Maya Saunders of Dorchester was one of two Boston women honored at the 110th national convention of the NAACP in Detroit last month. Saunders, 26, and a graduate of the NAACP Next Generation (NextGen) Young Professional Leadership Program, works as coordinator of government affairs and public policy at the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers.
The other honoree from the NextGen program was Ayanna Polk of Roxbury, who in her decade or so with the NAACP in Boston has concentrated on civic engagement.
The 12-month program works with young adults ages 21 to 35 in local NAACP branches whose main focus is a voter action plan. They also develop civil rights competencies and leadership skills to use as social justice advocates.
“I’ve joined the membership committee (of the Boston Branch) and I’m actually in the midst of planning with a few other members, a young adult mixer,” said Saunders. “I feel that even people my age that aren’t involved in the NAACP have a notion that it’s an old people organization. I think that a lot of people don’t realize that there are young people in the NAACP doing great things. Many of them live in Dorchester as well.”
The program, she says, has helped build her network in the city.
“Everyone is doing great things and supporting each other. I think the key is that we’ve all been supporting each other. And that’s really what got me through the program, just that network, a lot of us feel like family now,” she said.
Boston, home to the NAACP’s first chartered branch, which was founded in 1911, will host the organization’s national gathering next year. Saunders said that the convention in Detroit has her pumped up. “I left there feeling extremely motivated,” she said.