Young philanthropic leaders today are tasked with a different set of rules in an evolving and complex world. They must lead with kindness, confidence, humility and intelligence. Above all else, they must possess the courage to continue to fight for their cause against the weight of societal pressures and growing up. Maya ‘24 does this with a particular warmth and cheerfulness that is almost contagious. She is fighting to be in the last generation to see cancer—a generation that promotes literacy in under-resourced public schools—a generation that truly enjoys giving back. Community engagement is a core component of the Friends Mission (all Upper School students are required to complete 25 hours of service per year). But Maya doesn’t limit herself to a number. “It doesn’t feel like an obligation. Being able to give back fills me with so much gratitude,” she says.
Maya began her journey at Friends in Kindergarten. In her Lower School years, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. During her treatment, her mother was inspired to work with Cycle for Survival
, which supports pioneering research and lifesaving clinical trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) where she was a patient. As a family they participated in the cycling event (Maya was only in second grade at the time). Service is a core value in her family, and she felt the call to give back to the doctors and researchers who saved her mother's life. She explains, “My mother’s cancer diagnosis forced me to grow up fast, but the silver lining is that it motivated me to get involved in fundraising for two incredible charities and to support cancer research.”
They still work with the organization long after her mother’s recovery, leading a team and raising an incredible $387,000 within nine years. Maya explains, “Volunteering for Cycle for Survival has been incredibly rewarding, and it has inspired me to want to engage in community service throughout my life.”
Maya has since branched out into some of her own personal philanthropic initiatives. She and her sister put their combined efforts toward the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS)
They hosted events and partnered with local businesses to raise money for their campaign, working tirelessly within the research tier of the nonprofit. They raised over $60,000 in a seven-week fundraising period and were honored with the Research Mission Pillar Award at the culminating Student Visionaries of the Year Gala.
Maya’s love of reading influenced her to partner with Project Cicero
, a non-profit annual book drive that creates and supplements classroom and school libraries in under-resourced New York City public schools. Friends has been involved with the organization since its inception 22 years ago, and Maya has been a tireless volunteer since she started at the School. When she was in Lower School, she distributed fliers at drop off to remind families to bring in books for donation. Then in the Lower and Middle School, she helped coordinate efforts to collect and organize the books. Maya also works alongside her mother and sister at the Early Readers Table each year distributing the books to the teachers that she knows the students will enjoy.
If Maya wasn’t busy enough, she is also a teacher and music intern at a Hebrew school for the past four years, connecting children with music and Judaism while also developing her copywriting and administrative skills. Connecting service with her own career goals and interests has been pivotal.
Annah Heckman, CPEJ Specialist for Community Engagement, explains, “Maya exemplifies the Friends spirit with her dedication to community engagement both inside and outside of the School. She is truly someone who lives the mission of ‘bringing about a world that ought to be.’ We’re excited to see what she does next!”