2018 Active Citizen of the Year

The recipient of the Active Citizen of the Year award is chosen based on their commitment to lifelong active citizenship - prioritizing community in their values and life choices.

Maya Ram at University of California Los Angeles.

Nominator: Regine Smith | Alternative Breaks Co-Director at University of California Los Angeles

Background: World Arts and Cultures major with a minor in Public Health, Intern with Big Citizen Hub, Case Manager for GRIT Peer Coaching, Alternative Breaks Co-Director in UCLA’s Volunteer Center

“Maya Ram is someone I look up to and who has aided my personal and leadership development during my last year at UCLA. Upon navigating the alternative break space, I struggled with expressing myself and embodying my role. However, after hearing Maya speak so honestly, thoughtfully, and passionately time and time again about her involvement in AB and other organizations, I was inspired to orient my energy away from any 'lack' and toward the reason why I applied as a site leader in the first place." - Emily, Site Leader


Maya successfully worked alongside her leadership team to deepen program-wide implementation of core curriculum.

  • Trained Site Leaders how to think critically and work thoughtfully with community organizations by exposing them to a deeper understanding of service and teaching skills for how groups can contribute after the trip.
  • Co-created and executed a year-long curriculum for Site Leaders using a strong background in social justice to create a foundation for allyship.
  • Worked with her Co-Director to implement the AB Symposium - offering opportunities for participants to attend breakout sessions related to long-term community engagement and active citizenship.
  • Piloted the first annual Board Day AB Trip - creating an opportunity for board members to serve together alongside local community organizations in Los Angeles while their trips were out on break.

As a strong leader of UCLA’s alternative break program, Maya prioritizes a student-run program at all levels.

  • Takes on the role of listener, empathizer, and encourager for other students in the program. Maya speaks candidly from lived experience and uses personal learning moments to invest in the development of her peers.
  • With a deep belief in opportunities for personal growth and development, Maya trains students on the importance, value, and practices of self-care and self-reflection in and outside of alternative breaks. 

"I was in awe and admired her talent for really connecting with the students." - Regine Smith, Alternative Breaks Co-Director

Social Justice and Inclusion is at the core of Maya’s leadership - challenging existing systems and supporting peers in their individual growth and understanding.

  • Shares her own narrative and uses it to engage individuals and organizations she’s a part of in a learning process around their understanding around identity and inclusion.
  • Challenges students by asking thought-provoking questions with compassion and care - inviting individuals to learn about social justice through an ethic of love.
  • Uses skills from other leadership positions to foster positive social interactions and serves as a consistent source of support to other leaders in the program.

“I thank Maya for creating and facilitating safe and brave reflection circles that have allowed me to exercise my voice; workshops that eventually helped me design my trip and facilitate my open discussions with the AB group I led; and for believing that I could take on the role when I wasn’t sure I could. Maya provides spaces for people to acknowledge their worth and possesses an infectious passion that mobilizes students like myself to make a commitment toward promoting social awareness, advocacy, and service." - Emily, Site Leader

Press inquires? Send us an email at breakaway [at] alternativebreaks [dot] org.