Daughter of Puerto Rican parents, Sonia Sotomayor made history on August 6, 2009, when the U.S. Senate confirmed her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Appointed by President Barack Obama, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. She is the third woman to become an associate justice of the Supreme Court. She follows Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Sotomayor grew up in New York City. Her father died from heart complications when she was 9 years old. Her mother, Celina, worked two jobs to support Sonia and her brother. Sotomayor says her mother’s sacrifices made her professional success possible.

Originally, a young Sotomayor wanted to follow in the fictional footsteps of Nancy Drew by becoming a detective, but a diabetes diagnosis at age 7 altered her plans. When she was a child, there were no disposable needles for insulin shots, so she had to wake up early to boil water and sterilize the needles. She soon learned to use that time to do other things: brush her teeth, pick out her clothes. After watching an episode of court show drama Perry Mason, her new calling was determined: She would be an arbiter of justice.

Willed by her now-single mother to value higher education with a fervor, in 1972 Sotomayor was accepted into Princeton. Four years later she graduated summa cum laude and was recognized with the Pyne Prize, a distinction given to the most distinguished students. She went on to attend Yale Law School where she presided over the Yale Law Journal as editor.

From 1979 to 1984, Sotomayor was an assistant district attorney in the New York County District Attorney’s Office. She then moved to the private sector, where she litigated international commercial matters at a prominent law firm. She rose to become a partner in the firm.

For decades, she had wanted to serve the public by becoming a judge and was thrilled to be recommended for a spot on the New York district court by senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1991. Moynihan, at the time, rightly predicted that because of her legal talents and work ethic, Sotomayor would eventually become the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice. Sotomayor would eventually make her way to becoming New York State’s first Hispanic federal judge. As a self-proclaimed Nuyorican (i.e. a Puerto Rican from New York), it was also an honor for Sotomayor to be the first Puerto Rican woman to hold a judgeship in a U.S. federal court.

Learn more at: scholastic.com-Sotomayor

biography.com- Sotomayor

NPR.org-Sotomayor

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