Sotomayor's first leanings toward the justice system began after watching an episode of the television show Perry Mason. After a prosecutor on the program said he did not mind losing when a defendant turned out to be innocent, Sotomayor said she "made the quantum leap: If that was the prosecutor's job, then the guy who made the decision to dismiss the case was the judge. That was what I was going to be."
After their father's death, Sotomayor's mother worked hard to raise the children as a single parent. She placed what Sotomayor would later call an "almost fanatical emphasis" on a higher education, pushing the children to become fluent in English and struggling to afford a set of encyclopedias to give them proper research materials for school.
Sotomayor graduated from Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx in 1972 and entered the ivy-league Princeton University. The young Latina woman felt overwhelmed by her new school; after her first mid-term paper returned to her with low marks, she sought help with more English and writing classes. She also became highly involved with the Puerto Rican groups on campus, including Accion Puertorriquena and The Third World Center. The groups, she said provided her "with an anchor I needed to ground myself in that new and different world." She also worked with the university's discipline committee, where she started working on her legal skills.
All of Sotomayor's hard work paid off when she graduated summa cum laude from Princeton in 1976. She was also awarded...