In secondary school, Chelsea Ramjit, 22, was teased for being rambunctious and walking “like a boy”. Other cruel taunts came her way.
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Sparkle shines with Sotomayor
Success is no stranger to Sparkle Sooknanan. This young attorney was able to maintain a Grade Point Average (GPA) of 4.0 throughout her academic pursuits which started in 2000 at St Francis College in Brooklyn, New York.
Not only did she climb her way up the ladder of academic success but she also worked at the same time. Sooknanan, 29, worked at HIP Health New York from 2004 to 2009 and started law school in 2006 as an evening student.
In a few months she will start her clerkship with Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor, an opportunity that has left Sooknanan feeling honoured and humbled.
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in that country and Sooknanan’s journey there is one that represents the culmination of many dreams. Sotomayor was nominated by US President Barack Obama on May 26, 2009. She became the first Latina Supreme Court Justice in US history.
Sooknanan said, “I knew after I started law school that I had found my place and wanted to spend my career in the legal profession.” After attending Naparima Girls’ High School from 1995-2000, Sooknanan who was then 16 and living in St Charles Village on the outskirts of San Fernando, left for the US to attend college.
She communicated with the Sunday Guardian via e-mail last week about her recent achievement.
Thrilled to clerk for Sotomayor
Sooknanan is the first graduate of Brooklyn Law School to clerk for the US Supreme Court. On December 20 last year, the school published an article on its Web site highlighting Sooknanan’s accomplishment.
School president Joan G Wexler wrote: “Sparkle is the first Brooklyn Law School graduate to achieve this great honour. “We are all enormously proud of her.” Sooknanan praised Sotomayor saying she was not only a brilliant jurist and person but an exceptional role model.
Wikipedia states Sotomayor entered Princeton University on a full scholarship and that there were few women students and fewer Latinos. The Web site said, “She knew only of the Bronx and Puerto Rico and she later described her initial Princeton experience like “a visitor landing in an alien country.” Sotomayor was too intimidated to ask questions for her first year there, her writing and vocabulary skills were weak, and she lacked knowledge in the classics.
However, she put in long hours in the library and over summers, worked with a professor outside class, and gained skills, knowledge and confidence. Sooknanan said she was thrilled and excited to begin her clerkship with Sotomayor.
She said, “I am deeply honoured and humbled by the tremendous opportunity. “It represents the culmination of so many dreams.”
Parents instilled values at young age
She said the values her parents—Deo and Shafina—instilled in her at a very young age motivated her to make the most of the opportunities she received. She’s always striving to do her best and praised all those who helped her along the way. “I will always be indebted to my parents for their love, encouragement and support...all my family members, my professors, my judges and my wonderful friends who have provided guidance and support throughout my academic and professional career.”
She said they were all instrumental in helping her to realise her dreams and that their love and encouragement continues to be invaluable. “Working while attending law school was challenging but also extremely rewarding. “Thus far, it has been amazing,” she said. Contacted on Wednesday, Sooknanan’s father, Deo, who lives in Trinidad said words could not describe his daughter’s success.
Marvellous. Proud. Happy. Wonderful...were just a few. What can a father say to express his feelings about his child’s accomplishment on the international scene? Deo said when she was born her tiny features sparkled. “She was sparkling when she was born,” he said.
Apart from that, he wanted to name her Sparkle. Always providing encouragement to his three children was important, he said. She had a goal and we never tried to push her.
“We always told her to pursue what she loved and that’s what she did, Deo said. His son Christian is a helicopter pilot in the T&T Air Guard and younger daughter Jade is in the performing arts.
Of Sooknanan’s academic and professional success, Deo said, “I can’t describe what I feel. It is wonderful and it’s a blessing to me. “All parents love to see their children excel and I am extremely proud of her.” Sooknanan visits Trinidad as often as she could.
• Attended Grant Memorial Presbyterian School
• Naparima Girls’ High School
• BSc in management, specialising in international business, summa cum laude—St Francis College, Brooklyn
• MBA in marketing (with distinction)—Hofstra University, Hempstead
• Juris Doctor, summa cum laude—Brooklyn Law School
• Law clerk to the Judge Eric N Vitaliano of the US Distric Court for the Eastern District of NY
• Law clerk to Judge Guido Calabresi of the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
• Currently an attorney on the Appellate Staff of the Civil Division of the US Department of Justice
• Maintained a 4.0 GPA
• Lives in Washington, DC
• Alpha Kappa Psi Scholarship Award—highest cumulative average in business division;
• Wall Street Journal Student Achievement Award—top graduating senior;
• Brother Edmund Holmes OSF ’28 Endowed Scholarship—outstanding academic performance;
• Faculty Prize—highest honour at Brooklyn Law School;
• Samuel Hoffman Memorial Prize—excellence in the study of corporate law;
• American Bankruptcy Law Journal Student Prize—excellence in the study of bankruptcy law, among others.