L.A. Unified student leaders inspired by Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic confirmation

A student hands a sweatshirt to the L.A. schools superintendent.
Jasmin Zamora, 17, left, hands L.A. schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho a Panorama High School sweatshirt with his name on it during his visit to the school Friday.
(Britt Vaughan / Los Angeles Unified School District)

A day after the historic confirmation of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will become the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court, Los Angeles high school students reflected on the significance of her accomplishment and how it would affect their lives.

L.A. schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho met with student leaders at Panorama High School in his first visit to the school Friday afternoon to discuss Jackson’s ascent to the high court, which will have two sitting Black justices for the first time in its history.

“Judge Jackson is a proud alumna of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, and her rise to Supreme Court justice demonstrates the promise and power of a public education for our students,” Carvalho said in a statement.


Carvalho was the head of Miami-Dade County Public Schools for more than a decade before he began at the L.A. Unified School District in February.

Biden celebrates what’s sure to be one of the most meaningful achievements of his presidency: Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation.

April 8, 2022

Panorama High enrolls nearly 1,400 students in Panorama City, a working-class neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley. The student body is more than 90% Latino, and a majority are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch programs.

Carvalho said he’s visited several other high schools in the district and came to Panorama on Friday to “meet students where they are.”

Carvalho and the Panorama High students watched clips from Jackson’s confirmation and smiled as Vice President Kamala Harris announced the final 53-47 vote to applause from the Senate chamber.

Heaven Gershon, a senior and the president of the school’s Black Student Union, said she cried when she heard the news of Jackson’s confirmation.

“I’m used to hearing mixed answers when it comes to things I want to do,” Heaven said. “Ketanji inspires me to do exactly what people say I can’t do.”


The 17-year-old said she would love to become a businesswoman one day and be her “own boss.”

Carvalho asked students what they thought about the mostly party-line vote, with many Republican senators acknowledging Jackson’s qualifications for the job yet voting no on her confirmation. Three GOP senators voted yes.

Stephonie White said she “related to [Jackson] in so many ways.”

Stephonie, 17, is the Black Student Union vice president, a member of student government and a competitor in the academic decathlon.

“Being African American, I feel like we always go the extra amount and overachieve [for] our success,” Stephonie said. She’s excited to attend Xavier University of Louisiana, a historically Black college, in the fall.

Jackson will be sworn in this summer, when retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer steps down at the end of the court’s current term.

Her confirmation hearings were marked by attacks from Republican lawmakers on her sentencing record, religious beliefs and even the definition of “woman.” She shares the Ivy League background of other justices but will be the first former federal public defender on the court.


“It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States,” Jackson said. “But we’ve made it — all of us.”

“In my family,” the Harvard alum added, “it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Carvalho told students he has met Jackson and would use all of his “political juice” to bring her to Los Angeles, joking he could name a school after her to entice her to come — referring to the Sotomayor Arts and Sciences Magnet schools named after Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Jackson’s father, Johnny Brown, was an attorney for the Miami-Dade school board, and her mother, Ellery Jackson, was the principal of New World School of the Arts in the school district.

Panorama student body president Jasmin Zamora, 17, said she also wants to pursue law and politics after high school — perhaps not to join the Supreme Court herself but “at least [to] be at a level where I can graduate college and make something out of my life.”

Jackson “is what we’re looking up to — she represents all of us as a whole, minorities, colored women,” Jasmin said.