Logan’s passion for STEM began when she applied and was accepted to a rigorous science- and math-focused program at Dorman High School near her hometown of Spartanburg, S.C. The program allowed students to take accelerated science and math courses and graduate with a specialized STEM cohort degree.
While enrolled in the program, Logan often felt her intelligence was underestimated. Teachers wouldn’t cater to her hands-on learning style. Some would even question her test scores.
“I often faced a lot of times where people (would) question my intelligence, because I'm a questioner. I’ll question you down,” Logan said. “People will always equate questioning with ignorance, (but) that's not what questioning is. Questioning is trying to inform yourself, to improve.”
Logan was the only African-American woman to graduate from her high school with the STEM cohort degree that year.
“When I was 16, I realized I would often tell my mom: 'Mom, I'm the only Black girl in all my classes,'” Logan said. “I never liked that feeling of being singled out.”
Logan began to realize she wasn’t the only one who felt this way, as she heard similar stories from other women of color.
“(One of those women) said, ‘Wow, if someone could have been there to encourage me, it would have eliminated so much stress,'” Logan said. “So I'm just hearing all these stories, they're all lining up with mine, and I'm like, 'Maya, this is where you need to be. This is where the change needs to happen. All these African-American women are talking about it, just no one's doing it.”
Unsure of how to go about creating that change, Logan applied for the Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps program. The program offered leadership and networking programs for young community leaders ages 18-25 in three cities.
“It really shocked me that I was accepted, because I've always known that I wanted to develop my own non-profit, but the thing was that I never knew what the proper steps were or (how to get) funding.” Logan said.
The program culminated with an event where Logan and other young leaders spoke about issues in education and their work to address them. It was at this event that Logan met and exchanged a few words with former President Obama.
“When he left, he left me with a charge: to keep it up, and ‘way to represent.’ I will never forget that. I will carry that until the day I die,” said Logan, who grew up idolizing Barack and Michelle Obama. “It's like a full circle blessing.”
Logan said much of her inspiration comes from her family; including her mother, brother and grandmother, who passed away when Logan was seven years old.
“My grandmother — she always said that if she could have a voice and speak out to a crowd, that she would speak all the time,” Logan said. “I feel like that is really what drives me to be a leader, knowing that she wanted to be but never had the resources or the education to do it.”
The S.I.S. Movement, which stands for Sisters In STEM, is aimed at helping young African-American girls gain confidence and leadership skills through STEM education. Logan’s next goal is to expand the organization’s reach throughout her home state.
“South Carolina is a place where's there's so many bright students, just sometimes not enough resources,” Logan said.
The S.I.S. Movement has a detailed plan for the future — but for now, its founder has a much smaller to-do list.
“The next move for me?” Logan laughed. “I'm just trying to figure out what I'm going to major in!”