Before Jahana Hayes became a Congresswoman today, she was a history teacher at Kennedy High School in Waterbury in Room 203.
Students who occupied that classroom today were learning about world history, but they were also captivated by what was happening in Washington, D.C. — a member of their own community making history.
Jahana Hayes, who used to be known as Mrs. Hayes, officially became Representative Hayes when she was sworn in as the first African-American woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. She’s officially gone from Room 203 to representing Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.
“I just feel like it’s a really big achievement for Waterbury,” said Jazmin Estrella, a student at Kennedy High School.
“I feel very proud,” said student, Syrenitee Kee.
Some of Hayes’ former students, who have since graduated, came back to school today reflecting on the impact Hayes made at Kennedy.
“She inspires me to be myself, to always work hard and to never give up,” said Jurea McIntosh, a former Hayes student. “And if you really want something in the future in your life you have to put the hard work into it.”
Hayes won National Teacher of the Year in 2016 during her time at Kennedy High School. Former students say she had a big impact in and out of the classroom.
“She just told me to relax, everything’s going to be ok,” Kee said. “Continue to work hard and to always do what I can for my community and be the best person I can.”
The day was extra special and significant for young African-American female students.
“Just seeing that a woman who looks like me is doing something big representing my hometown, that I could make it the same way she could,” said McIntosh.
“It’s very emotional just to see her start from the beginning and working up all the way to where she is now,” Kee said.
Jahana Hayes used to tell students at Kennedy Hight School to do their homework. Now, they’re waiting to see what she can accomplish once she gets to work in Washington.
“She, as other politicians should see past their differences and work together to not get a paycheck, but to work for the American people,” one student said.