Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 3, 1995

Kulycky's Law: Never Say Never

By Lisa Mastny

     Ever since she was 5 years old, junior Maya Kulycky has
dreamed of becoming president of the United States.  

     On career day in kindergarten, when her peers said they
wanted to be firemen and nurses, Kulycky firmly told her teacher
that she wouldn't settle for anything less than the White House.
Her teacher laughed and urged her to make another choice because,
she said, a woman couldn't be president.

     The next day, her mother stormed into the school and, as
Kulycky tells it, raised hell, criticizing the kindergarten
program for fostering low expectations in its students. 

     It was one of the most memorable days in Kulycky's life.

     "From that moment on, I knew that I had to prove my teacher
wrong, to change these ideas about what is acceptable in society,
in politics," she said. "For many, the idea of a black woman
president is crazy. I know it's going to be a struggle. I am
anticipating a fight."

     But so far, things have been going her way.  

     Two weeks ago, Kulycky was named a 1995 Truman Scholar, the
only student from Hopkins and from her home state of Illinois to
receive the $30,000 award. In addition to partially funding her
senior year at Hopkins and two years of graduate study, the
scholarship will help her to obtain preferential admission to
graduate institutions as well as future employment with federal

     The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, established by
Congress in 1975 as the official federal memorial to honor the
nation's 33rd president, rewards up to 75 students across the
country every year for their outstanding leadership potential and
strong interest in government or public service careers.

     To compete for the award, Kulycky first had to be nominated
by the five-member Hopkins Truman Scholarship Committee of
professors, academic advisers and a former scholarship winner.
She then underwent an extensive interviewing and application
process, which included writing a sample public policy analysis.

     Keenly aware of the challenges faced by children in urban
areas--her mother teaches first grade at an inner-city elementary
school, her father teaches English in a Chicago community
college--Kulycky chose to write about urban empowerment. The
government needs to fund and build community centers, encourage
after-school activities and establish job training for urban
youth, she said.

     "We have to change the circumstances in which children are
raised and experience life, the way my mother does when she works
with kids in the classroom," she said. "I think about the lives
my parents had when they grew up and then wonder about the lives
that they could have had, if I could have helped improve them."

     One of the biggest problems with government empowerment
programs, Kulycky said, is that they rarely go through an
evaluative process.

     "Programs are being implemented but are not followed up or
evaluated," she said. "If they turn sour, which many do, they are
never weeded out and just end up taking away from the more
successful programs. Private organizations may also fund a
program for two to five years and then abandon it for a new
project, leaving no one to pick up the pieces. I think the
government should play that role."

     Like many of her peers, Kulycky is disenchanted with the
direction of politics these days. But instead of turning her away
from her future goals, current events have strengthened her
desire to enact change.

     "I think people today just lack ideas, a new way of looking
at things," she said.  "It's always a great feeling when you find
out that people aren't necessarily against you, but have just
never thought about things in the same way. I don't necessarily
see huge structural changes happening in the near future, but
sometimes things change; things just happen."

     Neither Democrat nor Republican, Kulycky envisions herself
slipping into power the back way, by means of a third party.

     "It's going to be a lot harder to get into mainstream
politics, but I'm ready for the challenge," she said. "I think
the party system is metamorphosing, with Democrats and
Republicans becoming more similar and third parties growing in
power. Just look at the support Ross Perot got in the 1992
presidential campaign." 

     After graduating from Hopkins next year with a degree in
political science, Kulycky will apply her Truman scholarship to
law school and plans to practice constitutional or criminal law
before entering politics full time. Judging from her activities
this year at Hopkins, her leadership credentials are already

     Very active in the Student Council, Kul-ycky is a junior
class representative, co-chair of the Committee for Student
Diversity, ambassador for alumni affairs and even on the
Committee on Committees, which oversees all council activities.
She is also involved with the Women's Center, NAACP and Black
Student Union on campus, reflecting her interest in race and
gender issues.

     Last year, she received the Sideman Academic Award to
participate in the Department of Political Science's Washington
Internship Program and worked for a semester at the lobbying
organization Americans For Democratic Action in Washington, D.C. 
She has also been on the dean's list at Hopkins and is a member
of Pi Sigma Alpha Political Science Honor Society.  

     Despite all her activities and academic responsibilities,
Kulycky is hardly an introverted workaholic. She makes time for
her friends and her hobbies, which include cooking, fashion, the
arts and reading.

     "My parents were both English majors, so I grew up on
Shakespeare and Grimm's Fairy Tales. I also try to read the
newspaper every day, especially the D.C. gossip page because I
think things like fashion, style and pop culture really reflect
what is going on in society. I was involved in theater in high
school, and I really like the arts because you get to meet people
who push the limits of society and what is tolerable. I have a
lot of hobbies and activities because if I don't do them, I'm

     Getting involved and using your talents is the best way to
achieve personal success and improve society as a whole, Kulycky

     "Everybody has to do their part," she said. "When I use my
talents and experiences, I feel like I'm giving gifts. I try to
take what I am given and use it to improve something around me,
to affect as many people as possible. I don't want to be in some
obscure world where I don't see the effects of what I do."

     If she had to choose between having children and being a
politician, she would choose the latter, no question.

     "That's like saying, Would you rather help two kids or two
million kids?" she said. "It's as simple as that. And that's how
I look at it.  But I don't think I'm going to have to make that
choice. Whatever happens happens."

     With her brimming optimism, Kulycky doesn't really worry
about the future just yet.

     "I've internalized the challenges," she said. "My parents
always primed me for them.  They never pulled the wool over my
eyes about anything, especially race and gender.  I know nothing
is going to be handed to me, and you have to work hard for what
you achieve. But the challenge no longer surprises and scares me.
Things tend to flow and work themselves out."

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