U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones addressed many issues of concern to students in a recent visit to Ossining High School, including climate change, lack of affordable housing, the student debt crisis and even his thoughts on rapper Lil Nas X.
The OHS Human Rights Club invited the Congressman – who represents Ossining and other parts of Westchester County, along with all of Rockland County – to speak to students on Oct. 29. He is one of the first two openly gay Black men elected to Congress, and one of a dozen representatives who are under 35.
OHS students found him inspiring, relatable and engaging. Senior Diana Chavez described meeting Jones and getting to ask questions as “highly motivating and incredibly powerful.”
“It’s not every day that you see a person, a sitting member of Congress, speak, let alone someone who can relate to your economic situation, your identity and all of that,” she said.
During the question-and-answer session, Jones spoke about growing up poor in Rockland County and not seeing anyone who looked like him in government. For most of his life, he did not think someone like him could run for Congress. As an openly gay man, he did not know if voters would accept him for who he was.
“Just know, from your member of Congress, that I got my start in politics at the same age that you are and there is no age that is too young for you to get involved and to play a major role in changing this country for the better,” he told students.
Students wanted to know what Jones would tell his younger self. “All will be OK,” he said. “Eventually, one day, people will celebrate you for who you are,” he said, and members of the audience clapped and cheered loudly.
Damaris Rincon, vice president of the Human Rights Club, said having someone in such a high office visit the high school and speak to students about issues they care about was a great experience. “It really makes us feel seen,” she said. “There are people that care about people in our school district.”