Who We Are

The Association of Young Americans (AYA)

is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership-based organization with one mission: to give young people control of their future.

We have full-time, registered lobbyists working around-the-clock in Washington to advance policies that improve the lives of young people aged 18-35--specifically those related to student debt, climate change, and healthcare.

Our strength is in our numbers. We are 30,000+ members strong, spanning across all 50 states. Our lobbying team listens closely to our membership’s wants and needs and communicates those wants and needs directly to lawmakers to amplify young voices at all levels of government. We work to get young people involved directly in the political process, offering tools for advocacy as well as grassroots lobbying training.

We make young voices heard.

Past Accomplishments

2016

AYA was founded

AYA's founder Ben Brown created AYA on a single idea: if a lobbyist could walk into a room supported by millions of young people, it would change the game entirely. (2021 Update: we've changed the game entirely.)
2020

Suspension on Student Loan Payments

Along with advocating for complete student loan debt cancelation, AYA urged Congress at the beginning of the pandemic to immediately halt all student loan payments. Since March 2020, all federally held student debt payments have been on pause due to the fallout from COVID-19 in order to give borrowers a financial break during these difficult times, especially young people who may have just entered the workforce.
2020

Employer Participation in Repayment Act

The Employer Participation in Repayment Act (EPRA) was introduced by Senators Thune & Warner and Reps. Peters & Davis to incentivize employers to help pay off their employees’ student loans. The bill offered a tax credit to employees to help pay down their employees’ student debt. AYA worked directly with a large number of Congressional offices to help get EPRA enacted. In 2020, the bill was passed into law as part of the CARES Act COVID relief package, a huge win for student borrowers.
2021

Student debt cancelled for defrauded borrowers

Over several years, AYA campaigned and lobbied in defense of student borrowers defrauded by for-profit colleges. Delays from the Department of Education in reviewing loan-forgiveness claims meant that victims of fraud did not receive the relief they deserved. Finally, President Joe Biden cancelled $500 million in student loan debt for defrauded borrowers, a huge win for student borrowers and advocates.
2021

Extension on student loan payment suspension

AYA worked with our higher education partners to lobby the Biden administration for an extension on the pause on student loan payments (originally initiated due to the COVID-19 pandemic), while advocating for broad scale cancellation at the end of the suspension period. The Biden administration twice extended the pause, which officially ends on January 31, 2022.
2021

Public Service Loan Forgiveness program overhaul

Originally created to offer student loan forgiveness to those working in public service fields, flaws in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program's administration and implementation have meant that only 2% of all applicants have actually received relief. For years, AYA has amplified our members' PSLF complaints, and worked with a PSLF-focused coalition to advocate for fixes to the program. In 2021, the Biden administration announced a planned overhaul to the program which will improve and facilitate the PSLF application process, and offer retroactive student debt relief to tens of thousands of previously rejected borrowers.

Our Team

Ben Brown

Founder and Advisor

Ben is the Founder and former Executive Director of AYA. He started AYA to give young people a seat at the political decision-making table, and continues to support AYA as an advisor.

Lisa Giordano

Executive Director

As AYA's Director, Lisa makes sure that AYA is meeting our legislative goals and best serving our membership. Lisa has been with AYA since the very beginning, originally working in comms to establish AYA's voice.

Ally Talcott

Legislative Council

Ally is AYA's fierce lobbyist advocating on Capitol Hill to advance the issues we care about. Ally works closely with our coalition allies, staff on the Hill, and press to make sure the policies that will affect positive change for young Americans are being enacted into law.

Albert Samreth

Web Designer

Albert is an artist and web designer, part of the design practice Collection Agency. He made the thing that you're clicking on.

Michael Ray-Von

Web Developer

Michael is an artist and web developer, part of the design practice Collection Agency. He made the thing that you're clicking on.

Emily Shetty

Legislative Council

A political and advocacy insider, Emily supports AYA's healthcare agenda on Capitol Hill. With nearly a decade and a half of political and policy experience at the federal, state and local levels, Emily works hard to ensure AYA's priorities are heard by the right people.

Galia Basail

Design

Galia is a designer and artist with footing in social practice. She centers her work on establishing and growing AYA’s visual identity with accessible, relatable, and playful designs for all platforms.

Layla Fassa

Communications

Layla is AYA's "very online" communications manager. She works to keep AYA's membership informed and engaged across digital platforms and to strengthen partnerships within AYA's coalitions.

Board of Directors

Tylik McMillan

Tylik McMillan

Tylik is the National Director of Youth and College and Senior Policy Advisor for the National Action Network, one of the nation's leading civil rights organizations. He works to educate lawmakers and stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities facing communities by advocating for more resources and policies that help advance economic and social equality.

Jessica Riestra

Jessica Riestra

Jessica is a community organizer who has worked with organizations such as March for Our Lives and the California Democratic Party. Her passion is working within the community to uplift it.

Graeme Strickland

Graeme Strickland

Graeme is government and public sector consultant based out of D.C. He currently serves on the Youth Advisory Board for Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, Speak Truth to Power, which aims to engage, educate, and equip young activists with human rights education and tools for organizing.

Stefani Alexander

Stefani Alexander

Stefani is a PR professional who develops and implements thoughtful comms strategies for her clients and helps them effectively engage key stakeholders. She enjoys mentoring students & young professionals and using her expertise to give back to her community, focusing on socioeconomic justice.

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