Student Profile: Aquib Yacoob '15
At age 16 Aquib Yacoob ’15 addressed the United Nations General Assembly regarding illicit small arms and weapons. At 17 he was a founding member of the Occupy Wall Street movement. At 18 Yacoob started his freshman year at Colby, organized a high-profile event, and almost immediately became known on campus for his activism.
Sounds like Yacoob is a fictional student created by an admissions office, right?
He’s as real as it gets. Yacoob was born in Guyana but a New York City resident for the past 10 years. When he was only two months into his first year at Colby, he had a résumé most would envy. “Aquib is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met,” said Emily Berner ’15.
It seems Colby was the perfect choice for this socially active New Yorker—amazing, considering Yacoob never visited campus before he decided to apply early decision. He says he got goose bumps just reading about the school. When he visited “rant sites” where students write about what they hate and love about colleges, everything that Colby students hated he loved and everything they loved he loved too. "There were complaints about students always tabling for something they could never change," Yacoob said. He was happy to see that, because it meant that students on campus were politically active. “A lot of people are surprised. They say, ‘You didn’t visit the boonies of Maine?’ I had read that the campus itself is something that would make the deal, not break it. I wasn’t worried.”
Yacoob doesn’t seem to worry much, instead pouring his energy into all that he does. As a leader of Colby’s chapter of Amnesty International, Yacoob has already organized many successful events. At his first, a rally in support of the now deceased Troy Davis, more than 70 Colby students and staff members turned out to see the guest speaker and show their support for Davis, a convicted murderer who maintained his innocence and gained the support of many notable people and organizations.
Yacoob was impressed by the turnout, and he sees Colby as a school where students are actively engaged in the world off of the hill. His role, he says, is turning these conversations into action. “There are many things going on, and we understand people’s lives are busy, and all they need sometimes is someone to bring that to the table.”
That’s what Yacoob has done, and the impact goes beyond the student body. Recently Colby’s chapter of Amnesty was recognized for its advocacy work in 2011, winning third place in the organization's Human Rights Ambassador Challenge. Megan Lasher ’15, vice president of Amnesty at Colby, says the group is inspired by Yacoob’s leadership. "He wouldn't tell you,” said Lasher, “but his accomplishments are astounding. Not only does he hold an important job with the international organization, but he has also done incredible things like present to the UN and be a guest on CNN."
College students find all kinds of ways to dive into the community, and it was no different for Yacoob. Beyond managing Amnesty, Yacoob is a northeast regional leader in training for Amnesty. He balances his college course load with organizing and presenting at conferences around the country for that organization. He is a member of the Oak Fellow Student Advisory Board, the student and faculty group charged with choosing an Oak Fellow for Human Rights as a faculty fellow each fall.
In November of his first year, Yacoob partnered with Director of the Pugh Center Tashia Bradley and Oak Fellow Fatima Burnad to bring 19 Colby students to the Boston Amnesty summit. Yacoob held a workshop titled, “What’s going on with Guantanamo?” and Burnad spoke about her work with India’s untouchable caste. He said all students actively took part in the workshops and panels, and “they came back motivated and ready to act for social justice and social change.”
Yacoob loved all of his first-year classes—perhaps because he was developing an independent major on a premed track. Yacoob is calling his major International Medicine—a mix of “anthropology, languages, peace conflict studies, and more languages,” not to mention all of the science required to apply to medical school in a few years.
Balancing club work and schoolwork is possible thanks to the people Yacoob cited as his dorm mates—one of the best parts about his first year at Colby, he says. As a resident of Goddard Hodgkins (“GoHo”), Yacoob said all the personalities of the first-year students there just aligned and that “we’re known to be the dorm that adopts.” With that adopted family as support, Yacoob said he had plenty of energy to continue to be an active leader on campus.
And the Colby community inspires Yacoob to stay active. “What I’ve found is that students do care. There are a lot of other things in their lives that may take their time, but once issues are brought to their attention it’s not something they brush aside. It’s within them somewhere—it’s just, you find the drive.”
With Yacoob as a role model of what an activist looks like, look for more students finding that drive.