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Where EAST meets the Northwest

ADVOCATE & VOLUNTEER. The 2018 Portland Rose Festival princess representing Metro West is Maya Bedge, a junior at Westview High School. Maya is proud to represent her school on the court and to raise awareness about issues that are important to her. (Photo/Brian Geraths/Photo Media Productions)

Maya Bedge, who enjoys sharing music with her family and community, plays her harp at a senior care home in the Portland area. The Portland Rose Festival’s Queen’s Coronation takes place Saturday, June 9 at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Photo courtesy of Maya Bedge)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #11 (June 4, 2018), page 10.

Metro West princess works toward social change

By Maileen Hamto

The Asian Reporter

Ask Maya Bedge, the 2018 Metro West Rose Court princess, about the high school achievement she is most proud of thus far, and she’ll tell you about being part of a movement.

A junior at Westview High School in Beaverton, Maya said that beyond medals and academic honors, she is most proud of leading the student walkout focused on halting the epidemic of gun violence in American schools.

In March, Maya organized Westview’s walkout, in solidarity with the community of students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. While she has never been part of — much less led — any mass protest on such a highly politicized topic as sensible gun legislation, she was determined to help make tangible change.

"It was so shocking to hear of another school shooting. For me, that shock turned from sadness to anger, and I wanted to use that emotion in a productive way," she said.

"I was empowered to see Parkland students leading the movement, holding state and national leaders accountable."

Maya made sure school administrators knew of Westview students’ intent to mobilize. Along with other volunteers, they visited classrooms to talk about the walkout, in addition to printing and distributing fliers.

Seeing the massive turnout for the protest was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Maya said. Some 1,000 students stepped out of their classrooms to stand together in the school’s courtyard, where they observed 17 minutes of silence — one minute for each Parkland victim.

"I was speechless. I almost started crying, because it was absolutely incredible to be able to lead something from my heart and a place of passion," she said. "There’s so much that needs to happen, and we are much closer to achieving change."

Advocating against gun violence is part of a larger picture of political awareness and involvement for Maya, who believes in creating change through ensuring that institutions represent the people they serve. As part of her candidacy for the Oregon Youth Senate, Maya had a conversation with Oregon governor Kate Brown about curbing the trend of sexual harassment in Oregon politics.

"First of all, I strongly believe that government should be a place for all backgrounds. As a young woman who’s interested in politics, I really want to make sure that politics is a safe space for everybody," Maya said. "I also believe the best way to combat racism and sexism is electing people who represent the diversity of our community."

While focused on more diverse, inclusive, and empowered communities in Oregon, Maya also is deeply involved in making change for young people in India who have limited access to quality education. Throughout her life, she has travelled to India about once every two years, as her parents, Sarita and Satish, have remained tightly connected to family back home.

About six years ago, Maya began volunteering with her older sister, Sonya, at Rural Education And Literacy (REAL): Youth To Youth, an Oregon-based nonprofit. Comprised of mostly high school students in the Portland metropolitan area, the group raises funds at community events to support underfunded schools in rural India. During India Day held every August, the group sells slightly used Indian traditional clothing as part of their fundraising efforts.

"I’m passionate about education for underprivileged students who have inadequate access to education," said Maya, who serves as co-president of REAL: Youth To Youth. "Two friends and I went to India, and stayed in the teacher’s dorm for about a week. We taught kids all day. It was an amazing experience and I hope to go back to India."

With the depth of her awareness and commitment to social issues here and abroad, Maya demonstrates emotional maturity well beyond her years.

As far as her experience so far on the Rose Court, Maya is most appreciative for the platform to raise awareness about issues that are important to her. She greatly values her mentor, Megan Snyder of Unitus Credit Union, who has arranged for a job shadow at a venture capital firm.

Moreover, Maya honors the genuine friendships with the other Rose Court princesses. Seniors on the court freely dispense advice on senior year, college, and planning for our future, Maya said.

"It’s a great experience to be part of the sisterhood. The girls on the court have all achieved so much, yet they’re all very humble. Everyone is so supportive of each other," she said.

"We’re the next generation of female leaders, and the future of Portland is in great hands."

* * *

A Rose Festival princess represents her school and acts as the "face of the Rose Festival" at many events in the community, including parades, volunteer activities, luncheons with community and business leaders, and more. The Portland Rose Festival Foundation awards each court member a $3,500 scholarship, courtesy of The Randall Group.

To qualify for the Rose Festival Court, a candidate must be a full-time junior or senior at a 4A, 5A, or 6A high school in Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas county and have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. Potential princesses are evaluated on citizenship, scholastic achievement, school activities, civic involvement, volunteer projects, communication skills, and overall impression.

The Portland Rose Festival Queen is chosen from all of the court members at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 9 from 8:30am to 9:30am. To learn more, call (503) 227-2681 or visit <www.rosefestival.org>.

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