Maggie Cornejo ‘11 on Her Journey to Running for District 4 Supervisor

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This is the 59th article in Bears Doing Big Things, a weekly column celebrating the stories of notable M-A alumni.

For Madahí Cornejo ‘11, who now goes by Maggie, “having a seat at the table” is the best way to fight injustice. On Tuesday, March 5th, Cornejo will be on the ballot for the primary election for District 4 County Supervisor. District 4 comprises Redwood City, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park east of El Camino Real, and North Fair Oaks.

Cornejo was born and raised in North Fair Oaks. For her, being the daughter of Mexican immigrants added a layer of awareness to many issues in her community. Girls Middle School, an all-girls private school in Palo Alto, was a place for Cornejo to use her voice growing up. “I always was pretty vocal on issues. I was in Student Councils, and Girls Middle School was a really progressive school. They encouraged girls to be loud and bold and fight for women’s rights, which inspired me.”

Cornejo (right) with her teammates.

At M-A, Cornejo was part of the cheer team and the Computer Academy. She fell in love with government in her senior class and began to get involved by working at the polls. Cornejo also enjoyed U.S. History: “In history, I felt like I was being challenged in a diverse environment. At the time, most things on campus were separate and segregated. In these classes, it was like, ‘Okay, this is what I’m looking for in my life: a more equitable approach to things.’ I felt like we were all a part of that.”

Cornejo went to college at San Jose State University, where she majored in political science and minored in Spanish. She said, “My major had a lot of reading and writing, and English had always kind of been a little bit of a challenge for me. So, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I also knew that I wanted to be in government. It was just about pushing through so that I could come out and do what I really wanted to do. Because of my level of networking, before I graduated I already had a job waiting for me.”

In college, Cornejo interned for then mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo. After graduation, she worked at the County of San Mateo doing outreach in District 4, and then worked as a legislative aide for the County Supervisor that represents the area. Her main focuses, she said, were Middlefield Road murals and mobile homes. After that, she worked for the Boys and Girls Club as Director of Government and Community Relations. Now, Cornejo is running for County Supervisor for District 4.

On the value of representation, Cornejo said, “When I was doing internships and looking into government, I never really had a role model. Being born and raised in this community, I feel like it’s my responsibility to give back to the community that raised me, but also make sure that we’re progressing as a whole. Representation is essential, and it has an impact on people, especially young kids.”

When running for office, Cornejo said, “I decided to run for my community. In the world of politics, even at a local level, there are a lot of steps you’re ‘supposed to take’ in order to take on a seat. I didn’t run under these unwritten rules—I didn’t ask for permission—and I hope more young girls can embrace a fearless attitude. In careers dominated by men, I think we need to embrace an attitude of going all the way.”

She added, “Registering to vote is really important. Participating in local elections and creating the habit of paying attention to what’s going on locally will often make a bigger difference than bigger elections.”

Cornejo’s advice for M-A students: “Never forget what you really want to do. Don’t let whatever is going on in your life drift you from your dreams and goals. Especially in careers that are dominated by a certain group or just feel unreachable, there’s always a way to reach it.”

Cornejo’s advice for students interested in a political career: “Don’t be afraid to reach out to people and ask for advice, and don’t feel like you need permission to run for office. If there are any questions that students have or that they want to get involved in, I’m pretty much an open book and would be more than willing to work with them.”

To learn more about Cornejo, go to maggiecornejo.com.

Celeste is a junior in her second year of journalism. She is the co-writer of the weekly column Bears Doing Big Things, featuring alumni. She also is a copy-editor and manages the publication's Spanish translations and social media. She enjoys covering issues affecting the M-A community through features and writing Bear Bites about local restaurants. Her story on La Biscotteria was recognized as a top-10 NSPA Blog Post of 2023.

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