Raj Salhotra is the product of the American Dream, and he is running for Houston City Council because he believes that with this opportunity comes the responsibility to serve and pay it forward.
My dad came to the United States as a 24-year-old with $42 in his pocket, and, as a 12-year-old, my mom immigrated here with my grandparents. Like many Houstonians, they came here to build a better life for their family. Through hard work, they lived their American Dream: my dad became a small business owner, and my mom became a professor at the University of Houston-Downtown. Beyond just determination, my family benefited from the help of community members like the professor who helped my mom secure her first job and the clients who helped my dad launch his business. My family’s story inspired me to believe that anything is possible with determination and that only with the help of others can we truly succeed.
This desire to serve and belief in our collective success has always been my life’s guiding light. While at Rice University, I became a tutor for low-income middle and high school students and then designed a reading program for elementary students. Building on these experiences, after graduating, I became a high school math teacher here in Houston. As a teacher, my students achieved the highest pre-calculus scores in the district, and we created our school’s first ever AP Statistics class. But teaching math alone is not enough; instead, we have to equip our students to succeed in college and the workforce. Therefore, after teaching, I co-founded SWAG To College, a mentorship organization that is helping 600 students get to and through college.
Teaching was and will always be the two greatest years of my life, but I was frustrated. Despite our best efforts, laws and policies outside education trapped my students in poverty. So, building on my previous experiences working on energy policy at Rice and researching budget policy while interning for the Obama administration, I decided to pursue law school at Harvard. While at Harvard, I researched housing and economic policy and worked on economic development policy with Mayor Turner. Upon graduation, my background and life story has compelled me to return to Houston and serve the city that has given so much to my family and me.