Congresswoman Jahana Hayes: From the Depths of Poverty to the National Teacher of the Year to the US Congress.
“There are multiple pathways to success. This idea that everything happens in perfect order and that people are perfect—I think I have showed people that it’s okay to be imperfect.”*
Who among us has a perfect life? Many of our greatest leaders had to overcome huge barriers in life. Jahana Hayes is no exception. As a US Congresswoman representing the 5th District of Connecticut, her new struggles will be different from her early years, yet she is ready and empowered to begin this new phase of her career.
What do you need to overcome to reach your goals?
Her story can be your story.
Jahana Hayes overcame poverty and teen pregnancy to become the first African American woman to be sent to congress from the 5th district of Connecticut. Coming from her background, few would guess that she would overcome the odds. Her family members struggled with addiction, relied on public assistance and eventually lost their home in the projects. Yet with the support of teachers who gave her books to read and community members who provided a safe haven, Jahana went to community college, then on to earn her teaching certification as well as a masters’ degree in education. She knew she wanted a career in which she could help young students in the same was she was helped. She achieved these goals while also caring for her young family.
After college, Jahana taught social studies and African American history at Kennedy High School in Waterbury, Connecticut. She helped her students develop a love for learning, overcome their obstacles and to ultimately believe in themselves. She worked with community members to develop before and after school activities that supported students’ learning while keeping the safe from the streets. In 2016, Hayes was named National Teacher of the Year and invited to the White House to be honored by President Barack Obama. Jahana was proud of her achievements but she was not ready to rest on her laurels.
When a seat for congress was vacated, Jahana saw another opportunity to work on behalf of struggling families who needed a voice in Washington. In her own words, this is why she decided to run
“ I am running because I see myself in every student, teacher, mom, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor and stranger I meet, and their story is my story. I want to earn the trust of the people in Connecticut’s 5th district and be the person to carry their concerns to Washington.”
Jahana’s philosophy was that helping people lead healthy, productive lives affects every part of our human existence. Everyone has value. Someone valued her, saw potential in her and she wanted to do the same for others. Thus became Jahana’s mission to “pay it forward”.
“It is these experiences that compel me to invest so deeply in my community, because I have been the beneficiary of so much undeserved grace. We can do whatever it is we set our minds to, as long as we work hard and work together” says Hayes.
As a U.S. Representative, Hayes plans to travel the nation learning about the concerns surrounding public education and the needs of teachers to be effective instructional leaders.
“Teachers exposed me to a different world by letting me borrow books to read at home and sharing stories about their college experiences,” said Hayes. “So many things that [teachers do] fall outside of traditional teaching responsibilities. It is those times when I am transformed into an advisor, counselor, confidant and protector.”
For more information see https://blackpast.org/
*Kaufmann, Greg, “Jahana Hayes is Poised for Success!” The Nation. 11.1.18