“Hey, hey, ho, ho, Donald Trump has got to go!” On Jan. 21, 2017, thousands of individuals in Boston united to protest the shocking election of Donald Trump. Among the protestors shouting anti-Trump slogans was Marina Novaes. In high school, Novaes actively engaged in fighting for human rights. Post-election, her activism has amped up full force.
These days, Novaes, a senior at UMass Lowell, spends her days advocating for human rights. “I’m always rooting for the underdog,” Novaes says. Not only does she advocate, but she spends her days immersed in questioning why individuals have privileges and others do not. This has turned into, “needing to do something about it.”
In high school in Medford, Novaes was in a local church group called Diocesan Youth Council. People would come year round to talk about spiritual exploration. This led to Novaes going on a mission trip to El Salvador at 15 and she says her perspective on life changed forever. “It really opened my eyes to a lot of inequality that happens globally.”
Novaes met children living in houses made of dirt, tin and aluminum and did not go to school, have shoes or know where their next meal was coming from. Gangs were a big presence in El Salvador and so they had to be cautious of their attire when going to different territories. “When I saw that drastic gap in how people live, that made me really want to be an advocate for people,” says Novaes. “Not everyone has an equal playing field and opportunity for success.”
Abbey Tavernese, a junior at UMass Lowell, says she is a compassionate, strong-willed and determined individual. She says Novaes was one of the first people that made her question why things are the way they are. Even when the fight is a long battle, Novaes, she says, “fights for what she believes in until there’s no fight left in her.” As one of Novaes’s friends, Tavernese says that despite the struggles she goes through, she always stands back up, dusts herself off and persists on.
When Barack Obama was president, “I think people kind of relaxed a little bit,” says Novaes. While she was still a strong advocate and activist, Novaes says she felt the country was progressing on human rights for all. However, Donald Trump sprouted a lot of grassroots activism in which young people are standing up for their beliefs. Novaes says, “We are tired of letting other people who sometimes don’t have our best interest at heart control us.”
Even though Novaes is tired of fighting against people in power, she does not back down. “It all started because my friends and I were going to a music festival in Rothberry, [Mich.],” Novaes says. They attended Rage for Change, the organization she and her friends created to raise money for the Flint, Mich. water crisis. In a group message with her friends, someone said, “Zoos are not cool and how they don’t take good care of animals.” A dentistry organization donated money to elephants in zoos, sending three to four times more than to kids in Michigan to help with their dental hygiene. “It made me question their prioritization. Do they really care about these people or was it a publicity stunt?”
Novaes says that Flint’s government transitioned to a much older water system without checking the water for lead. Rage for Change raised $2,000 dollars to help Flint’s water crisis, Novaes says.
When Novaes is not out waving a handmade protest sign, educating herself on human rights or “out saving the world, she can be found watching ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ while eating her favorite meal, rice and beans,” says Novaes’s boyfriend, Matthew Prekop. Prekop says that Novaes was the one to organize Rage for Change and never stops inspiring others to advocate for what is right.
“Sometimes I feel like I do a lot that I need to balance it with nothing,” Novaes says. Netflix is her form of doing “nothing.” Another pastime of Novaes is going to concerts with her friends. “I like to go on little adventures to towns I haven’t been to,” she says.
Novaes also enjoys painting and collaging when she has the time and energy. “I do a lot of gifting, making art for other people.” Novaes’s empathetic nature causes her to do things for other people even in her spare time.
“There is a purpose for my life, and it’s to help people,” she says.