February Young Professional Spotlight
Meet Maya Bennett
Occupation: Dean of Students
Organization: BASIS Baton Rouge
Tell us a little about your Baton Rouge Story. What brought you to Baton Rouge?
My Baton Rouge story began quite coincidentally. After taking a travelling course with the sociology department at my undergraduate university, Wake Forest, to examine social stratification in the American Deep South, I learned of the gross educational inequities that exist in our country and committed to returning to serve that cause. When I got back to campus I applied for and was accepted into Teach For America. After graduation, I packed my bags and came down to the bayou where my career in education began. Now, 11 years later, I have found myself, my passion, the love of my life, and a new home.
Tell us more about how you’re involved in Baton Rouge.
My work as Dean of Students at BASIS Baton Rouge helps me stay involved. Our school serves a remarkable cross-section of our parish and provides ample opportunities for community engagement beyond the campus boundaries. Additionally, I volunteer with Companion Animal Alliance and support St. Vincent DePaul Ministries throughout the year. I also stay connected through groups such as Louisiana Public Broadcasting and Together Baton Rouge. Each of these organizations sponsors events around town that draw a diverse crowd and these gatherings always inspire nourishing dialogue. Another way that I am involved in Baton Rouge is through Madison Preparatory Academy. My stepson plays basketball for their state championship winning team and I thoroughly enjoy watching him play and connecting with the MPA Community. Finally, I serve on the founding alumni board for Teach For America – South Louisiana.
What is your favorite thing about Baton Rouge?
The possibilities! Anything seems possible here! In the 11 years that I have lived in Baton Rouge I have seen the revitalization of downtown, the reinvestment in Mid City, civil unrest and radical discourse for change, new startup organizations committed to making our city better, and remarkable resilience and recovery after the storms. The Baton Rouge Area is a region that I can wrap my arms around and I have always felt like I can make a difference here. The icing on the cake is that through it all there is a spirit of celebration here, a joy that you can feel!
What is your dream for Baton Rouge?
My dream for this city is unity and equality. When I think about all the people that call Baton Rouge home, I recognize that their stories and perspectives are vastly different and depend heavily on their zip code. These disparities divide our city and slow progress. It is my hope that one day in this city all people will have access to a competitive education, a safe neighborhood, quality healthcare, and sustaining employment opportunities. I know that this future is possible because it is in the hands of our children and they are simply extraordinary! Their hearts are pure and their commitment to justice and equity are unmatched.
How are young professionals like yourself shaping Baton Rouge?
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about how young professionals are shaping Baton Rouge is through politics. I have been blown away by the courage and discipline of young professionals in our area. We are running campaigns and winning elections. I also see a significant number of young professionals leading organizations and changing the narrative about what’s possible. There is a real synergy in this moment and young professionals are making a difference in every sector.
What would you say to someone considering a move to Baton Rouge?
Don’t hesitate! Baton Rouge is a place where your dreams can come true. In this city, your destiny is truly in your own hands. Baton Rouge has a rich history that is waiting to be discovered around every corner. The Red Stick is full of natural and architectural treasures that inspire wonder. You can’t beat the food, football, and bon temps! And you won’t find friendlier people anywhere. The celebration never ends here. You belong in Baton Rouge!
What is your Baton Rouge favorite?
- Place to eat: As a full-time vegetarian and part-time vegan I love Serop’s, Sukha, Vegan Meets Soul, and MJ’s Cafe.
- Place to hang out: The Baton Rouge Mississippi River Levee. It’s a great place for a walk, bike ride, meditation, and conversation.
- Place to capture the perfect Instagram pic: Spanish Town. This enchanted neighborhood is filled with character and color.
- Place to people watch: Red Stick Market. I just adore the casual, communal, local vibe.
- Place to network: LSU Football Game Day #GeauxTigers
- Way to give back: MLK Day of Service. Everyone is welcome and the impact is long lasting.
- Event: Red Stick Revelry. An epic New Year’s Eve celebration with a soulful flair.
With significant job growth, a bustling arts scene, delectable cuisine, abundant outdoor activities and more, the Capital Region attracts talent of all ages, including young professionals. Whether straight out of college or looking to establish their own business, more and more young professionals are choosing to lay their roots in Baton Rouge.
Each month, BRAC highlights one of these young Baton Rouge Area movers and shakers in the Young Professional Spotlight.