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Graphic via Denzel Boyd for COURIER/Image via Jochua Cora

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ message was an eye-opener for Jochua Cora, who became a political activist and now believes in a better future.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — For Puerto Rican teacher Jochua Cora Santiago, it was “shocking” to see how Latino children still grow up at a disadvantage, experiencing similar situations to his own as a child raised between Connecticut and Puerto Rico.

Cora moved to Orlando in 2012 to work with a non-profit organization that helps children with Title I benefits—schools that receive federal funding for services and resources to students, helping to ensure they meet challenging state academic standards.

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“For me, it was shocking to know that there were still children who were being raised like I was,” Cora told The Americano. “Obviously, one is aware that there is poverty. Still, when I talked with these children, I realized that many were living under the same situations I experienced as a child.”

The teacher continued to pursue his career in education, holding several positions in Orange County schools. Many of them had high numbers of Latino students.

“I focused on working in Title I schools in poor communities to literally help children learn many things not taught in the schools,” Cora said.

As a history teacher, part of what he taught his middle-school students was how the electoral system works.

Then, in 2015, Cora heard Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking and had his own realization on the importance of the political system.

“Before Sanders, I did not care about politics,” he says. “He taught me that we live in the richest country in the world, and yet we don’t provide health insurance for everyone. For me, that is shocking. I thought, ‘It’s true that we live in a millionaire country that lets its people die’.”

When Donald Trump won the presidency, Cora became a political activist to help people stay informed on issues.

“The vision of what the United States could be prompted me to learn more about politics,” he says. “But when Trump won, that pushed me even further to be an activist and do different things to help defeat him.”

The activist works with different organizations as a volunteer, and is a regular at Alianza for Progress, an initiative that defends the rights of Latino communities.

In his volunteer work, Cora focuses on teaching voters who are unfamiliar with the United States electoral system and providing them with information on candidates’ platforms. 

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“I explain that Biden wants to raise the minimum wage, which would benefit many Hispanics,” Cora says. “Especially here in Florida, where many Hispanics work at Disney and in different tourism-related positions.”

Cora recently ran for a position in the School Board of Osceola County. While he did not get elected, he says the experience taught him about how the electoral process works. 

In spite of what many consider a grim landscape, Cora is confident that the political scene in the U.S. is changing. Cora said candidates are no longer just “old, white, and rich people.” He believes more and more politicians are representing the ethnic diversity of the population.

“Now, many young people are throwing themselves into different political positions,” he says. “There are many young Black people, people from the LGBTQ communities of all colors and ideologies—many young progressives who want to defeat corruption and nepotism in local politics. Having everyday people in politics brings communities closer together.”