New SGA senator advocate for LGBT Kentuckians

IUS Horizon


Yana Baker, political science freshman

Yana Baker, political science freshman, is a new member of the Student Government Association. Baker was sworn in as a full senator on Sept. 30.

Erick Marquez, communications junior and secretary for the SGA, was her mentor during her probationary period before she was sworn in. He said he enjoyed mentoring Baker.

“She’s very inspirational,” Marquez said. “Being her mentor is probably the best thing I’ve ever done. It hasn’t been hard to mentor her because she has a lot of knowledge and it makes it easier for me.”

Some friends of Baker recommended her to join the SGA.

“I serve in the community as a leader on several boards of directors,” Baker said. “I want to use my connections that I have outside of academia on campus.”

Tristan Williamson, English writing and religious studies junior and vice president of the SGA, said he is pleased to be working with Baker and agrees she has connections.

“Yana is more experienced than anyone in the SGA,” Williamson said. “She is well-connected all across Kentucky and she is a great asset not just to the SGA but to the whole campus.”

Other than being a member of the SGA and the Gay-Straight Alliance, Baker is a political activist and fights for many causes in the Louisville area.

“I am a social justice and human rights activist,” Baker said. “I feel like I am a champion for people. A lot of people don’t have the convictions to stand up for themselves. I stand up for people that do not have the necessary skills to do it themselves.”

All of Baker’s work is done through community service.

“I do enough community service to take up 40 hours a week on top of the SGA,” she said. “I have to prioritize my time. I always have meetings and political engagements to attend.”

On Nov. 10, Baker will be honored by the Kentucky Alliance against Racism and Political Oppression at the Unity Dinner for her more than 15 years of volunteering.

Baker first began volunteering in her youth at the Fairness Campaign in 1997, a civil rights and social justice group working toward equal treatment for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“I serve on the board of directors for the Fairness Campaign in Louisville,” she said. “We work in coalition with other groups to dismantle racism, classism, homophobia and sexism.”

Baker is also a member of the group Women in Transition, a support group.

“This group is so near and dear to my heart,” Baker said. “I was raised by a single mother, and most of the members in the group are single parents fighting to change the economic disparities in the lives of their children.”

In addition, Baker is also working to help elect Ken Herndon, an openly gay man for sixth district Louisville Metro Council.

“I have been reaching out to University of Louisville students and younger voters in the Old Louisville and Central areas,” Baker said. “What’s so interesting is that we were not endorsed by a democratic establishment.

Baker said she thinks Herndon has a good chance to win because he lost the last election in 2007 by about 150 votes.

Before getting involved with political campaigns, Baker attended Decker College in 2002 but said it was a bad school and is closed now. She said coming back to college was a big step for her.

“I realized that although I’ve worked lots of great jobs, when it came time to apply for the positions I wanted they required a degree,” Baker said. “Life experience without a degree can only get you so far. My mom was also a major motivator of me coming back to school.”

Baker said she thinks IU Southeast is a great school, and is at a point to make positive changes.

“[IU Southeast is] at a transformative point right now,” she said. “We are defining who we are as a school, and that changes with every class [of students].”

Baker’s stay at IU Southeast will be short. Baker said she plans on transferring to IUPUI in the 2011 fall semester.

“For a political science major, I believe it is a good resource to be in a state capitol,” Baker said. “Indianapolis is the most vibrant capitol in the Midwest.”

Baker said her political future is not over yet.

She said she still wants to help with campaigns to help candidates be more accountable — an issue Baker considers to be a problem.

“I believe anything you’re doing in public service, you are accountable to the people you are serving,” Baker said. “I expect the people I am working for to be very transparent and serving to the people.”

Baker said she hopes to  run for senator one day.

“I hope to have a successful campaign for senator of Kentucky,” she said.

By KRISTINA BLEUEL

Staff

kcbleuel@umail.iu.edu