From TimesCall.com, Victoria A.F. Camron, Longmont Times-Call, 7 Apr 2011.
From farm fields to courtrooms
LONGMONT [CO] — Maria Teresa Fox, the newest judge on the Colorado Court of Appeals, picked vegetables with her migrant farm-worker mother as a young girl and teenager.
Fox, 44, shared her story with students at Heritage Middle School on Wednesday to encourage them to follow their dreams.
“It’s in your hands to create your own future,” Fox said as she stood in front of a slide with a picture of farm workers on the left and of herself in her judicial robe on the right.
Heritage students Jennifer Lopez, 14, and Linda Quintana, 13, later quizzed the judge about what it took for her to achieve her goals. She told them to stay committed and work hard, they said.
“It showed us how we could be somebody in the future,” Jennifer said.
“She encourages you a lot,” Linda said.
The girls have known other people who come from hardscrabble childhoods, but no one who has become as successful as Fox, they said.
Born in El Paso, Texas, as a self-described anchor baby, Fox grew up in Mexico. She returned to the United States when she was 8 years old, she said.
“I didn’t know a word of English,” Fox said. So she was put in kindergarten.
In seventh grade, Fox competed on her school’s math team, which traveled to the University of Texas at El Paso. The visit changed her life because it inspired her to go to college.
“I had never seen another place more beautiful than the campus,” Fox said.
Her high school math teacher explained that if she performed well in school, she could receive scholarships for college.
He encouraged her to become an engineer, and arranged for her to shadow an engineer at Coors in Golden. That day, she knew she could be successful in that field, she said.
Fox’s mother had a third-grade education, and no one in Fox’s family had ever graduated from high school, much less gone to college, she said.
“She wanted us to get an education,” Fox said.
Fox graduated in 1989 from the Colorado School of Mines with degrees in chemical engineering and petroleum refining.
After working for several years for a Houston-based soap and plastics manufacturer, Fox became interested in a law career. She began attending law school part-time while working, she said.
That, too, impressed Jennifer and Linda.
“I didn’t know you could do two things at the same time,” said Linda, who wants to be a lawyer.
Hearing Fox’s story inspired the girls.
Linda said, “No matter where you come from, you can do whatever you want.”
“Nothing’s impossible,” Jennifer agreed.
Victoria Camron can be reached at 303-684-5226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.