Wayne student from West Michigan turns adversity into oratory skill

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by Cynthia Price

As a Shelby High School student with an Egyptian heritage, Haddy Abouzeid found himself defending “an entire group of people” in the weeks after 9-11.

The discovery that he could be good at “defending not just myself but a group of people there was no one else to defend” set in motion his desire for a career in the law, and specifically in criminal trial law.

Now in his third year at Wayne State University Law School and an intern at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, Abouzeid remembers his high school years as challenging after the 2001 attacks. “As the only person of Middle Eastern descent in my high school class, I dealt with issues most of my fellow students never had to face.”

He believes that the suspicion and jokes he endured were mostly the result of ignorance and not malice. “I think a lot of it wasn’t particularly hard-core,” he explains. “I would say a lot of my peers were ignorant on the whole thing. Their view of Arab-Americans was exactly what they say in the media, even prior to 911, thoughts like, ‘Arab-Americans are violent.’ It fueled me to have to get better at communicating and arguing my case.”

Abouzeid knew that if he reacted with insults or raised his fists, it “would only reinforce [the] stereotypes.”

Abouzeid’s bachelor degree is in Political Science from Grand Valley State University, from which he feels he received a great education. “I don’t think I’d want to go anywhere else. The professors all have Ph.D.s and are well-respected in their fields, and you interact directly with them, unlike at a bigger school. I tried to take as many courses with the best profs as I could. I took a lot of international courses, though I have no interest in international law.”

Indeed, Abouzeid’s love of effective argument is what drives him. After graduating from Grand Valley, Abouzeid enrolled at Wayne Law, his preference among several law schools which accepted him.

He joined the law school’s Moot Court organization to hone his skills, and is now the vice-chancellor.

“My involvement with the Moot Court program has undeniably been one of the most rewarding experiences of my law school career,” said Abouzeid. “Moot Court has played an integral role in my ability to analyze and articulate legal arguments with confidence, which is essential in practice.”

However, it his internship with the Wayne County Prosecutor, working as part of the Comprehensive Anti-Gang Unit and before that the Preliminary Examination Division, that has provided him with his richest experience so far.

“I really love being in court, actually arguing in front of judges and going head-to-head with other attorneys. I’ve loved my job at the prosecutor’s office,’ he said.

“I’ve been able to put the knowledge and skills I’ve gained from Wayne Law’s superb faculty in action,” he continued. “I am truly grateful for the opportunity to work with – and learn from – the talented practitioners in the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.”

Comments Assistant Prosecutor Michael Harrison, “Haddy is an outstanding and hard-working young man. His contributions to our office have been significant and he continues to provide invaluable service.”

Abouzeid’s father, an engineer, came to the United States from Egypt when he was in his twenties. He met Abouzeid’s mother, a U.S. citizen, when they were at college in Minnesota.

Regarding recent events in Egypt, Abouzeid says, “I took a particular interest in that -- I’ve been to Egypt several times and Mubarak’s face was plastered all over everything. When you see people rising up against hunger and horrible unemployment, a grassroots movement to shake up the word, it’s really great. My dad is very proud of Egypt.”

Though his parents are now divorced and live in different parts of the county — his mother works in a water quality laboratory in California, his father still as an engineer in Ohio — Abouzeid would very much like to stay in Michigan. “I’m all for getting a job here,” he says. He would like to practice in criminal law.

Abouzeid said he does not run into much discrimination these days, for which he credits Wayne Law School at least in part. “Wayne Law projects and embodies a sincere commitment to cultural diversity, which, after my post-Sept. 11 experience, means a lot to me,” he said.