish American causes and joined THO to help advance U.S.-Turkey relations. He has served as the President of the Federation of Turkish American Associations (FTAA) as well as the Northeast Vice President of the Assembly of Turkish American Association. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke praised Cinar’s leadership of the FTAA, noting that under his leadership, “this Federation has become a well-known and respected institution in our community.”
Ali Cinar has  been in journalism since 2002 starting with Turk of America Magazine ( which is the first Turkish-American magazine in the U.S. He has also  half page column called “Agenda in the U.S.” at Milliyet Newspaper that is one of the most well-known Turkish daily newspapers published in Istanbul, Turkey since 1950.  ( ) He has been broadcasting for Turkish TV Channels such as CNNTurk as a journalist since 2018.

He also has been writing articles and news for the Turkish Journal since 2011. He is a credentialed reporter with the United Nations,NYPD and the U.S. State Department and has been published in international publications including Washington Post, World Affairs, Washington Times, U.S News, SAIS (John Hopkins University Publication), The Jerusalem Post, NBC News(quotation), The Politico Europe (quotation), Fox News(quotation), The Hill, Daily Caller and many more.

He is a member of United Nations Correspondent Association, American Press Association, NY Press Club, Association of Foreign Correspondents in the USA  and Society of Professional Journalist.
Ali Cinar was testified at the U.S. Congress on Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee in 2016 and 2017. He appeared on PBS News Hour, CBNC, FOX Business,  Fox News Radio, Bloomberg TV, Bloomberg Radio, BBC TV, BBC Radio, NewsMax TV, Al Jazeera English, Canada TV, Al Jazeera Arabic, I24 News, Voice of America, France 24, CGTV, SkyNews, CNN Turk, NTV, Haberturk TV, A News, TRT Haber, Ekoturk TV, TRT World and Halk TV.
Over the course of his career, Cinar has earned a number of accolades including Leader of the Year by the Assembly of Turkish American Association, One of the Top 10 Most Successful Young People by Junior Chamber International (JCI), and one of the 50 Most Influential Turkish Americans by Turk of America Magazine.

Ali Cinar was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2019 and was the youngest Turkish American to receive this distinction in over 30 years.He recently also received a "Community Service Award' by NYPD MT&S.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from the Istanbul University, Cinar moved to the United States to continue his education. While completing his master’s degree at the University of New Haven, he worked as a Research Assistant at​ the Communication Department and Center of Professional Ethics.

During that time he also served as the President of the International Students Association and was awarded the “Outstanding International Student” Award.
Cinar has earned various executive certificates from Harvard University, MIT and New York University.
Savannah Lane

Executive Director, Turkish Heritage Organization

Born in Houston, Texas and raised in Richmond, Virginia Savannah Lane found her passion for politics and understanding the realm of international advocacy at a young age when she became Virginia’s inaugural ANNPower Fellow (a program created by Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright). Through this program Savannah was exposed to leaders from around the world and worked with mentors as an ANNPower national grant winner.

Savannah went on to study Foreign Affairs/Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Virginia, serve as a Resident Advisor and work for a Senate reelection campaign doing research surrounding foreign policy issues.  Savannah continued her work in the political realm as a program associate at a political consulting firm working in digital media, social media, outreach, event planning and fundraising. 

Through Savannah’s extensive service and advocacy work she won the title of Miss Virginia 2015 in the Miss America Organization and worked in media realms with Dick Clark Productions, national nonprofits, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, the American Heart Association and more. Through this opportunity Savannah won talent and Quality of Life award designations for her service and commitment to the community. 

Savannah moved to Washington D.C. after she was one of eight women selected from across the country to serve as a Star Fellow for Running Start in a congressional office. Through this program, Savannah honed her communication and strategy skills, mentored and trained to run for political office and advocated for women in underrepresented fields.

Savannah has continued her efforts in the space of international relations and transatlantic security serving as a media commentator on international news outlets, and further advocating for women in the field of international security and unrepresented industries.

 As one of ten Americans selected for a unique fellowship in conflict resolution/peace/security negotiations, Savannah trained in Morocco further developing her passion for international policy and advocacy work surrounding conflict resolution and peace negotiation. 

Savannah is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Security and was recently selected as one of 25 international leaders to take part in the Aspen Institute’s NextGen Leadership Network surrounding the transatlantic initiatives.

