Maya Jones, AB’19, fell in love with Chicago as soon as she got to campus. “The city has a unique energy, and it feels like there’s movement here that I want to be part of,” says the New Jersey native — so from her first days at the University, she was serious about helping drive positive change in her new home city.
As a first-year, Jones was chosen as one of 20 participants in Seeds of Justice, a program of the University Community Service Center that engages students in social justice work and reflection on and off campus. “Seeds was a great opportunity to interact with parts of the city I wouldn’t have explored on my own,” she says, “and it gave me a skill set that changed who I was as a person.”
She also joined, and eventually became director of, Chicago Peace Corps (CPC), a registered student organization that works to create sustainable peace in the city through restorative justice discussions and volunteer work. Among other volunteer gigs centered on civic engagement, Jones leads peace circles at Saint Sabina Academy on the South Side, where she delights in working with middle schoolers to create dialogue, build community, and resolve conflicts.
“Four years ago, people talked about restorative justice much less than they do now, so having those conversations and being part of something revolutionary was really exciting to me.”
Jones brought her UChicago civic engagement experience full circle in her fourth year by serving as a facilitator who leads small-group discussions with the current Seeds of Justice cohort. “It feels like great bookending,” she says. “And I really love asking people questions and getting them to explore thoughts they wouldn’t have if they weren’t pushed.”