At a political conference in 2015, one of the hosts came up to Mayleen Mermea and told her that she should run for office. This comment was something Mayleen had never expected. “I had never in my life been told that. She didn’t know it at the time, but she planted a seed,” she says. Since then, Mayleen told herself that she would run for office, and took it upon herself to learn more about what it really means to be political. When she heard about IGNITE’s National Young Women Run conference in D.C. in 2017, Mayleen knew she would let nothing stop her from going.
She saved up the money to go to the conference and the moment she stepped foot into the building, she entered a whole new world. “I had no idea that there were all these young women who wanted to run for office too, especially young women who looked like me.”
The IGNITE Fellowship wasn’t in Chicago at the time but one day, after returning from a trip to Europe with no idea what she would be doing next, Mayleen received the notification she was hoping for. Soon enough, Mayleen became the first ever Chicago Fellow and has held the position for two years since then.
As an IGNITE Fellow, Mayleen has hosted the Young Women Run conference in Chicago and held several College Councils. She has also helped students establish 7 College Chapters across Illinois as well as a chapter in St. Louis. She has motivated other young women to realize their political ambition the same way the person who told her she should run for office did. “My goal is always to help young women see themselves, and once they see themselves, they choose how to make their impact.” For Mayleen, seeing those other young women who are motivated and ready to show up makes it all worth it.
Mayleen shares that being given the space to grow and explore has made all the difference, and that she’s walking away with unforgettable experiences and lifelong connections. “I’ve met some powerful women, including elected officials and my fellow IGNITE sisters. Whatever it is that we’ll be doing in our lives going forward, I know that we’ll continue to support each other.”
Mayleen already has plans to run for president in 2032, but first hopes to return to Texas and give back to her community by becoming a local elected official.
For anyone thinking of becoming a Fellow, Mayleen believes that it’s something you have to experience for yourself. “It doesn’t matter how political you are. It doesn’t matter how engaged you are at the moment. It’s about being ready to challenge yourself.”
Learn more about the IGNITE Fellowship here.