YOUth In Power - Maya Siegel

Image:    Maya Siegel

Image: Maya Siegel

Youth hold more power than adults and even we, on an individual level, often realize. We are an underused resource for hope and innovation.
— Maya Siegel

Maya Siegel is a 19-year-old activist and world changer - from her work to spark dialogue about sexual violence as the founder of Space To Speak, her work with incredible youth organizations, and empowering young people to embrace their failures, she is truly the embodiment of defiance.

I’m passionately involved with many organizations, notably Space to Speak, ThinkOcean, Lune Magazine, GenZ Girl Gang and (of course) Defiant. 

ThinkOcean: Currently, I am the Secretary of the board of directors for ThinkOcean and am also part of the creative team. Recently, I redesigned our website and now work to further maintain and improve it. Before becoming Secretary, I was the Northwest Regional Coordinator meaning that I worked to organize and mentor chapters in Washington, Oregon, and California. 

Lune Magazine: I am an editor for Lune Magazine, so I aid the writers in polishing their articles. On average, I edit about 5-8 articles per week. 

GenZ Girl Gang: I am the Design Lead for GenZ Girl Gang! I designed our website from scratch and now work to maintain it. 

This year, Maya founded Space To Speak, an organization dedicated to destigmatize conversations around sexual violence - with youth at the forefront.

Image:    Space To Speak

Image: Space To Speak

Space to Speak is an organization that serves as a resource for youth created by youth. We want to show young survivors that they are not alone and that they have peer support. Additionally, we work at a cultural and legislative level to dismantle the stigma surrounding sexual violence through consent education curriculum, multi-media campaigns, and the push for a national definition of consent. 

The best way to get involved is through our website (spacetospeak.org)! Those interested can apply to join our team, become a partner, or help with our magazine. The magazine will be digital and print and will consist of letters to survivors, a consent curriculum kit, art of all forms, and articles about intersecting issues.

Maya initiated the Okay To Fail campaign to normalize failure and rejection in a progressive way - the campaign seeks to share and admit to failures, and use those experiences to move forward, learn, and grow. The #okaytofail campaign empowers young people to share their college rejection letters, low test marks, and unaccepted applications. At its core, the campaign enables youth to accept and acknowledge failure, using it as a tool to achieve success.

Failure is as much a part of life as success is! The goal of #okaytofail is to show people that everyone misses opportunities, has weaknesses, and deals with rejection. That’s normal and nothing to be ashamed of. 

Image:    Maya Siegel

Image: Maya Siegel

For other budding activists, Maya warns against the imposter syndrome that can often discourage young people.

Imposter syndrome will get in your way more than anything else, so try to avoid comparing your work and accomplishments to those of other changemakers. Moreover, embrace your strengths and know your worth. You deserve to take up space in any room.

Maya’s journey is one of defiance, resilience, and noncompliance to the boundaries placed on her. We are inspired by her courage and willingness to “defy” societal expectations and cultural norms - remaining unafraid to confront injustices, challenges, and stigmas.

I’m not afraid to be untraditional, whether it’s the choices I’m making or the rooms I’m taking up space in. For instance, I took up a sport that I had never tried competitively in my junior year even though many advised against it. At my first meet, I was ranked last out of the 350 athletes competing, but I was okay with that because I was trying my best. Moreover, I have recently decided to double major and pursue an art degree. I’d never considered myself an artist, but I want to make a career in graphic design. I don’t limit myself to the identities I hold because I know I have the potential to embrace more. I can be a designer and an athlete, I don’t have to limit myself to one or the other.