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Abdullah Aljanabi isn’t letting his age interfere with his ambitions

Thursday, February 29, 2024 12:00 AM

Abdullah Aljanabi
Abdullah Aljanabi

Abdullah Aljanabi isn’t letting his age interfere with his ambitions

At 17, Abdullah Aljanabi has the usual interests:  playing soccer, going to movies and spending time with family and friends.  But he’s also taking high school and college classes simultaneously, engaging his peers in the democratic process and furthering his uncle’s legacy of service to others.

“I consider him my greatest role model.” said Aljanabi, whose maternal uncle was forced by war to leave the University of Baghdad Law School after just a year to seek asylum in the U.S., ultimately picking up where he left off and founding a nonprofit legal aid and support society in San Francisco. “I cherish his story of helping others.”

Engaging with democracy

Aljanabi is already creating a life that is centered on the same principles. He is dual enrolled at Macomb and Cousino High School and will receive an associate degree a year after his high school diploma. He intends to transfer to Oakland University and earn the required bachelor’s degree to enter law school. Meanwhile, he is serving as Macomb’s Democracy Fellow, part of the national Campus Vote Project, providing his peers with the knowledge they need to participate in the election process, and serving as president of the Civic Engagement Alliance, a new student organization at Macomb. He also attends national conferences with fellows from other colleges across the U.S. and is invited to events that impact high school and college students, including the recent signing of a state bill to allow 17-year-olds to preregister to vote.

“As I learn more about political science, what has surprised me is the profound influence policy making has on our lives at various levels: nationally, state-wide, and locally,” said Aljanabi. “Understanding the decisions made by policymakers and their impact on our day-to-day experiences has been truly eye-opening.”

Following his uncle’s lead

Aljanabi is the youngest of three with parents who are “hardworking and kind-hearted.” They have supported him in his decision to become an attorney, as well as the one he made two years ago to enroll in the Early College of Macomb.

“I’m so glad I took this route. I’m pursuing opportunities that I’m passionate about while still in high school,” said Aljanabi. “I value the opportunity to build relationships with my professors, who’ve been extraordinary.  They never hesitate to share their experiences, which has provided me with valuable insights.”

Aljanabi is already applying some of those insights in his role as a Democracy Fellow and is grateful that, unlike his uncle, he hasn’t had to put his ambitions on hold.  Just as his role model was “inspired by the liberty and possibilities” he found in the United States, the 17-year-old feels empowered by the same.

“I have the chance to use my understanding of the legal system to assist others,” said Aljanabi. “I believe helping others is an invaluable aspect of practicing law.”