Maya Egan takes action on issues that she’s passionate about
“I was driving home from school. It was rainy and gray out and I was listening to NPR,” says Maya Egan, 18, remembering a day not long after the violent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. “They were talking about the people who died, and I thought—this just keeps happening and nothing seems to be done about it.”
This particular moment stuck with Egan, a Freeport High School senior, and in a meeting to discuss her senior project with classmate Maya Bradbury the topic came up. At this point, the duo had heard about the school walkouts planned for March 14. Egan expressed her desire to participate, and not long thereafter, they launched a Facebook event to reach the fellow students.
Ultimately, many Maine schools were closed on March 14 due to a snowstorm, but Egan still gathered with her classmates on Freeport’s Main Street. She estimates about 50 students showed up with 20 parents who joined in.
“I feared no one was going to come, so I was really surprised people showed up,” says Egan. “We were on the side of the road, in the snow, chanting, and it struck me that we were actually doing something. It was not just being talked about any more. We were displaying it.”
“We made our statement, but we can’t let it die. We need to keep talking about this because, if we don’t, nothing is going to get done.”
Growing up, Egan recalls talking about politics with her parents, older brother and older sister. After the November 2016 presidential election, her casual interest in politics turned into a passion. Prior to organizing the March 14 walkout-turned-snow-day-rally, she attended a protest against President Trump’s ban on immigration. Maya was especially excited to be old enough to register to vote and cast her first ballot in November 2017.
“(Maya) is very passionate and motivated to bring about change to better our world and its people,” says Dede Bennell, Freeport High School’s service learning coordinator and Interact Service Club co-adviser. During the walkout, “she spoke to the crowd about the importance of voter registration and voter rights, no matter where you stand politically.”
When House Speaker Sara Gideon asked Bennell if any students would testify in favor of LD 1884, the so-called “red flag” bill, Bennell immediately thought of Egan and a few of her classmates.
“I hadn’t heard about the bill, but looked it up and started reading about it,” says Egan. The proposed bill, in an effort to mitigate mass shootings based on warning signs, would authorize Maine judges to temporarily suspend access to firearms by persons in emotional crisis through a Community Protection Order. “I learned they tried to pass a bill like this twice before and it failed.”
“It’s not taking huge leaps in terms of gun control, which is frustrating to me,” says Egan, “but I also understand, in our political climate in Maine, it’s really hard to pass something so far to the left.”
Born after the 1999 Columbine shooting, Egan is among a generation of students who live with an underlying fear of gun violence. In a recent analysis by the Washington Post, an estimate of more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours. While Egan admits she does not dwell on this daily, it is in the back of her mind.
“I’m not against guns,” says Egan, who understands gun ownership is a reality here in Maine and across the country. “I definitely believe in the Second Amendment. It’s in the Constitution for a reason.” However, the topic has guided her senior project. She and Maya Bradbury are drafting a citizen initiative to reverse the 2015 decision to allow Maine gun owners to carry concealed weapons without a permitting process.
Oddly, gun control and safety has not been a top priority of her political interests. Egan says, “The issues that really get me fired up are gender equality and the environmental movement or issues of climate change.”
In the fall, Egan will head off to Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. She has yet to declare a major, but knows she will study history and political science. “I’m fascinated how history has impacted what is happening today, especially with government and politics,” she says.
“I have no doubt that Maya will continue to keep herself well-informed of important political, social and environmental issues and remain engaged,” says Bennell. “She is very passionate and motivated to bring about change to better our world and its people.”
Emma Bouthillette authored “A Brief History of Biddeford,” about her hometown. She is a yoga instructor and a corgi mom. (emmabouthillette.com)