By Eva Hicks
McKayla Weaver is a rising junior in the Political Science Department and a minor in Music Performance with a 3.9 GPS. She wears many hats and has accomplished much during her college journey. She has been involved in politics since 2018 with numerous leadership roles. All those experiences came to fruition when she won an election for Kentucky’s 88th Legislative District Chair in May 2021. She was also appointed the Co-Chair of the Field & Elections Committee.
I asked McKayla how her course work in Political Science had prepared her for that election. She replied, “Last Spring I took a special topics course with Dr. Barnes on Gender and Politics where I learned that women who run for political office are usually more qualified than their male counterparts, win at the same or greater rates, and don’t run because they think they won’t win.”
“I realized the incumbent had been in office as long as I had been alive, and I decided I wanted to run in order to bring in a new voice and support the voices of young people, women, and minorities who don’t feel included in political spaces. I knew the task was daunting but decided to go for it because I had previous campaign experience and the qualifications to improve the Democratic Party in our county and Commonwealth, and I specifically wanted to support the campaigns of other women. My new position in the Party has given me the opportunity to amplify the voices of those who have been previously unheard and need a champion in other women.”
I then asked McKayla how winning has impacted her course studies. “It’s been intensive,” she replied. “I’m working 35 hours a week and have additional political things going on, but I can do it and other people can do it too. Regardless of gender, if you think you are qualified and can make a difference, then you should go for it because we need the voices of the next generation. My political participation has given me the knowledge applicable to political courses especially seminars and courses with class discussion.”
When asked what she has learned from serving in a political role, McKayla said: “It takes a team. I would not be able to fulfill my role or duties to our County and State party if I didn’t have the support of volunteers, friends, and family who are willing to be on the ground with me, knocking on doors, talking to neighbors, and sharing their support of our elected officials.”
McKayla has had other political experience. She was the Deputy Field Organizer for the Kentucky Democratic Party Coordinated Campaigns from August until November 2019 for Andy Beshear’s campaign, which she feels was the catalyst for other political positions she has held, including as a member of the Voter Empowerment Staff for Kentuckians for the Commonwealth from March until November 2020, where she personally canvassed and connected with hundreds of voters in socioeconomically diverse areas of Lexington and registered new voters.
McKayla has greatly benefited from several key scholarships. Last year she received a scholarship from the Department of Political Science Development Fund, and this year she will be receiving the Cobb-Little Scholarship as well as the Provost Scholarship and some outside awards. “These awards have allowed me to gain the education necessary to lead our Commonwealth to a brighter future where women and minorities don’t have to be on the sidelines and can take an active role in Kentucky’s future,” she said. Both McKayla and the Political Science Department are grateful for the generosity of alumni and friends who have helped to support this talented student’s UK journey.