The Woman That Could: Sonia Sotomayor


Emiliano Medina

The woman that could, Sonia Sotomayor, is a Puerto Rican woman from the South Bronx, New York. She is most famous for her position as a judge on the Supreme Court of The United States. In her memoir, My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor wrote “Although wisdom is built on life experiences, the mere accumulation of years guarantees nothing.” No one knew that better than Sonia as she never wasted a second of her life. Sonia Sotomayor’s life tells the story of someone who came from an impoverished family to someone who would escape that life and go through any struggle she had to achieve her dreams. Those who do not see Sonia as a leader usually don’t know her story and how she worked for everything she had and how she put herself through every position possible to get to the highest position. 

In her early life, Sonia Sotomayor was born into very little being raised by native Puerto Ricans parents in the South Bronx Projects. Sonia’s home life was very difficult with friction between her parents giving her reasoning to sterilize and inject herself with insulin when she was diagnosed with diabetes 1 at the age of 7 to avoid conflict between her parents. From kindergarten to 8th grade Sonia’s education came from Sacrament Parish School, however during her young years Sonia’s father Juan tragically passed away due to a heart attack leaving Sonia’s mother widowed and in charge of Sonia and her brother Juan. After her father’s death Sonia threw herself into studying and education and as a child she would find herself reading Nancy Drew novels and watching the Perry Mason show which piqued her interest in crime and detection, until she finally decided that she wanted to be an attorney.

Once Sonia had finally graduated middle school she would attend Blessed Sacrament where she would earn valedictorian and would also attend Cardinal Spellman High School where she was an active member of the debate team. During her time in the debate team one of her partners, who was a year older than Sonia, had gotten a full scholarship to Princeton and encouraged her to apply for the scholarship as well and to Sonia’s surprise she was accepted. Although moving from a New York City curriculum to an Ivy league school curriculum was challenging on Sonia and she soon would realize that she would need to brush up on her grammar and literature skills if she wanted to keep up. Luckily for Sonia, her hard work would pay off and she would graduate with the University’s Moses Taylor Pyne Prize, the highest honor Princeton awards to undergrad students. Once she graduated Princeton she was offered a scholarship to Yale Law School. During her time in Yale, Sonia would become an editor for the Yale Law Journal and the managing editor for Yale’s law school journal of international law proving once again that she was willing to do anything to exceed expectations. While at both Yale and Princeton, Sonia would speak out for the rights of Latino students, and urged the universities to hire more Latino faculty members. 

When Sonia Sotomayor finally graduated from Yale Law School in 1979, she continued on her journey of becoming an attorney and joined the New York District Attorney office. As a assistant DA, Sonia would work in the courtroom seeing cases of murder, corruption, drug trafficking, and more terrible crimes. Although noted as a fearless prosecutor by her boss, all of the crime and violence Sonia read had finally taken a toll on her and she decided to leave the DA office and join private practice. In 1984, the law firm Pavia & Harcourt had found themselves to be the home of Sonia Sotomayor. With her experience in the courtroom Sonia was able to litigate civil cases. Within four years at the law firm Sonia had become a partner and also during these years Sonia had served on the boards of the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and more for the New York system. When one of her partners, David Botwinik, urged Sonia to apply to become a federal judge Sonia was admittedly nervous that they would not take her application seriously because of her young age as Sonia was only 36 years old. However, once Sonia finally applied she sat down with then President George W. Bush who would appoint her to serve as a judge on the U.S District Court for the Southern District of New York. Sonia Sotomayor had finally reached her dream position and went beyond that. 

Sonia Sotomayor’s story is one of constant hard work to find herself in a better position. Sonia started off with very little and lived life like that until her hard work was shown and people looked at her and decided that she deserved something greater. Even when she was granted scholarships she still knew that she needed to prove her worth and show others that she was on their level. Sonia Sotomayor is a real story of a true role model who refused to stop at any point and refused to let any struggle bring her even a step back, instead turning that into motivation and pushing further. Her story is one that everyone who grew up in impoverished environments/ neighborhoods or worse conditions can relate too and look at her story and want to push themselves like she did. Sonia Sotomayor truly showed that she was the woman who could do anything.