By Sarina D. ’19
Maya Segal may only be a sophomore, but she is already emerging as a leader of the next generation. From organizing and speaking at the March for Our Lives San Francisco, to leading the Crystal student walkout last year, Maya’s passion for politics has inspired other young people to take action and advocate for what they care about. And this is just the beginning for the Bay Area teen.
For as long as Maya can remember, politics has been a common household subject for the Segal family. Maya explained, “I used to live near a big intersection where people would protest various measures and propositions, so whenever we passed them, my parents would talk about the relevant issues. I really like being aware of what’s going on around me, as I feel much more in touch with the world.”
Maya discovered her strongest passion in advocating for gun control after recognizing that she was disgusted by the normalization of gun violence, especially in schools. So, when she saw that the students at Parkland were launching a student-led March after the tragedy last February, she created an account for a San Francisco March for Our Lives, and teamed up with a local activist couple to put on the event. With the support of adults, she ended up working on securing permits for the event, running social media, picking the student speaker lineup, and talking to media outlets.
The Crystal sophomore was the first speaker at the rally, meaning she got to do an introduction and explain logistics to the crowd of thousands of people. But preparing for this event was no walk in the park. Maya and her peers, she FaceTimed a Ted Talk coach to get public speaking tips, and worked tirelessly for weeks before the event to ensure that everything would run smoothly. When asked if speaking in front of a large crowd of people was nerve-wracking, Maya responded, “In general, I’m not too scared about public speaking, but I didn’t know what to expect when there were tens of thousands of people. The first couple of seconds when I started were kind of scary, but after that, I wasn’t scared at all. I realized that everyone was there to listen to us and support us rather than judge us. To be honest, I’ve been on student government at Crystal since 6th grade and I’ve nervously shaken way more in every single one of those speeches that I did at this one. It was nice to start off the rally with a boost of confidence and energy”.
And Maya’s energy has continued to take her into the world of activism, as she was looped into a greater network of student activists. After the march, she worked on another event related to gun violence with other students in the Bay Area and joined the official March for our Lives organization. Her favorite forum for communicating her beliefs, however, has been participating in a Bay Area radio show in which she received the opportunity to talk about gun violence and potential solutions with three other students. “It was so cool to have a forum to have that conversation with people from different backgrounds, as well as discuss issues brought up by callers,” Maya explained.
But Maya hasn’t fulfilled all of her goals yet. She hopes to continue working on events related to gun violence and to join Change the Ref, an organization that centers on art installations and performances to make progress in gun-control legislation. Maya told Gazette, “At this point, I’m primarily thinking about the 2020 elections and am hoping to help a campaign as we start getting closer, because realistically, to make real change we need to see new leadership all across Washington.”
While Maya does have large goals for her future in activism, she is still, first and foremost, a high school student. She told us, “It’s been a little difficult to balance these activism-related things and everything else in my life. Last year during the month before the March, I was really checked out of school, and while I wouldn’t exchange the experience for anything, it was hard to pay attention in class and my grades did suffer a bit. I think my priority right now is focusing on school and everything I’ve already got going on, but beyond high school, I hope to be more involved.”
Maya hopes to communicate to her audience that you’re never too young to start making change, no matter what you’re passionate about. And she hopes that other students will follow in her footsteps, one post, one event, and one conversation at a time.