Maya is a third-year majoring in Political and Social Thought with minors in Arabic and Global Sustainability. In addition to being captain of the UVA Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team, Maya is a Career Peer Educator in the Career Center's Public Service and Government Career Community. She also volunteers with the Virginia Poverty Law Center to help Virginians facing eviction to receive legal information and aid, and currently works closely with a family of Syrian refugees in Charlottesville who are facing financial hardship due to COVID. She helps their two children with online school and English tutoring in return for help learning Arabic and delicious Syrian recipes.
What led to your interest in public service?
My parents were both foreign correspondents which means that they were journalists in different countries. This job requires connecting with communities and uplifting voices that are silenced. The practice of community building and communication was instilled in me from a young age.
What has been the most rewarding aspect that comes with your community involvements?
To me, it is incredibly rewarding to give back to communities that have given so much to me. I think that local cooperation and collaboration and aid is the most important building block of society, and it makes me excited to contribute to that. One thing that's been especially rewarding through the eviction helpline is talking to people over the phone and making them feel listened to and heard. For many, I am the first "real voice" they've gotten a chance to talk to, and that's incredibly valuable.
How has the virtual transition affected your involvements? Has your definition of service remained the same?
The virtual transition has both helped and hurt my volunteering opportunities. It's difficult to not be able to connect with people face to face. It's hard not to shake hands or give hugs. But, it has also freed up my schedule a little bit to be more available. I make more phone calls and use cool Zoom features to make tutoring more effective. I think my definition of service – do good when and where you can – has remained the same.
How would you encourage others to get involved?
I think it's important to find a form of service related to your interests. A lot of the clubs at UVA are involved in their own service projects, so you can find service opportunities through activities and groups that you already may be a part of.
Additionally, service doesn't have to be a structured hour-long project. It can be picking up trash on a walk or offering a meal to an unhoused person on the Corner on your way home from class.
What has been the greatest class you have taken at UVA?
Last year, I took African American Political Thought with Professor Balfour. It was challenging, interesting, and important. It was one of the first classes at UVA where every single reading changed the way I thought and prompted me to want to learn more.
Another class I loved was Sustainable Environments in the Middle East and South Asia. Professor Farmer is amazing at incorporating sociology and anthropology with real-world, scientific problems, and I learned so much in that class.
What is your favorite UVA tradition?
Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn is my favorite tradition because there is nothing better than babies and puppies in costumes. I could sit and people-watch during Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn for hours.
If you could do one thing to make the world a better place, what would it be?
I would wave a magic wand and make every powerful person believe that climate change is real and make them take action immediately.