In early 2020, high school senior Alex Guzhnay told NBC Connecticut that in five years, he could see himself as “a legislator or politician, a public servant.” 

Now a rising sophomore at Yale, he is beginning the first step on this journey as a candidate for the open Ward 1 Alder position. 

Ward 1 covers Yale’s Old Campus and eight of the University’s 14 residential colleges. Current Alderman Eli Sabin is campaigning in nearby Ward 7, covering the rest of downtown.

“I always had the idea of running for office in the back of my head,” Guzhnay told the News as he reflected on his experience growing up in Fair Haven.

As the proud son of Ecuadorian immigrants, Guzhnay hopes to inspire other young people with similar stories.

Guzhnay said that he witnessed the impact of food insecurity and crime on his neighborhood while growing up. Now as a college student, he hopes to address these issues in office, uplifting youth voices and the advocates within his community to spotlight their experiences.

“I want to tackle issues ranging from crime, public safety and quality of life issues,” Guzhnay said. “Many of which I’ve been directly impacted by growing up where I grew up.”

As a New Haven native, Guzhnay is tasked with balancing his identity as a Fair Havener and Ecuadorian American while attending one of the most prestigious universities in the country. When asked about Yale’s responsibility to the local community, Guzhnay acknowledged his “privilege” as someone who has “benefitted from the institution,” but does not let that stop him from demanding more from the University.

“I am a Yale student but I am a New Haven resident first and foremost,” he said. “Just because I am a Yale student, that doesn’t prevent me from pushing Yale to do more and to make opportunities available from other people across the city.”

 Guzhany acknowledges Yale’s position as one of the largest employers within the city, expanding on his college experience and support for local initiatives in an interview with the New Haven Independent’s Thomas Breen.

“There’s folks growing up in New Haven that may not have the same opportunities I have.” While Yale does benefit the New Haven community, the school has the responsibility to do more and provide additional resources for local youth, Guzhnay argues. By paying more taxes to the City of New Haven and bolstering educational programing for New Haven-area youth, Guzhnay believes that Yale can begin to address inequities within the city.

As Guzhnay focuses his campaign on the importance of community and youth voice, he continues to find a balance between exploring different activities at Yale, finding a home on campus, and running for office. “I know who I am and where I’m coming from,” he says, allowing him to advocate within a deeply complicated relationship between the city and the University.

“I am grateful for my support systems in and outside of Yale.”

Guzhnay said that he “values listening and knowing when to speak up,” seeking to represent the needs of his community first.

“As long as I’m helping people in any way I can with the power I’m given, I’d be proud of myself.”