Politics

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez championed social justice at Boston University

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posed with a supporter Tuesday. The Boston University alumna upset a high-ranking House Democrat in a primary.
Scott Heins/Getty Images
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posed with a supporter Tuesday. The Boston University alumna upset a high-ranking House Democrat in a primary.

Long before she stunned the political world with her victory over a powerful New York congressman in Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a strong voice for social justice at Boston University.

Ocasio-Cortez, 28, graduated from the College of Arts & Sciences in 2011, with a degree in economics and international relations, according to her Facebook page and the Associated Press.

The progressive political activist - who defeated Rep. Joe Crowley for the Democratic nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional District -- was active at BU in organizations that empower minorities.

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She was president of Alianza Latina, BU’s largest Latin American student organization. She also was a student ambassador at the Howard Thurman Center For Common Ground, which aims to foster inclusiveness among students of all backgrounds.

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As a college student, Ocasio-Cortez worked in the office of US Senator Edward M. Kennedy from 2008 to 2009. She later studied abroad in Niger, according to the Daily Free Press, BU’s student newspaper.

In January of her senior year, Ocasio-Cortez spoke at BU’s annual Martin Luther King Day observance.

“How can we be great?” Ocasio-Cortez asked her fellow students, the newspaper reported. “The first step is a choice. King made a conscious decision. Ask yourself, today, how will you be great? In this moment, how am I great?”

Shortly before her graduation, Ocasio-Cortez participated in a discussion about happiness sponsored the Thurman center.

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“What does tomorrow bring?” she asked in a poem entitled “Questions.” “Just questions. Enigmatic, urgent, smoldering questions.”

In November, Ocasio-Cortez returned to BU to take part in an panel event hosted by Alianza Latina,

The club praised the “distinguished Alianza Latina alumni” in a March post, urging people in her district to vote for her.

“This is a candidate who is brave, empathetic, and intelligent,” the club wrote on its Facebook page.

Ocasio-Cortez responded with gratitude to the group.

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“Proud alum!” she wrote on the page. “Thank You for all the support.”

In response to her victory, the club’s president said on Wednesday they “could not be more proud” their newly-nominated alumna.

“Alexandria perfectly embodies what you can accomplish when you have passion and drive,” Zuleyka Hernandez wrote on behalf of Alianza Latina.

“New York is very lucky to be represented by such a powerful and inspiring individual,” Hernandez wrote.

Alana Levene can be reached at alana.levene@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alanalevene.