Jahana Hayes overcame a mountain of adversity to become the nation’s top educator and to make history in politics. She had a drug-addicted mother and was a pregnant teenager growing up in one of Waterbury, Connecticut’s most violent housing projects.
Hayes, who once considered dropping out of high school, persevered with her education and became a high school teacher. In 2016, she was named National Teacher of the Year and traveled nationwide as an ambassador for public education. Hayes made history in 2018 when she was elected to the U.S. House of Representative, becoming the first African American woman and the first African American Democrat to represent Connecticut in Congress.
In an interview with the Rolling Stone, Hayes spoke about her road to Congress and notes why her journey is unique.
“You cannot pull yourself up by the bootstraps if you do not have any boots. That creates this idea that “all you have to do is work harder,” almost like it’s your fault. And that’s not always true. I wish I were the rule, but I recognize that I’m the exception,” Hayes says.