Maya Smith has over fifteen years of experience in youth empowerment, civic engagement, and community development. Maya proudly serves as the first executive director of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which works to support the mental health of young people and works with them to build a kinder, braver world.
As a leader of a foundation that aims to foster communities that bolster mental health awareness and support resource accessibility, Maya has made it her mission to collaborate with a diverse group of partners to make a meaningful impact in the lives of young people. Under Maya’s direction, the foundation has spearheaded collaborations with key stakeholders and leveraged relationships with unlikely allies, such as Zappos and Starbucks. Under her leadership, the foundation launched its flagship Teen Mental Health First Aid program with cooperation from the National Council for Behavioral Health.
In 2017, under Maya’s direction, the foundation launched Channel Kindness – a groundbreaking initiative featuring stories from young reporters across the country who report on stories of kindness, compassion, and bravery. To date, Channel Kindness has trained two corps of 50 youth reporters from across the country and joined Lady Gaga on tour for the inaugural Channel Kindness Tour. Maya’s dedication to the power of the youth voice has led the foundation to release two groundbreaking studies: Born Brave Experiences and Kind Communities – A Bridge To Youth Mental Wellness, which surveys young people across the country, hearing directly from them about topics including mental health and wellness, online behavior, and physical and emotional health.
Previously, Maya served as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of Mobilize.org, an innovative millennial organization whose mission is to empower and invest in millennials to create and implement solutions to social problems. She began her career as East Coast Coordinator for Rock The Vote, an organization dedicated to building the political power of young people.
For her leadership, Maya has been awarded a Youth Action Net Fellowship, the Independent Sector NGEN American Express Fellowship, Utne Reader’s 50 Visionaries Changing Your World Award, WIN’s Young Women of Achievement Award, and Gelman, Rosenberg + Freedman EXCEL Award for Excellence in Non-Profit Management. Maya was also awarded the competitive Prime Movers Fellowship of the Hunt Alternatives Fund, a multi-year fellowship program for emerging and established social movement leaders working at the national level.
Maya, very proud of her Jersey roots, grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey and attended Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ and Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. She currently resides outside of San Francisco with her husband, David, their two children, and their dog, Kai.