She ‘inspires her students’: Jahana Hayes on track to become Connecticut’s first Black Congressional Democrat

Her primary win in Connecticut means she could become the first Black Democrat elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from New England.

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 03: 2016 National Teacher of the Year Jahana Hayes (2nd R) of John F. Kennedy High School in Waterbury, CT, has a hard time controlling her excitement after taking the stage with U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and her fellow state teachers of the year during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. Obama talked about the influence and importance that each classroom instructor has on the lives of their students while honoring the teachers from all 50 states and U.S. territories. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Jahana Hayes is proving that grassroots efforts can work.

The Black woman and Connecticut’s 2016 Teacher of the Year is on track to become the state’s first Black Democrat in Congress, after logging a victory on Aug. 14 in the Democratic primary for Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District, according to NBC News.

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Hayes credited that recent success to the hard work of a small cadre of volunteers that included about 100 of her former students who toiled in just over 100 days of campaigning, the report notes.

Hayes told NBC News that the significance of her campaign  grew more prominent when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, clearing a space for an appointment by President Donald Trump. When that news hit, one of Hayes’ former students drove four hours from Philadelphia to volunteer for the campaign, the teacher told NBC.

“She said, ‘I realized I have never had to fight for a woman’s right to choose,’ “ Hayes told the news organization days after her primary win. “She volunteered all day, then drove back to Philadelphia. I couldn’t believe it when she walked through the door.”

Hayes, 45, grew up in Waterbury, Conn., in the projects and beat back a life full of challenges.

Her mother battled drug addiction and Hayes became pregnant at 17, raising her daughter by herself. She got herself through college and began teaching history, where her skill at reaching young people became clear and earned her recognition, NBC reported.

“Jahana inspires her students to give back,” former President Barack Obama said when announcing that she’d been named 2016 Teacher of the Year.

“I think she understands that actually sometimes the less you have, the more valuable it is to see yourself giving, because that shows you the power and the influence that you can bring to bear on the world around you.”

Hayes is among a record 309 women across the country running for House seats, Education Week has reported.

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