How humble beginnings helped Pinay judge in US

By Connie Macatula-DeLeon, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jun 12 2015 03:43 PM | Updated as of Jun 13 2015 10:32 AM

CHICAGO – Filipino-American Judge Jessica Arong O'Brien shared how her humble beginnings paved the way for her to reach her dreams.

"When you hear the saying 'it takes a village to raise a child,' that was me. I was literally raised by a village," said O'Brien.

The 46-year-old judge was installed last week as the first Filipino, and the first Asian American President of the Women's Bar Association of Illinois.

Her advocacy: Leave No Woman Behind: Empowering Through Leadership.

Born and raised in Cebu, O'Brien had a challenging life after her mother left for America.

Together with her grandmother--who did not read nor write--seven sets of parents in her village helped raise O'Brien.

With broken English and a thick accent, O'Brien migrated to America after high school.

She pushed herself to excel in her studies and to reach out to her American classmates who taught her English.

"Call it luck, call it fate, but I am here in front of you today because I have been lifted by many villagers," she said.

Those around her say they can relate to what she has gone through.

"It's only going to get better for women. We've shown that in every profession--whether it's law, medicine--whatever it may be ---government, politics--that we can be leaders," said State Atty. Anita Alvarez of Cook Country, Illinois.

Philippine Consul General Gene Calonge urged Filipinos to study well.

"Relate extensively with your migrant communities and see to it that they contribute much to their societies," he said.

O'Brien co-founded the Diversity Scholarship Foundation, and has been a recipient of multiple leadership awards, including President Obama's Call-to-Service Award.

O'Brien, who believes strongly in having a voice, has a message to kids in school especially to those who are being bullied.

"Remember that the people who bully you are weak. So what you do is to move forward and the best revenge is success. So you need to keep going and just pursue whatever it is that you want to pursue and don't let anybody stop you from pursuing your dreams," she said.

O'Brien, who was once raised by a village, is now supporting her own village, the only way she knows how, through servant leadership.

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