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Newark senior talks about meeting Justice Sotomayor

Kelley School third graders in Marcy Peters’ class watched the inaugural swearing-in ceremonies of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris with interest. Later that day, they learned they knew someone who met Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor from the U.S. Supreme Court, who administered the oath to Harris. 

Newark High School senior Alexandra Briggs had a chance meeting with Sotomayor in Seneca Falls on the day she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame.

Alexandra read stories to Peters’ students over Zoom during the remote-learning period before holiday break, since her mom, Cynthia, is Peters’ partner in the Caring Schools Community program, as well as the instrumental music teacher at Kelley and pre-12 district music leader.

Cynthia goes into Peters’ classroom twice a day to work with the third graders during the morning and afternoon closing circles to bolster socio-emotional learning among students.

“Having another adult in the room provides the students with another adult connection and the opportunity to build a relationship of warmth and compassion,” Cynthia said. “I have had the opportunity to really get to know these students, who I would normally not have a relationship with unless they joined a band, and connect with them on a more personal level. 

“We share thoughts on kindness, how to be a good friend and so many skills that are lifelong lessons in my time with them during our morning or closing circles. This has truly been a highlight of my year and being with them daily is certainly a bright spot of my day.”

Alexandra met Peters’ students in-person on Inauguration Day. They were excited to learn she had met Sotomayor, as they had been reading about her early life that week in their Making Meaning literacy program. 

Alexandra shared Sotomayor’s autographed autobiography, “My Beloved World,” which she received during her trip to the Hall of Fame induction. She also shared videos she took when she went to President Donald Trump’s inauguration as part of the Newark Middle School field trip in 2017. 

“After reading with the kids in the remote classroom, I looked forward to a time I could meet them in person,” Alexandra said. “The students were very attentive when I had read over Zoom and each had very unique questions. When I heard that the students were learning about Sonia Sotomayor, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, I was excited to share that I was within feet of her when she spoke at her induction to the National Women's Hall of Fame. 

“The students seemed intrigued with this information and asked very good questions to better their understanding. After watching the induction of Biden, I informed them about how I watched Trump's induction four years ago. By having firsthand knowledge of my experiences for his induction, the students had a better understanding of what is really happening in D.C., as well as within our government.”

“My students were engaged during our Making Meaning read-aloud about Sonia Sotomayor,” Peters said. “They were eager to share what they learned and what they still wondered about her life. Students were excited to learn about her life journey and the road to becoming Supreme Court justice. They appreciated Alexandra visiting our class to share about her experiences.”

Alexandra Briggs shows her copy of Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography to third grader Anna Winkler.