Our first entry for our second annual student writing contest for Hispanic Heritage month is from Priscilla Dueñas, a twelve year old student in the seventh grade at Lincoln Middle School.
Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice
Sonia Sotomayor was born on June 25, 1954. She is the 111th justice, the first Hispanic justice, and the third female justice of the Supreme Court. She was born in the Bronx, New York, and is a Puerto Rican descendent. She graduated A. B., Summa cum lade, from Princeton University in 1967. She had received her J.D. from Yale law school in 1979, and was editor at Yale law journal. She was an advocate for hiring Latino faculty. Sotomayor was also an assistant district attorney in New York 5 years before private practice in 1984. Sotomayor played a role in the boards of directors for the Puerto Rican defense and education fund, the state of New York mortgage, and the New York City campaign.
Why Sonia is important to me
Sonia Sotomayor is important to me because Latina and Latino men and women have a stereotype- people think because they are Mexican they aren’t as good or as smart as other people. And as a Latina I find that very offensive. Since Sonia was also Latina she had a stereotype against her too. But she still made it to be a Supreme Court Justice, even tough Sonia grew up poor without a father. Most wealthy and successful people would not even get to meet the president. Sonia met the president and is in high ruling. I am not poor and I have a father and a stepfather to help and support me. Sonia’s story helps me to believe that I can achieve many great goals in my future.
Sonia’s contribution to society
Since Sonia has been in the Supreme Court she has inspired many young Hispanic students; I am one of those many students. Many students from the Cesar Chavez charter school in Washington D. C. told Channel 8 news that since Sonia has been in the Supreme Court they have been given hope to excel to a level they never thought possible. She has given Hispanic students with stereotypes hope.
How Sonia’s story affected my life
Ever since I heard about Sonia Sotomayor in 2009 I realized I can do many great things in my life and future. I don’t just need a job; I want a career. I realized I always wanted to be a college teacher and inspire students and help them learn. Before I didn’t think that a girl from a small town of La Union, New Mexico could do it. I have more hope tanks to Sonia, and I know now I have a chance I m already headed down the right path. I recently moved out of the small town of La Union to Rio Rancho, New Mexico. I have better learning conditions and more opportunities. By Sonia I learned I can achieve great goals and work hard to get there and not give up.
Sonia in conclusion
Sonia Sotomayor is a woman, who against all odds achieved a great goal. She never gave up and she tried her best. I hope to be like her some day and make history and help a society. I will never give up, because I was inspired by a great woman. That great women’s name is Sonia Sotomayor.
Stay tuned for some additional student essays! After we have uploaded all of the articles, our readers will have a chance to choose a first, second and third place winner.
“As you discover what strength you can draw from your community in this world from which it stands apart, look outward as well as inward. Build bridges instead of walls.”
― Sonia Sotomayor
Many people in the United States know the name Sonia Sotomayor for being the first Latina to be a member of the Supreme Court, but that is not all she has done. Sonia Sotomayor’s working class childhood separates her from her fellow judges, and this is what makes her so interesting. Both her parents were born in Puerto Rico and came to New York for a better life. She is the perfect example of the American Dream, exemplifying the benefits of hard work and motivation. She has dedicated her life to working for people of all backgrounds and helping them gain justice through the law. Through her great leadership skills and emotional intelligence, she is able to be an inspiration to young children growing up in conditions similar to one’s she experienced during her youth, and to minorities and immigrants in search of the American Dream.
Housing in the Bronx
Sonia was born on June 25th 1954 to her mom Celina who was a nurse, and her father Juli, a good cook but also an alcoholic. At 9 years old, when her father passed away, she learned to become a leader in her household. She would go grocery shopping and help her mother deal with the loss. She was diagnosed with diabetes the year before and at this young age she learned to give herself the insulin shots. Her parents incapability of administering the shots was one driving force behind her desire to learn. Their arguing led her to become strong and independent at a young age.
To deal with this difficult time in Sonia’s life, she turned to books for comfort. She read Nancy Drew and watched the famous television show Perry Mason, which sparked her interest in solving cases and desire to get involved in law. While she wanted to become a lawyer, and many years of school were approaching in her future, she had a difficult time learning in English and states she did not know how to write properly when she started college. She grew up in a home speaking only Spanish, which created the transition into English at school to be difficult. It was not until the fifth grade that she began to find an interest in school.
Education and Youth Activism:
Sonia graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School and went on to receive her college degree from Princeton University. It was during her first year at Princeton when she discovered that she was not the best of writers. She took many classes and sought help from professor and, with time, became an excellent writer. She was also very involved in activities she found to be important. She was a member of all the Puerto Rican groups on campus, two of them being The Third World Center and Accion Puertorriquena. While she worked with these groups she was also involved in Princeton’s disciplinary committee. Through these various organizations her knowledge and talent in law grew, as well as her open mind to a “new” world.
She graduated from Princeton summa cum laude in 1976, and was given the Pyne Prize. This is the highest academic award that can be received as an undergraduate from Princeton. She later went on to receive her law degree from Yale University. During law school she was also editor of the Yale Law Journal, where she continued to advocate for an increase in the number of minority students. She would use all the practice and knowledge gained throughout the years after she passed the bar in 1980.
