Fellow Spotlight: Mary Black

“If you want to grow with others who support your personal and professional growth, and be part of an organization that’s changing the face of democracy, apply to be an IGNITE Fellow. Whether you want to be an environmentalist, or an activist, or an event planner, IGNITE will empower you to pursue these interests. IGNITE is right for so many different types of young women.” - Mary Black, IGNITE Fellow, North Carolina


With a love for the environment that started long ago, Mary Black knew she would stop at nothing to land her dream job in the world of environmental policy. When she came across the IGNITE Fellowship, she knew she had to seize the opportunity. “I’ve always had an interest in politics, and I was very much trying to find a place where I could feel supported by women that were like-minded. When I found the Fellowship, I knew this is where I needed to be.” With just hours to spare before the deadline, she applied not sure where it would ultimately lead. Just a short while later, Mary was offered the position that would transform her life in ways she didn’t expect. 

As the North Carolina Fellow, Mary has launched college chapters and leads a regional college council where she encourages other young women from across the state to step up and own their political power. “You have these women who have ambition and talent being discouraged from their full potential. When I work with young women I try to foster a relationship that helps them feel like they can do and be anything, because they can.” For Mary, part of being a Fellow means helping other young women be an advocate for themselves and connecting them to opportunities that will shape their career path. 

“To be an IGNITE Fellow means to be a change-maker and an organizer. You’re able to go into communities and recognize that socially there is a need for more women in politics and you’re a part of inspiring that.” But Mary, who is currently earning her master’s degree in Environmental Law & Policy online at Vermont Law School, shares that talking to these young women as an IGNITE Fellow is just as much of an inspiration to her. What Mary didn’t expect when she became a Fellow was joining a network of young women who would end up becoming like her sisters, supporting each other through the good and the bad. 

In fact, one of her favorite memories was an activity at the Fellows retreat. All the young women attending wrote notes to one another, only to be opened when individual Fellows needed the support of their community. “Anytime I feel like I can’t do it, I open one of those notes to remind myself that I’m in a network of young women who see me and support me and want me to win, and that’s been really beautiful. There’s nothing like it.” 

As for her dream job, Mary recently started as a field organizer with Climate Action North Carolina, a job that combines her love of the environment and politics, and a job she feels she landed because of her experiences as an IGNITE Fellow. When asked about what advice she has for those considering applying to the Fellowship, Mary didn’t hesitate to respond. “As a person who wants to change the world, you have to put yourself out there to make things happen for the world, for yourself, for the community. Put yourself out there and you will be surprised at what comes back.” 

Interested in becoming an IGNITE Fellow? Apply here.