Connecticut Democrat Jahana Hayes followed a non-traditional path to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a public school teacher, she wasn’t particularly interested in becoming a politician, but she saw a missing perspective in Congress and knew she could advocate on behalf of people and do the right thing. 

In an interview with Blavity Politics (video below), Hayes discussed her career prior to Congress, what made her decide to run for office and the obstacles she faced. 

Hayes previously taught social studies at John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut, when she was named National Teacher of the Year in 2016. As a result, she spent time traveling around the country talking to people about public education. 

“I had never even thought about, considered, looked into running for elected office,” Hayes said. 

She declared her candidacy in May 2018 and was elected in November, becoming the first Black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. She says the experience of being a teacher makes her more than qualified to fulfill her duties.

“Who better than a teacher…to help craft legislation for the next generation of children," said Hayes. “Everything has prepared me for this position.” 

Some people discouraged her to run, saying she didn’t have the experience. Now that she’s been elected, she finds that she has to fight for respect as a Black congresswoman in ways that her non-Black colleagues do not. Still, she maintains that we should all see ourselves reflected in our elected officials, and she encourages young people to create their own opportunities to follow their dreams. 

Watch the full video below.