Maia has come to believe that the term “terminally unique” describes her better than she ever could have imagined. She is a black American woman raised in a female-headed single parent household. Her mother holds a doctorate degree, but for most of their lives they have lived near or below the poverty line because of her mother’s battle with cancer and the sequela of subsequent illnesses. Despite those challenges, she has attended wealthy, predominantly Caucasian schools, maintained a rigorous advanced placement academic course load, and achieved a 4.15 GPA. She has also had 12 years of Japanese language immersion. And, to top it all off hers is the only African American family in her local Mormon ward. She is the epitome of uniqueness. Absolutely none of these things is conventional, and each time she explains even a piece of her unique background she receives a smile with a gently lofted eyebrow. She can tickle people’s emotional spectra from impressed to amazed, and from confused to curious.
At times it has been difficult for her to find her clique or her niche, but her unique experiences has allowed her to feel at home with her family members in Little Elk, Alabama, to feel at one with other Mormons at Temple Square in Provo, Utah, to be in sync with other driven students participating in the National Honors Society at Oakton High School, and to understand the people that she serves as a goodwill ambassador for the sister school in Japan.
Her “terminal uniqueness” has made her life one montage of unusual circumstances, but it has done even more than that. It has made the world her stage, and she is anxious for the experiences of the Ron Brown Scholar Program to act as her curtain raiser.