Maya Siegel: Writer, Survivor, Environmental Advocate

Maya Siegel is an 18-year-old survivor and environmental advocate from Evergreen, Colorado. She is the co-founder of Space to Speak, an organization that creates consent curriculum and is a resource specifically for young survivors. Aside from that, she is an editor at Lune Magazine and the Secretary for ThinkOcean. Maya is currently working part-time with Shiffon as a marketing intern and part-time as a research intern for a law firm in Colorado. She is also a 2019 State of Young People Youth Delegate. In her spare time, Maya enjoys exploring her creative side through writing and digital design.

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“I started Space to Speak hoping to help other young survivors feel less alone because, for me, that was the hardest part. My community is small; I didn’t know who to talk to about what had happened. I didn’t want to confide in an adult and, though I knew that sexual violence is statistically very common, I didn’t personally know anyone who was going through a similar experience.”

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Maya’s first experience with sexual violence happened the summer before high school; she was barely 14 years old.  In the years that followed, she struggled with feeling comfortable with her body, sleeping at night, and being physically intimate. It wasn’t until five years after her first experience that she decided to speak on the issue of sexual violence. She started writing articles and, in doing so, she realized that she was finally comfortable enough to address what had happened. In February, Maya and her co-founder, Alex Hooten, launched Space to Speak, which works to mandate sexual health education in Colorado, create a national definition for consent, and amplify young voices on the topic of sexual violence. Since then, they have connected with hundreds of youth through their #whyicare campaign, which calls upon their peers to share what the importance of continuing conversations surrounding sexual violence is to them. Most recently, Space to Speak members Maya and Zaynab Elkolaly were featured in MTV for discussing their experiences as survivors.

While this is Maya’s first year as co-founder of Space to Speak, her passion toward advocacy and social justice was ignited in the heels of the 2016 Presidential Election.

“I remember watching the election in my living room. I didn’t expect Trump to win... no one really did. After watching all night though and seeing Pennsylvania and Florida turn red, I knew that Hillary had lost. I cried that night.”

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As for many, the 2016 Presidential Election sparked a fire in Maya. It was the first time she realized the importance of voting and the importance of being politically engaged. She started with the small things: watching the news, researching the government structure, talking with people that have a perspective that differed from her own. Then, in the spring of 2018, she reached out to Ben May, the founder of ThinkOcean—an organization that connects young environmentalists—for advice. Maya joined the team that spring and in October traveled to Orlando with Ben to accept the Youth Environmental Excellence Award.

“Without ThinkOcean I would never have realized how powerful I could be as a young person. Thank you, Ben for giving me the chance to turn my passion into action.”

Maya has never seen her work as simply “activism.” She considers it as much a part of her life as academics or athletics. For her, being informed about current issues isn’t enough. Her career goals involve environmental nonprofit work as well as continuing to grow Space to Speak so that she can work to reduce sexual violence by furthering sex education and consent education.

“When I was in middle school, I was painfully shy. Now, I’m the co-founder of an organization that amplifies young voices. I’m so grateful for everyone that has helped me find the confidence to share my views with the world and take a stand on the causes I believe in. In sharing my story, I hope to inspire others to do the same -even the shy ones that are terrified of public speaking just like I was.”