When you first meet Kayla, you quickly learn that she has goals…and there’s nothing stopping her from achieving them.
Recently, Mazariego has been named a 2022 – 2023 Newman Civic Fellow by the Boston-based nonprofit Campus Compact, which works to advance public goals in higher education. For this year’s cohort, the organization selected 173 student civic leaders from 38 states, Washington, DC and Mexico.
In his essay for Campus Compact, Mazariego said, “As a child, I was always told to be careful with my tongue and to behave like a lady in some cases; my voice has always been my most powerful tool and I use it to address issues of injustice and inequality.”
Her story rings true for a number of UHD students who are striving to make a difference in the lives of their families and communities. Mazariego has experienced firsthand gangs, domestic violence and drug use within his community. In response, she created a social media platform to address these issues as well as political polarization and inequality.
The third-year, first-generation student continues to use her voice in her community and alongside her peers at UHD to address issues such as social inequality and suffrage. As a member of the University’s honors program, she worked on an honors research project with Dr. Judith Harris of UHD on how to reduce the rate of recidivism in halfway houses, which she presented at this year’s UHD student research conference.
Mazariego and his family settled in Houston via the San Fernando Valley in California and Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Davis High School in Houston, and her next stop was UHD.
“I knew I wanted a strong criminal justice program, and that was between Sam Houston State and UHD,” the criminal justice major (with a political science minor) said. “When I heard about UHD tuition, and it was closer to home…I thought that was amazing! It was the right choice…Love our CJ program .
Her mentor Harris had only a few words to describe her mentee: “She’s absolutely brilliant,” said the associate professor of criminal justice.
Mazariego’s community activism began with volunteering at homeless shelters. “I know what it’s like to be homeless and I want to give back to the community that has so graciously helped me when I needed it,” the 20-year-old said. “As a student, I enjoy educating my peers about civic issues and why it is so important to exercise our constitutional right to vote and to attend protests that promote human rights and equality such as Black Lives Matter and women’s rights.”
After graduation, she plans to pursue her childhood dreams. “As soon as I get my baccalaureate, I’ll be right back for my master’s,” she says smiling. After college, his first stop is the FBI. “I was never able to help myself as a child and now I want the opportunity to help others who cannot help themselves, especially those affected by the sex trafficking. I want to make a difference.”
The best part about UHD? “I’m surrounded by like-minded people who want to do something with their lives.” To be a representative of UHD as a Newman Fellow? “It’s absolutely amazing, especially as the first criminal justice specialist to be nominated and appointed. My life has given me a lot of firsts… first daughter, first granddaughter and first woman to be born in my family. I know where I belong and that I was destined for something more than just existing.
“Kayla is a passionate and exceptional leader with a strong voice who speaks enthusiastically about her future short- and long-term goals,” UHD President Loren J. Blanchard said in his letter of recommendation for Mazariego. “She inspires those around her with her energy and constant drive to succeed. Regardless of her upbringing, Kayla is not afraid to take on challenges and make a difference in the world.
The Newman Civic Scholarship, named after Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, recognizes and supports community-engaged students who are changemakers and public problem solvers at Campus Compact member institutions. Fellows are nominated by the President or Chancellor based on their potential for public leadership. The one-year program provides the cohort of fellows with training and resources that nurture their strengths and passions and develop strategies for social change.
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