Savannah also serves as the founder of the group Women of Washington to allow and foster mentorship and empowerment for young professional women interested in politics in foreign affairs. 

Savannah is eager to use her unique experiences and passion for international relations to help promote an understanding of the importance of NATO, Turkish and American relations through her role at the THO. 

Kyla Russell

Communications and Media Intern

Kyla Russell is an undergraduate student in Multimedia Journalism and News at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. She initially found her interest in politics after coordinating blood drives in her community, realizing the impact thoughtful and principled leadership has on localities. Kyla recently completed an internship on Capitol Hill. Additionally, she serves as the News editor of her student publication, The Echo. Having served on a state senate campaign in 2020, she was compelled to serve her school as a student senator. Each of these experiences furthers her interests in political communication, cultural diversity, and foreign policy. 

With these passions, Kyla hopes to gain a deeper understanding of the NATO Alliance and US-Turkey relations and effectively contribute to ongoing discussions. 

Victoria Henson

Victoria Henson is a current graduate student in International Relations at the University of San Diego in San Diego, CA. She was a part of her university’s dual degree BA/MA program in which she graduated with her B.A. in International Relations from the University of San Diego this past Spring. Victoria’s passion for politics and International Relations finds its roots in her participation and leadership in Model United Nations. Victoria was the president of her university’s Model UN program all four years of undergrad and attended conferences across the US.

She fell in love with learning about current events, exercising diplomacy, and most importantly – learning how to help solve the world’s most pressing issues. This involvement has guided Victoria’s passions of US foreign policy, international diplomacy, and international security. In which she has made these topics the focus of her education. Victoria is excited for the opportunity to intern for the Turkish Heritage Organization as she hopes to learn more about US-Turkish relations and its essential role in Eurasian security and make meaningful contributions to current discourse. 
Sammie Ellard

Sammie Ellard was born and raised in Northern California and is an undergraduate student at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo on the Central Coast of California. She is earning a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Global Politics and a minor in French. Sammie has a deep enthusiasm about international affairs and global politics due to her extensive travels throughout Europe and courses at university. Sammie has appreciated learning about the significance of shared histories and present-day events in international affairs as well as the necessity of a diverse cohort in forming foreign policy.

As a participant of The Washington Center’s Summer Internship Program, Sammie hopes to diversify her knowledge of foreign policy and explore her aspirations in the field of international affairs. She hopes to use her experiences and knowledge to bring new ideas and analyses while gaining a diverse understanding of US-Turkey relations and NATO policies.

Samuel Guider

Sam grew up around the Boston area and is an undergraduate student from Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island. He is a Senior earning a degree in applied economics with a concentration in political science and a minor in information systems. Being a member of the international honors society for economics and national honors society for political science at his university, Sam believes these fields of study are better together than separate.  

Economic development and environmental economics are two subsects within economics Sam is passionate about both in and out of the classroom. Most importantly, Sam is eager to learn more about international relations first-hand during his time with the Turkish Heritage Organization and the impact that the US-Turkey relationship can have on the global economy.

Alec Becker

Alec Becker is an undergraduate student at the University of Connecticut. He plans to obtain a B.A. in political science ahead of his final year of education, and go on to attend graduate school for national security and foreign affairs. Alec’s interest in international politics stems from global conflict zones and political violence that he began to observe at a young age. The Middle East frequently engages in armed conflicts between state and non-state actors which is why Turkey’s role in the region is such a suitable fit for him. He acknowledges the significance of Turkey’s alliance with the U.S. and why Turkey is responsible for the proliferation of stability within the Middle East. He hopes that his passion for armed conflict and political violence will add a unique perspective to his internship program.  

Alec looks forward to his time at the THO in order to gain real insight into how foreign policy is conducted and to be exposed to members of the D.C. community. He has no doubt that the THO will supply him with the skills and experience needed for a career in international politics after graduation. 

Alyssa Kuraishi

Alyssa Kuraishi is an undergraduate student in Political Science with a focus on International Security at the University of Washington in Seattle. She speaks Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese and has a passion for current events relating to security and diplomacy as well as domestic politics. She previously worked at a nonpartisan US politics research organization, has helped organize Japanese-American community-building events, and serves as the Vice-President of her school’s Vocal Jazz Club. Through her time at the Turkish Heritage Organization, she hopes to gain a greater understanding of the potential in US-Turkish relations and of the importance of NATO and International collaboration.