Maya’s passion for early childhood policy is deeply rooted in the community of providers that raised her from an early age. Maya started child care as an infant, and her network of caregivers had a tremendous impact on her life and worldview. By the time she was old enough to work, she took a job in the toddler room of a child care center run by a family friend, and Maya’s career in direct services began.
In college, Maya studied psychology, sociology, and family studies at Central Washington University – Pierce County. Outside of the classroom, Maya connected with a number of teen parents in her community. She leveraged her education and knowledge from lived experience to help them navigate the various challenges they faced as young parents. Ultimately, these experiences gave Maya further insight into the various factors impacting outcomes for people in her community, especially young mothers.
When Maya became a mother herself, the birth of her first child was very traumatic, and she sought out support from other Black mothers with similar experiences. As she learned more about Black maternal health, she developed an interest in formal education on the subject. In 2019, she started a course at Bastyr University to become a doula. As Maya’s knowledge grew, so did her understanding that many members of her community do not have access to the resources and information that could literally save their lives during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Her passion for advocacy was born, and she began identifying spaces where she could educate others on how to utilize and influence the systems in place to support the needs of children and families.
Maya’s skills as an advocate continued to develop as she engaged with systems affecting her growing family. In 2020, she became an Early Head Start (EHS) parent, and was introduced to the WSA Parent Ambassadors program. Maya found strength in the collective voice of these parent-advocates sharing their stories to support their communities’ needs. It was through this program that Maya started to imagine how she could be more directly involved in policy work. With WSA Parent Ambassadors, she also had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. This experience empowered Maya to use her voice to affect policy change, and she began considering a career in the field.
This is when she learned about the Pathwaves Washington Fellowship. Maya was immediately drawn to the Fellowship because there aren’t many pathways for BIPOC women to enter the policy sector. She was excited to be a part of a cohort that identified this problem, developed a plan of action, and created an intentional space for leaders to learn together. Maya was ready to stretch herself and exercise her power as an agent of change at the systems level.
Looking ahead, Maya shares: “For this cohort, I see each of us taking what we have learned and applying it boldly to wherever we land in the early childhood policy space. Knowing that both the support is there, and the need is there, we have to ask ourselves: ‘if not us, then who?’ And this is the question that will keep the program moving forward with each cohort. Slowly, as our impact grows, it will become easier for other BIPOC people entering the early childhood policy field.
“At Washington Communities for Children, I am looking to be a bridge between the worlds of direct service and the policy and advocacy realm. It is essential that community leaders are driving policy making. It has been such a learning experience to see how many gaps exist in services to children and families. And, if community voice isn’t fully considered it leads to inequitable distribution of funds, further widening gaps in services for families. I want to bridge the gaps and ensure families are receiving vital services so that our communities can thrive.”