Alexandria was born in the Bronx to two working-class parents. Her father was a small business owner from the South Bronx. Her mother was born in Puerto Rico. From an early age, Alexandria grew up with a deep understanding of income inequality. Alexandria went on to study at Boston University, where she earned degrees in Economics and International Relations. While there, she worked for the late Sen. Kennedy handling foreign affairs and immigration casework for constituent families. After studying, Ocasio-Cortez returned to the Bronx and began to pursue work in the areas that had impacted her own family growing up: education and community organizing.
As an Educational Director, she worked with promising high school youth to expand their skill-sets in community leadership and social enterprise. She also piloted projects to help improve skills in childhood literacy in young children and writing for middle-schoolers in the Bronx. Alexandria’s struggle put her on the other side of laws and policy, as she went from reviewing economic outcomes to having first-hand experiences with families struggling to maintain decent housing, healthcare, and immigration status. That dual experience has given her a much deeper understanding of how policies impact our families beyond the white papers. It’s one thing to write healthcare policy—it’s an entirely other matter to have to deal with healthcare, housing, and education systems ourselves.
That advocacy has called Alexandria to engage with families across the country—from the South Bronx to Flint, Michigan and Standing Rock. On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary in New York’s 1th congressional district covering parts of the Bronx and Queens in New York City, defeating the incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, in what has been described as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm-election season.
3 Things We Love About Alexandria:
- Ocasio-Cortez hopes to represent immigrants in the Bronx and Queens; she says they’ve been yearning for a representative who speaks to them, and speaks for their needs.
- She is making history! It is likely that at 28 years old she will become the youngest congresswoman ever.
- Cortez is defying all of the previous standards. She is sparking a change in the political environment. She says, “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office, I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family.”