It was a bright, sunny day when U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor stepped into the Sonia Gutierrez Campus where a crowd of students and staff eagerly waited to greet her. The air was buzzing with anticipation leading up to her arrival. The Justice greeted each person warmly before heading up to the second floor to say hi to a group of students.

In the Main Hall the Justice walked among the students throughout her brief remarks and the question and answer session. She would warmly place a hand on a student’s shoulder while she answered questions and shared stories from her personal life.

The first student to speak was Leonard, a GED student and survivor from Cameroon. As a college bound student, he asked the Justice to share her college experiences and to give advice to immigrants looking to succeed in higher education. She talked about feeling anxious as a student and doubting her abilities. She also encouraged students to ask for help when they need it.

Other questions from students included:

  • What motivated you to write your book?
  • What skills did you have to have to overcome your challenges?
  • How do you feel being the first Latina Supreme Court Justice?
  • What challenges did you have writing in English?

It was a question from Cynthia in the Vocabulary class that drove home the weight of the work done by the Justice. Cynthia asked, “What is your normal day?” Justice Sotomayor replied that while most people might think of her days as boring, she loves them. The Justice shared that she is constantly reminded of the impact the decisions that she and her colleagues are making have on everyday Americans across the U.S.

As the question and answer session wrapped up, the Justice took photos with each group of students, sitting in the middle of each crowd. Before heading off on a student-led tour of a few classrooms, a small group of students gave the Justice handmade gifts of student poetry, prose and photography, and an inlaid wood tray made by a student craftsman from Zanzibar.

On the tour, led by students Erick Quinteros and Helen Abebe, the Justice visited classrooms and saw programs in action. First, the Justice visited the International Cuisines class, where she got to taste students’ work from the Italian cuisine unit. In the Nurse Aide Training classroom, Justice Sotomayor shared the story of her mother becoming a nurse and praised students for choosing that profession. In the ESL 8 class, the Justice observed part of a lesson on the civil rights movement. She also made a stop at the Library and Resource Center, where our school librarian gave an overview of resources and services available to students.