Raul De Jesus is a 20-year-old Hartford mayoral candidate. A graduate of Hartford Public High School, he is a police cadet, a homeowner and an altar server on Sundays.
October 22, 2007
I moved around the city 11 times, almost every year of my life.
I had a box of toys as a young kid. I played with the toys and I had to put them back in the box because I never knew when I'd have to grab that box and move it to another place somewhere else in the city.
At the age of 10, I had to work at C-Town bagging up groceries for tips to at least help out my parents. I'd make about $3 and could buy at least a loaf of bread, a dollar's worth of salami and some cheese. Sometimes it was all we had to eat for the whole day.
I went to seven different elementary schools and three different middle schools. It was kind of hard for me to get focused. I had so many distractions. I felt limited because I was in bilingual [classes], so pretty much all my classes were in Spanish from first to fifth grade, and when I started going to middle school, all the kids were talking in English. For me it was a little tough, because here I am, born here, and I couldn't communicate that well.
In high school it was a whole different ballgame. I went there to work.
I lost a lot of my friends in the first year. They did not make it. I used that as motivation because I said I'm not going to be part of that. I'm not going to put myself down there.
I was the first in my family to graduate high school, and when I walked across that stage, I know it wasn't for me. I know it wasn't my accomplishment. It was all of our accomplishment because that's how it is in my family. If you bring a bag of chips, and you only brought one, you better make sure you put that on a plate and everyone can eat from it.
We have to create momentum in the city. We have to not just say "you are the future" to kids, but show them a way to get there. We have to make sure these kids can say "I believe" again.
I know I may not win in the votes in November, but there are many ways of winning, and I've won. My thing is to motivate the crowds, to motivate the kids that had the same upbringing as me so they can see that if I made it out, so can they.
They told me once, "Raul, climb the mountain." I said I don't want to climb the mountain, I want to move that mountain so future generations will have one less obstacle in their path to success.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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