"When I entered Georgia Tech (GT), a premier engineering school with a reputation for rigor, as a freshman in 2012,
I was much more than scared. As opposed to high school, I knew no one, had no organic network. Even worse, ironic as it may sound with GT's demographic numbers, I had never been in an environment with so many successful black student leaders. My greatest struggle at GT has not been the academics, or dealing with tricky administrators, but understanding my role as a student leader within the overall and GT community.
This is where Maya (Big Sis Maya) has been one of my greatest mentors. As a Freshman and Sophomore, I got deeply involved with Student Gov't, serving as a Freshman and Sophomore Class President over a class of 3000 individuals (94% non-black). I would often go into the Black Student Organization Office to seek counsel, advice, and just vent about the misguided perceptions of many of my classmates. Maya, in her 3rd Year of Undergraduate studies was a regular frequenter of the BSO and would always introduce upper and underclassmen, helping to build a bridge between different generations. Many of those casual connections ended up leading to solving many of my classmates problems and gaining a much deeper understanding of the intersectionality between racial and academic issues at GT.
Being able to watch Maya's example taught me just how important it was to stay connected to the Black community, though there are plethora of opportunities outside. She also (still) demonstrates just how much an upperclassman's words can be a game changer. During my 2nd Year, I vividly remember being in the BSO, trying to prove myself to upperclassmen and coming up with grand scale ideas for social change on campus. Though some of the other upperclassmen snickered and rather quickly dismissed these ideas, Maya came swiftly to my defense, saying, "You know, if anyone else had been spouting those ideas, I couldn't believe it. But y'all, this is Alex we are talking about. I think he could do it". Her endorsement wasn't just a one time backing, but has lasted over 3 years, giving me credibility in and out the black community to find significance in campus-wide projects I could only dream of.
Her deep understanding of campus politics, and relationships with staff and administrators provided me the roadmap to creating Annual luncheon's for Black scholars around campus.
My entire experience with Maya can be summed up as this.
Maya did what every great mentor should do:
Maya didn't give answers; she taught me how to think through my problems.
Maya didn't force her own leadership style; she helped me craft my own.
Maya had the tough conversations, encouraged tactful criticism, and was always Always ALWAYS there
when I most needed her.
That's Big Sis Maya's impact, and this is my testimonial."
-W.R.Alexander Berry, Industrial Engineer, Intel Corporation
"Maya Carrasquillo has had such an amazing impact on my life since I’ve known her. I met Maya when I was a sophomore at the Georgia Institute of Technology and since I’ve known her she has imparted so much wisdom upon me. During my freshman and sophomore years, I was mainly focused on my academics and did not take advantage of the many leadership roles that Georgia Tech had to offer. Near the end of my second year at Georgia Tech, Maya’s leadership inspired me to pursue the Public Relations Chair position for the Georgia Tech NSBE chapter. As I served in this role, I felt empowered by Maya’s leadership and was able to consequently impact our general body members by giving them access to some of the best companies that recruit for engineers. Maya has not only impacted me through her leadership roles, but also as a friend. Whenever I need advice with something or am struggling with something, I know I can reach to her as she has had similar situations and overcame them. Seeing Maya persevere in challenging situations has been a testimony to me that nothing is impossible. Maya has been a giant part of who I am today and I am forever grateful to have met her while she was a student at Georgia Tech."
Kyle Woumn, Software Engineer, Twilio Inc.
"The first time I met Maya, the only thing I could think of was “WOW! Her hair is fabulous, will I ever be able to attain such length”. Maya served as an advisor for the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Junior Chapter at Middleton High School (MHS), while I served as the Co-Pre-Collegiate Initiative Chair for the NSBE USF Chapter. She was a great advisor, she was always down to have meetings to strategize ways to impact the lives of the students at MHS. She ensured that she was present and made connections at every gathering we had with the students. It was wonderful because she implemented the skills, she learnt from serving as the NSBE National Pre-Collegiate Initiative Chair in order to find ways to provide opportunities for success in the students’ lives.
On a personal level, Maya has been a great source of encouragement to me. She assisted me in my process of applying and getting into a PhD program for Fall 2019. She was the first PhD student I reached out to, because I personally looked at her as being such a super woman. I was particularly interested in going for a PhD at Georgia Institute of Technology (GT), which is Maya’s alma mater. She encouraged me to apply for the FOCUS 2019 Conference at GT which I eventually got accepted to. I was able to make connections at GT conference and learn more tips on how to get into a PhD program. Maya also assisted me with my PhD applications by giving me lots of advice and sending me her personal statement which was very helpful. During the acceptance process into the PhD programs, Maya was always one of the first people I shared the good news with because of the huge impact she made during my application journey. I was also very impressed when I discovered that she’s a woman of God. What is better than an educated, smart, respectable, and spiritually equipped black woman?!
Maya is definitely a great friend, encourager, and mentor!"
Oluwagbemisola 'Gbemi' Aderibigbe, USF B.S Chemical Engineering Spring ‘19