Only 23, he is a super volunteer who benefits his beloved Moorhead

At 23 years old, Moorhead’s Abdullahi Ali is making a difference in the world.

Abdullahi Ali

Abdullahi Ali

He just accepted the Outstanding Refugee Award from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, under the Civic Engagement category, an honor that recognizes individuals with refugee status whose leadership positively impacts their community and state.

Abdullahi is currently a workforce development case manager for the Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership and has held various titles in the last few years: civic engagement coordinator, youth case manager, communications director and Founder of the Clay County Somalia American caucus, among others. Plus he was part of the recent Blandin Foundation Community Leadership program from Moorhead where, he says, “we work together for the betterment of the community.”

Talk about a busy life!

“What I have gained in education, I am giving back to the community,” Abdullahi says. “I work community event, volunteer in schools, worked with non-profits. I help where ever I can.”

This super-volunteer grew up in Kenya, Africa, in the “world’s largest refugee camp.” At 20 years old, Abdullahi, along with his entire family, were able to join an uncle who was living in Moorhead. “Africa was very hot all the time,” Abdullahi recalls. “In Africa, it was a dream to go to America.”

Needless to say, moving to a new place isn’t easy, but Abdullahi said Moorhead made the transition smoother. “I like the people here,” he said. “They are welcoming people.”

Abdullahi worked on his English and because he had a high school diploma, he was welcomed into M-State, earning a degree in liberal arts. This fall, Abdullahi plans to enroll at Minnesota State University-Moorhead and study computer information systems.

Abdullahi says the biggest challenge for new Americans can be language. “I learned the language in college and I recommend college to others. I am a first generation college student and want to be a role model for others to continue their education.”


He has been especially proud of the work he did earlier this year with Rural Minnesota CEP/Minnesota Department of Employment & Economic Development. Their program, Pathways to Prosperity, was an important project. “We helped many people prepare for high wage jobs in healthcare and manufacturing,” Abdullahi says.

When not working, Abdullahi likes to attend various community events and, he says with a smile, especially ones that have food! He might be working at those events, but being a spectator isn’t bad. Either way, he gets to continue to connect with people.

Live Wide Open has a special meaning for Abdullahi. “I think Live Wide Open means that everybody gets to have a healthy and inclusive community. That’s why I like Moorhead.”