By Michael Hirsch
Family Court Judge Ingrid Joseph took the time to talk to students at the UFT Secondary Charter School in Bushwick, Brooklyn, about how she succeeded at a job she loves and how they can succeed, too.
Joseph visited four classes on May 9, telling students that her career climb wasn’t easy, but worth it.
“Choose what it is you’ll be happy doing in 30 years,” she told the students.
The youngest of five children of an immigrant Guyanese working-class family, the judge admitted the law was her second choice after being a ballerina. “That’s because I couldn’t dance, but I could talk a lot and I could argue both sides of an issue,” she said.
Her advice: “If you want to learn, no one can stop you. Be ready to drop friends who don’t share your goals, because friends who have goals work with you to achieve goals. Those who say ‘let’s cut school’ are not acting in your interest.”
On a related topic, she said, “You don’t have to hide the fact that you are smart or that you like books.”
Joseph also advised students that they reach long-term goals one step at a time. “Just make one goal at a time,” she said. “If you have a problem now, address it now.”
One of the first questions that an 8th-grader asked was, “Do you know Judge Judy?” But there were plenty of on-point questions, too, including what Joseph liked best about her job.
“I like solving problems,” she replied. “I also like it,” she said jokingly, “when I come in and everybody stands up. And my word is the last word … but I also know I can’t make everybody happy.”
Student Government President Selena Vargas appreciated how the judge “talked about life in general and not just about court procedure.”
The teachers said Joseph served as a valuable adult role model for their students.
“This is information that the kids really wanted. You can see they were engaged,” 7th-grade teacher Miranda Meyerson said, pointing to the forest of hands going up to ask questions.
Sixth-grade teacher Thomas McDonald said, “A talk like this makes them think about their futures.”