“I Advocate for Unheard Communities” - Colin Powell Senior Ayyad Algabyali’s Journey From Grassroots Leadership to Public Service

As commencement approaches, there are consistent talks surrounding “what’s next’ for many of our graduates. We caught up with graduating senior Ayyad Alyabyali who is obtaining a double major in International Studies and Political Science and a minor in History to highlight his current experience as a Yemeni-American community advocate to launch a career in government.


Algabyali is currently the Director of Advocacy at the Yemeni American Merchants Association, a nonprofit organization registered in New York, where he serves as the organization’s principal spokesperson in local, state, and federal government and implements strategies to raise awareness about issues of key importance to the community.

Yemeni-American bodega owners stepped into the political spotlight in 2017 with a citywide bodega strike to protest the Trump Administration’s travel ban. They recently pledged to stop selling the New York Post to protest what advocates say is its incitement of Islamophobic sentiment.

Algabyali has helped lead these efforts and is currently advocating for the No Ban Act before the US Congress, which would override President Trump’s executive order prohibiting travelers from several majority-Muslim nations.

The importance of this work extends beyond the Yemeni-American community, according to Algabyali:

I advocate on behalf of unheard communities because I believe it is our duty as citizens of this great nation to live up to our promised democratic values: liberty and freedom, as well as diversity and equality.

“I aspire to advocate for people of all backgrounds to exchange ideas, seek common ground, and build intercultural bridges throughout our community,” he added.

While at the Colin Powell School, Algabyali has completed internships with former New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York’s District 10, and The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia.

Algabyali is also a recipient of the Colin Powell School’s Edward I. Koch Fellowship in Public Service, which provides funding and mentorship to students who dedicate more than 200 hours to unpaid community service.   

“I am very grateful to the Colin Powell School Fellowships Office, which has overwhelmed me with mentorship and empowered me mentally, financially, and educationally,” he said.

“I chose the Powell School because I’m passionate about learning effective ways to promote collaborations among diverse groups, build coalitions, and find fair solutions to common issues facing the global community,” said Algabyali.

In addition to his busy workload as a student, Powell Fellow, and young professional, Algabyali is a recipient of the competitive Gilman International Scholarship. In this role, he is hosting a series of lectures at The Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation, teaching high school students about the importance of civic engagement while also inviting Diplomats, Congressional Staffers, and city government officials as guest speakers.

He plans to continue his commitment to service after he walks the stage at the 2019 Spring graduation

“My name, ‘Ayyad’, means ‘one who leads’ in Arabic,” he said. “As a leader, I will always be interested in identifying ways to harness diversity for the public good.”