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By Nan Price, Content Manager, MetroHartford Alliance

Sneha Jayaraj is a Community Public Healther at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, a Youth Achievement Mentor at the YMCA of Greater Hartford, Producer of the Inside Out/Outside In podcast, and, most recently, a Safety Net Project Legal Intern at the Urban Justice Center in New York City.

Why Hartford?

SNEHA JAYARAJ: I’ve lived in Rocky Hill since first grade and I’ve been coming to Hartford since I was young. I’ve spent a lot of time in the city because I had friends in Hartford. I also went to UConn Hartford, which is the University of Connecticut’s campus that’s integrated within downtown Hartford.

Spending time in Hartford, I got to see saw the community here, which is really strong. There’s a lot of opportunity for community involvement, too, at places like Kamora’s Cultural Corner and the Wilson-Gray YMCA, which are both on Albany Avenue. I volunteer at the Y, which has been a great time, becoming a part of the Y family and guiding children on the essentials of embracing self-love.

What impact did you hope to make with your involvement in the Alliance?

SNEHA: What interested me—and continues to interest me—about the MetroHartford Alliance is how it’s refocused on economic development in our region. I was also interested in how the organization is committed to attracting and retaining local talent. There is so much untapped, local Hartford skill and talent, and I think Alliance does a good job in having events where people can connect to the loop.

How do you feel you’ve become a part of Hartford and how has Hartford become a part of you?

SNEHA: For me, becoming a part of Harford definitely means going to community events. Prior to COVID-19, there were so many events on every single night—weekdays and weekends. I would tell folks to attend local events that you’re invited to, bring friends and family, get connected through social media, and be yourself because usually everybody in Hartford welcomes folks with open arms in growing the community.

How do you think we tell the story of Hartford?

SNEHA: For me, it’s talking about what I’m doing and investing in our local businesses, whether that is spending our resources on them through money or marketing them on our social media outlets.

What makes Hartford unique?

SNEHA: The diversity and the beautiful art. I’m learning more about new cultures—and they each add something cool to the community, whether it’s the Trinidadian, Jamaican, Peruvian, or Guyanese populations.

I also love that Hartford is the capital of Connecticut. I like to give recognition to our capital and invest in it because, the better Hartford is, the better every town in Connecticut will be.