Maya Henry, a 17-year-old senior at Girls Academic Leadership Academy, wrote her first editorial piece when she was in the seventh grade. Her school began participating in Denim Day, where individuals are encouraged to wear jeans to address a widespread misconception about sexual assault – that what someone wears is an excuse for rape.
She knew she had to take action when her school administration reinforced their strict uniform policy that limited the types of jeans students could wear to commemorate the day of awareness. Henry explained, “We were told that our jeans had to be blue. They couldn’t have any rips, and they couldn’t have any designs on them. They had to be full-length. There were all these restrictions, which a lot of us just felt like was a complete antithesis of the point of Denim Day.” Henry decided to write and publish an editorial piece about her school’s harmful dress code policy, even if it meant facing backlash from the school administration.
She shared, “That was kind of the first time that I chose to put my belief that like, this is not right over me not wanting to upset my principal.”
Whether she’s writing about the importance of tipping customer service workers or discussing the efforts of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass at the beginning of her term, Henry has continued to use journalism as a means of highlighting important topics affecting her community and beyond.
Henry always enjoyed writing, and she joined her school newspaper to further explore her passion.
She said, “My school was a STEM school, meaning the options for humanities classes were very slim. But journalism was one of the options and my favorite teacher taught it. So I took the class. And I just loved it.”
Since then, Henry has continued her work in student journalism through her school newspaper and High School Insider, where she is an intern this summer.
Quincy Rane, one of Henry’s close friends who is also a senior at Girls Academic Leadership Academy, shared, “I’ve been in journalism classes with [Henry] for years. And I think she’s one of those people where, when it comes to journalism, you can tell she’s kind of found her calling very early on in life…she’s not afraid to speak her mind. And I think that’s admirable.”
Quincy added, “She’s a phenomenal writer, and I’ve written articles with her. And I think watching her write is fun, because it just kind of naturally flows out of her.”
Henry has a particular passion for politics, an interest of hers that she often explores through journalism.
“I’ve really been into doing local politics stories because I think people who do grassroots politics, whether it be the politicians or the campaign staffers and volunteers, they’re so open to talking to you, really showing you things because they don’t get as much media attention. And oftentimes, they have really inspiring stories or goals for the city, or even the neighborhood that you can really go into depth with,” Henry said.
Henry’s passion for writing extends beyond journalism. She has an interest in creative writing and spends her free time writing short stories and novellas while also competing on her school’s poetry team.
Outside of journalism and writing, Henry is politically involved in her community. Henry said, “I’ve done a lot of grassroots work and just supporting in any way that I can, whether it be writing or running Twitter accounts or just phone calling voters for various small politicians.”
Henry plans on pursuing a career in journalism and public policy.