Youth Council Member Spotlight: Ava

Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Ava Baeza

Hello Everyone, 

I am Ava Presely Perez Baeza, a 17 year old Latina activist and senior at Camden Hills Regional High School in Knox County. 

Along with my passion for social justice and in planning and organizing events to bring awareness to public issues, I also love to cook Cuban food with my family for our pop-up kitchen, Zafiro. Other activities I participate in are community service with the local Rotary Club, working at Fatface clothing store, playing lacrosse, and hanging out with friends and family. 

It is hard for me to pinpoint the exact moment I realized that politics were important. I have my parents to thank for installing in me at a very young age the weight and power of politics. Although I was always somewhat cognizant of the nature of leadership and government, it wasn’t until the 2016 election, where I witnessed the impact of a presidential election on my family and friends that I truly began to pay attention to the political climate.

I have always been politically opinionated and never refrained from speaking my peace, but I’d say that it wasn’t until fall of 2019 when the Maine Teen Advocacy Coalition (MTAC) asked me to be a moderator for the Preliminary Senatorial Forum. The first hand exposure to established politicians such as Sara Gideon being questioned by a table of high school students was powerful. It was beyond inspiring to see an intelligent group of students working at the caliber of adults. Following this I began working with the League of Women Voters of Maine (LWVME).

The most important part of GOTV is that no matter what, you can feel good about having attempted and most likely succeeded in strengthening our democracy. Voter rights do not have a political party. Every single citizen of The United States has the right to vote and in a perfect world they would. Advocating for those right and helping spread knowledge on voting is an incredible thing. 

Youth involvement in any given election could potentially decide the outcome. It’s frustrating that so many young people do not realize the power they have. 18-29 years olds in theory could determine who runs our country, our states, our towns. I know young people want change, it is the lack of trust in the system that oftentimes causes them to refrain from voting. But in reality WE have the power to elect people who will make us trust the government again.  

This past presidential and senatorial election has been an eventful one for Maine residents. For me, it has been the first election where I have been nearly this active. Beginning in the summer I participated in groups such as the Youth Council and Steering Committee discussing what the future of those groups would look like. I participated in the Friend to Friend program hosted by the LWVME, which taught me how to connect with my friends and family members about voting. I canvassed with the Maine Knox Democrats as well as send reminder messages for the LWVME. 

My first collaboration with the LWVME was in the beginning of 2020. Kari Suda, a vital part of LWVME, asked me to speak on a panel about voter engagement at the Governor’s mansion. I sat alongside two adult professionals and was quite nervous. However, I soon realized that I came with a unique perspective and was asked to be there to speak on behalf of the youth. Everyone did an incredible job and it was truly one of the best experiences of my life. 

A piece of advice that I’d give to other youth activists is to find what is important to you and fight for it. You personally can not save every issue in the World. But everyone working together to solve the issues best they can is stronger. It is soooo easy, especially at our age to get buried and discouraged by the amount of work that needs to be done to fix our democracy but what you do in your life affects so many more than you could ever imagine. We have so much strength and power and often we are not told that and others try to take that away, but if you speak you will be heard. If you march you will be seen. If you act change will come. 

My election night was quite nightmarish. Stayed up all night eyes glued to the haunting glow of the television screen. My mom was beside me and we persevered through the night watching Steve Kornacki until the sun rose outside. No regrets.

My involvement with the Youth Council, Steering Committee, the League of Women Voters Maine in general have changed my life. They’ve given me a path to pave and given me direction. I feel less hopeless and more hopeful. Being immersed in a group of strong, independent, capable, determined women is inspiring. It has shown me that it is what I crave to do in my life and I am so grateful.