This Candidate For Congress Proves Former Teachers Are What Politics Needs

by John Haltiwanger
Sara Hernandez

Sara Hernandez is a former middle school teacher and founder of the nonprofit HYPE, which helps low-income students in Los Angeles apply for top college-prep high schools.

She's also a candidate for Congress.

Hernandez is one of 23 candidates running in California's 34th Congressional District in Los Angeles in a special election that's set to occur on April 4.

She's hoping to replace former Rep. Xavier Bacerra, who's now the attorney general of California.

Her experiences as a teacher, which she characterizes as the hardest job she's ever done, had a massive impact on her political perspectives.

"I learned really quickly, in the classroom, that every single issue we deal with on a federal, state and local level plays out in the classroom every single day," she said.

Hernandez found that the educational outcomes for students were linked to essentially every major issue the US faces as a country — from affordable health care and housing to criminal justice and the availability of food.

Her time as a teacher served as a major source of inspiration for her in terms of running for office, telling Elite Daily,

I really believe that we need people in government and leaders who really have experience on the ground, because making policy at a 20,000 foot level, we often times see very well-intentioned policy that simply doesn't play out on the ground the way we want it to.

Hernandez has experienced this frustration on the ground, in terms of well-meaning but fairly impotent policies, working closely on the issue of homelessness.

While no politician deliberately attempts to increase homelessness, Hernandez feels it's clear current policies aren't going far enough.

Homelessness is an epidemic in Los Angeles, and the 34th district, where Hernandez is running, is at the center of it.

But, what Hernandez is most passionate about is revealed through her dedication to the low-income students she's helped via her nonprofit, HYPE.

We are selling a dream that is not real to so many students in this country.

She's deeply committed to addressing inequality and changing the narrative surrounding opportunity, especially for undocumented immigrant students:

Who we are as Americans to look kids in the eye, and tell them to invest in their education, do everything right, jump through every loop, obey every law and sell them this American dream that they have no access to? We are selling a dream that is not real to so many students in this country. [...] I always get very emotional about that.

In January, Hernandez visited one of the students she helped get into Georgetown University through HYPE while in Washington DC for the Women's March.

He recently graduated, but, given he's undocumented, his future is very uncertain.

"It was a stark reminder that this agenda of opportunity [...] is not accessible to so many people in this country today," she said.

The challenges and issues Hernandez has tackled in her community are similar or identical to those faced by many across the country, especially in cities.

She's arguably a prime example of why America could benefit immensely from having more former educators in Congress.

Simply put, teachers know what it means to be truly concerned with and committed to the success of individuals on a comprehensive level, and this quality is definitely not exhibited by a wide number of sitting Congress members.