Behind the scenes, of course, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s rise has been a little less sudden. “For two years,” she said, “all I have been thinking about is 8:59 on June 26,” when the polls closed on Tuesday night.
But it goes back many years before that. As a teenager, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez never hesitated to speak her mind during political conversations around the dinner table.
“There was nobody who could shut her up,” said her mother, Blanca Ocasio-Cortez. “I saw the political tendencies since she was very, very young.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s mother was born in Puerto Rico. Her late father, Sergio Ocasio, an architect, was born in the Bronx. The family lived in Parkchester, a planned community of mid-rise buildings, in the same apartment where Ms. Ocasio-Cortez now lives, until Alexandria was about 5, when they moved an hour north to a modest two-bedroom house on a quiet street in Yorktown Heights, a suburb in Westchester County, in search of better schools.
At Yorktown High School, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was a serious science student and won second place in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in 2007. She presented her project, on the anti-aging effect of antioxidants in roundworms, to the town board of education, her science teacher Michael Blueglass said.
“One of the administrators wasn’t there at the beginning and came in after she started, and he said to the superintendent, ‘What company is she from?’” Mr. Blueglass recalled. “The superintendent said, ‘She’s a 17-year-old senior in our high school.’ She presented herself, verbally, visually, everything, as if she was a 30-year-old professional presenter businesswoman even though she was 17 years old.”