NEW YORK (AP)—U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor came home to the Bronx on Friday, visiting her old elementary school before heading to a commencement at the community college where her mother studied in the 1970s while raising her.
Blessed Sacrament elementary school students cheered excitedly as the justice entered an assembly to present an award to David Abreu.
"I think I have a lot more responsibility now," said the beaming and genuinely surprised seventh-grader.
Sotomayor assured the children that she, too, was once a kid, no different than they are. In those days, she aspired to be a lawyer, but never dreamed she'd get to the Supreme Court.
She also admitted that she was a clumsy dancer as a child, but overcame that. A popular YouTube clip showed Sotomayor confidently dancing the mambo with "La Bamba" actor Esai Morales at a National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts gala just weeks after she was confirmed.
Sotomayor was to speak later Friday at Hostos Community College, where her mother, Celina Baez, graduated in 1973 with a nursing degree. The school's current president, Felix Matos Rodriguez, said Sotomatyor's success is an example of how community colleges can create social mobility for students.
"They get their chance to realize their potential and to transform their lives and the lives of their children," Matos Rodriguez said.
Hostos was founded in 1968 as part of the City University of New York amid a clamor for an educational institution to meet the needs of Spanish-speaking residents.
A first class of 623 entered in the fall of 1970. This year, it had a spring enrollment of over 6,000 students, and the bilingual school continues to embrace its role as a gateway to higher education for Latin American immigrants.
Sotomayor's mother and younger brother, Juan Sotomayor, a physician who is also a CUNY graduate, planned to attend the justice's commencement speech. "She's really doing this in a way as an homage to her mother," said Matos Rodriguez.
Melissa Diaz, 26, the school's valedictorian, said her life was echoed in Sotomayor's story. Her mother also attended Hostos. Like Sotomayor, who studied at Princeton University and is of Puerto Rican background, Diaz has been accepted to an Ivy League school.
"This college is very strong and nurturing," said Diaz, who is of Puerto Rican and Dominican descent.
Sotomayor also was scheduled to attend a ceremony at the public housing development where she grew up, Bronxdale Houses and the Bronxdale Community Center. It is being renamed the Justice Sonia Sotomayor Houses and Community Center.