We have changed our name, but our mission remains the same. We are committed to unlocking and maximizing the potential of young women to lead transformational change.
When our organization began supporting young women in rural Guatemala to continue their education and develop leadership skills, the metaphor from the parable of the starfish embodied the scope of the work we were doing. As we have grown, our organizational philosophy has evolved, and so have our programs and goals. The young women we refer to as Girl Pioneers now call themselves Jovenes Estrellas or “young stars” because they have always felt more connected to the stars in the sky than to the stars in the sea.
As we ran the Impact School out of Panajachel and excitedly awaited the completion of the new Impact School building in Sololá, we viewed the change as a prime opportunity to align our work with a name that fit the energy and ambition of Girl Pioneers, families, and staff.
When we started toying with the idea of rebranding, we knew that the process would not be easy. Our new name needed to come from within and be decided first and foremost by Girl Pioneers and their families from rural Kaqchikel-speaking communities in Sololá. It also needed to be well understood in Spanish for our public and private sector partners in Guatemala City that we partner with to create inclusive and sustainable change. Last, but not least, we wanted our incredible international community of supporters to also connect with the name.
Over the past 9 months, we worked with Eikon, a local Guatemalan branding company in the capital, to help us with the difficult process. The company held focus groups with students at the Impact School, visited families, and met with our team of educators, mentors, and administrators. They searched for a name that would make sense in the three languages that Girl Pioneers are learning (Kaqchikel, English, and Spanish) and a symbol that would connect their culture to the transformation that each student experiences. Alas, after many months of searching, we found the perfect name; the first time we heard it, we knew it fully embodied us, our mission, and our goals:
Maia is one of the brightest stars in the night sky and makes up part of the Pleiades cluster, a group of seven stars found in the Taurus constellation. The Pleiades harbor a prominent place in ancient mythology, as well as a diversity of meanings in different cultures and traditions.
In ancient times, the Greeks identified the Pleiades as seven sisters, and the seven stars were key to distinguish the seasons of fishing and planting. In the Maori culture of New Zealand, Maia symbolizes courage and bravery. Maia and the Pleiades are also mentioned in the Popol Vuh, the sacred book of the Mayas, under the name of Motz, which means cluster. The cluster originated when Zipacná the Arrogant killed 400 warriors, whose souls were taken by Gucumatzm, the great heart of the sky, and placed as stars in the sky, creating the Pleiades.
Maia, as one of the giant stars in our universe, reflects our central objective: to empower Girl Pioneers to be transformational leaders, with ideas, values, and dreams of their own that shine brightly and positively impact their community. Above all, the star is a symbol of knowledge and wisdom.
The new logo represents the star, which in Mayan culture symbolizes the equilibrium between people, energy, thoughts, and ideas. It’s also a visual presentation of the four cardinal points, which symbolize balance in the Mayan Cosmovision and are prominently featured in Mayan blessing ceremonies.
We are very excited about our new name and brand and are thankful to have such an incredible network to share this next step in our journey with us.