Career in law:
Judge Sotomayor began her law career specializing in intellectual property litigation at the firm Pavia & Harcourt, where she continued to receive higher positions and recognition for her work well done. Never neglecting her roots, she started doing pro bono work that was later noticed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Her ability to balance all her work and do things effectively was noticed by all. She showed her talent as a member of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, where she was the top policy member for twelve years. She was also a member of the State of New York Mortgage Agency and the New York City Campaign Finance Board. While on the board for the Mortgage Agency she helped AIDs hospices and low-income housing receive mortgage insurance, and helped city compaigns gain public money through the Finance Board.
He talent was recognized by Senator Edward M. Kennedy who appointed her U.S. District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York City. She was then elevated to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President William Clinton. Even though she held these high appointed positions, she never stopped doing what she truly loved, inspiring and educating others. She taught law at New York University in 1998 and at Columbia Law School in 1999.
First Latina Supreme Court Judge & Third Woman Appointed to Supreme Court:
Sonia Sotomayor was elected as one of the nine Supreme Court Judges by President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 6, 2009.
This video is of Sonia Sotomayor talking about her life and her position as a Supreme Court Judge
This video is of Sonia Sotomayor being sworn into office.
Openness and Perseverance
Sonia Sotomayor believes that a leader needs to be open. One must be prepared for judgment, and even though there are difficulties that can come with being open, there are also positives that come along. She believes that if her openness as a leader could have the potential to inspire or comfort someone else, then it is worth it. Secondly, she believes in perseverance. Through all the criticism and obstacles Sonia faced, she never stopped striving for success. She went the distance to a far-off goal that without the leadership skill of perseverance, would not be possible.
While Sonia is admired by many people including lawyers and politicians, she is also criticized. She is also seen by lawyers, as being hard on the counsel, aggressive and tough in court. Often demanding and expecting a lot from the people. This can come from her perspective of herself, a very hard working individual who does not believe in nonsense and prefers to use a common sense approach rather than intellectual approach.
When she was nominated to the Supreme Court, the media criticized her of racism. From the speech she gave in 2001 at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, they took her statement “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.” This was just a part of the speech, and by the media focusing solely on this remark and creating their critique of racism, they were missing the point of her speech.
In this speech she talks about the benefits of her experiences and the challenges she faces as a judge. She states her belief that judges are influenced by their experiences and backgrounds, and it has an influence on how they see the evidence and determine the fate on an individual or law.
Criticism can also be seen by the lack of Republican Senate votes she received on her nomination to the Supreme Court, and why the majority voted no.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor is the perfect example of the American Dream. She portrays the image of an individual who through hard work and dedication received their American Dream. Coming from parents born in Puerto Rico who did not receive high education and her lack of English at a young age, she was able to push herself to get a higher education and succeed. Through her powerful leadership skills she is able to today be a Supreme Court Judge who puts their focus on accomplishing things that would better help society and help improve this country as a whole.
She showed her ability to be a great leader at a very young age. When she was diagnosed with diabetes at eight years old, she learned to administer insulin shots to herself. Knowing the severity of the situation she focused and learned the proper way, which would eventually save her life. This experience helped her grow and she believed in using her experiences to help her with future obstacles and decisions. Her leadership skill of openness can be linked back to our study of Jane Addams, and all that she did proving that openness is a crucial skill to being a great leader. Lastly, her ability to use her experiences in life and her background, and apply them to her work links back to the study of Myles Horton and how he believed that was the key to better understanding yourself and others.
About The Author:
Angelica Montemarano is a freshman at Wagner College, class of 2017, majoring in Economics and minoring in English with a focus on Pre-Law. Angelica, before and during college, has partaken in communities affairs doing community service in all the boroughs of New York. She has worked for New York State Senator Martin J. Golden for the past six years and is currently still involved. She has worked with various organizations in Brooklyn New York that help Italian-American immigrants, senior citizens, and young children in numerous daycare centers. Angelica has currently worked campaigning for John Quaglione, a former candidate for the 43rd New York City Council District, where she lives in Brooklyn, as well as for New York’s current Mayor Bill de Blasio. While she has been involved campaigning and helping with community affairs, she is also a proud member of Wagner’s Pre-Law society. Due to her interest in the law and aspirations to one day attend law school to obtain a MBA/JD and become a corporate attorney, she has chosen to research this inspirational leader for her final project. Angelica being a first generation American, having Italian be her first language growing up, and have parents who did not receive high levels of education, sees Sonia Sotomayor as a someone she aspires to be like and learn from.
Charles, Guy-Uriel, Daniel L. Chen, and Mitu Gulati. “Sonia Sotomayor and the construction of merit. (2011 Randolph W. Thrower Symposium: Judging Politics: Judges as Political Actors, Candidates, and Arbiters of the Political).” Emory Law Journal no. 4 (2012)
Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher, 2013).
Taylor, Stuart. “Sotomayor, Gates And Race.(Sonia Sotomayor and Henry Louis Gates Jr.).” National Journal (2009)
Taylor, Stuart. “Identity Politics And Sotomayor.(Sonia Sotomayor)(Essay).” National Journal (2009)