EducationGovernmentThe Northern Westchester Examiner

Jones Looks to Inspire Students During Ossining High School Visit

We are part of The Trust Project
U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones posing for photos at Ossining High School where he spoke to students last Friday. Abby Luby photo

For U.S. Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-White Plains), speaking to Ossining High School students last Friday was, as he put it, “the highlight of my week.”

Jones was invited by the school’s Human Rights Club to answer questions from students on current political issues and to share his background and involvement in politics.

Jones, 34, who represents New York’s 17th Congressional District, was sworn in on Jan. 3 as one of the nation’s first two openly gay Black member of Congress. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Stanford University in California, worked at the Department of Justice during the Obama Administration and graduated from Harvard Law School. He is a co-founder of the nonprofit Rising Leaders, Inc. and has previously served on the NAACP’s National Board of Directors and on the board of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

About 200 students and community members filled the high school auditorium, many excited to see and later meet Jones for the first time. The high school also streamed the forum online.

Wearing jeans, T-shirt and a sports jacket, Jones recounted his involvement in community issues.

“I got my start in politics in high school,” Jones said when asked what motivated him to run for Congress. “It was clear to me as a young person I could still make a difference. There is no age that is too young to change the world.”

Jones said he was raised in Section 8 housing by his single mother who worked multiple jobs. The family depended on food stamps. He attended East Ramapo public schools.

“Growing up I never imagined that someone like me could even run for Congress, let alone get elected,” Jones said. “But I also saw in the communities that we come from there was injustice in the criminal justice system, worsening climate crisis, a housing affordability crisis – all of which have only gotten worse. I saw a lot of people in government not fighting hard enough for the things people say they believe in.”

As the youngest member of the House of Representative’s leadership team, Jones mentioned the current gridlock in Congress over passing the Build Back Better bill.

“It’s been a rough week and I’ve been fighting for all of the things that matter to all of you,” Jones told the students. “Being surrounded by people like you who share my values, who energize me, and because of your ongoing commitment to public service, that’s a really cool thing.”

When asked about a fun, cool moment Jones may have experienced in Congress, he recalled sleeping on the Capitol steps with his colleagues and hundreds of supporters to pressure the Biden administration to reinstitute the eviction moratorium and use the $46.5 billion Congress had yet to spend to help people pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It didn’t make sense to force 11 million people out on the streets during a deadly pandemic,” he said. “We stayed there a total of five days and weren’t willing to go home until we got a result. I got to know my colleagues and the coolest thing was that we won that fight.”

Asked about the student debt crisis, Jones said he was still paying off his own law school loans but he was able to attend Stanford University with the help of financial aid.

“Nationally there is $1.7 trillion in student debt and we have thousands of young people in Westchester, Rockland and many here in Ossining who, because of student debt and despite graduating college and having degree, are unable to start families or own homes,” he said.

Jones pivoted to a more light-hearted subject when asked if he liked Grammy Award-winning rapper, singer and songwriter Lil Nas X.

“I’m definitely a Lil Nas X fan; I think he’s awesome,” Jones said. “I wish I had that kind of courage at his age. He’s a talented artist. I enjoy some of his music and he’s the funniest person I’ve seen on social media, like the way he trolls people. I wish could troll people like that.”

Following the question-and-answer session, sophomore Lucy Bolger, a Human Rights Club member, said the club discusses controversies and solutions.

“Mondaire is so inspiring and his talk gave me optimism and a positive feeling about Congress. I love politics,” Bolger said.


We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.