About

Mikayla Ridley

Mikayla has lived in Upstate New York for years, but she spent her early life in the suburbs outside Seattle, Washington. As a child, she doesn't remember politics being a common topic of conversation around her house. Instead, she remembers her mother focusing on values and teaching her about respect, justice, hard work, and responsibility. She has long admired this approach because it taught her to form her own opinions and see political controversies through a different lens as she entered adulthood. Growing up she was part of a family with shared values, but differing opinions on topics like tax structure, the role of government, and public safety laws. And she uses that formative experience to drive her political activism today.

While politics played a relatively small role in her early life, Mikayla became more engaged with the issues while attending Boston University for her bachelor's degree. Having come out as bisexual near the end of high school, Mikayla focused a lot of her time in college on activism for the LGBTQIA+ community. She quickly discovered a passion for social justice, equity, and inclusion, and began to shape her career around a desire to support and advocate for others.

 

After graduating from college, Mikayla spent two years in North Carolina working with a national non-profit that helped high school students from underserved backgrounds get into top US colleges. Having incurred significant student debt to earn her own degree, she wanted help the next generation of students find the colleges that could meet both their academic and financial needs. While her time in this role was deeply rewarding, it also brought light to the full scope of the college affordability problem in America. She worked in-depth with dozens of students who faced the same financial challenges that she had, so she hoped to help them "learn from her mistakes." Instead, she found a series of roadblocks: widespread economic issues, both in and outside the education system, that were giving many students no good financial option—only varying degrees of bad. 

 

Despite the many challenges, she loved the work and wanted to continue her career in college access after finishing up her contract. She missed her time in the northeast and decided to move back and take a job as a college admissions counselor in New York's Southern Tier. In this role, she continued to work with students, high school counselors, and fellow college counselors all over the state and the country, and she saw patterns emerge more clearly than ever. She almost never worked with people who were doing something "wrong," and yet high schools and colleges around the country were consistently showing inequitable results. American education was, unfortunately, a perfect example of a systemic problem; no person in the system had to directly discriminate in order to end up with inequitable results. While implicit and explicit biases were prevalent, even attempts to account for those biases were failing because the injustice was baked into the system itself.    

 

This understanding of systemic problems—from education to healthcare to criminal justice—is what inspired Mikayla to pursue a role in the federal government. Nationwide problems require national solutions, and she wants to be an advocate for that change. Mikayla was taught from an early age to find the common thread in the midst of controversies and use that as the base for effective political conversations. While many politicians talk about bipartisanship as the moderate stance or "middle ground" between opposing policies, Mikayla sees it as the "common ground" between shared goals. Most Americans have similar goals for our future: an economy that rewards hard work; a criminal justice system that keeps us safe; healthcare and education systems that maximize quality and accessibility; and a societal structure that ensures "liberty and justice for all." We differ mainly on the policies that need to be put in place to make these goals a reality. So that's where Mikayla wants our conversations on Capitol Hill to start.