Former refugee Sophia Vuelo becomes Minnesota’s first Hmong-American judge
Former Refugee and St. Paul lawyer Sophia Vuelo, was sworn in as Minnesota’s first Hmong-American judge.
If Sophia Vuelo would have been asked in her younger years where she’d be, she probably wouldn’t say “sitting on the bench.” In fact, her decision to go into the legal field was a late career choice and her background is not typical of most judges. Vuelo was the youngest of 6 children who became refugees early in life and ended up living in a Thai refugee camp.
“We were poorer than a church mouse” – Sophia Vuelo
When they came to the United States they had no assets, no money, and no connections. Having to live in the Thailand refugee camp, a Lutheran congregation in Eau Claire, Wisconsin opened their hands. The congregation helped her family to find housing, enroll in school, learn English and to become familiar to life in America.
Making family and friends happy while making a difference in the world. Vuelo is a great role model to follow. She has experienced obstacles and challenges that will contribute to the wealth of knowledge and experience she is able to provide.
In 1998 Vuelo attended Hamline University School of Law.
Vuelo worked as special assistant county attorney after graduation. Afterwards, she became an assistant city prosecutor in Rochester before moving on to become a public defender in Ramset County. Her impressive legal career was not her only accomplishment. Vuelo also founded her own law firm in 2006, specializing in juvenile protection, family law, and criminal law.
Vuelo sites both her professional experience and difficult upbringing as reasons behind her career success. She feels that coming from humble beginnings means that she can appreciate things more, knows the value of hard work and has a unique point of view on situations that underprivileged individuals experience.
Shadowing and career experience are some of her most valued assets.
At 46 years old, Vuelo is now preparing to step into her new role as a judge, a role only held by two other Hmong-Americans in the history of the country. Ever humble, Vuelo explains her success only by her steadfast dedication to hard work, proving once again that no matter your origins, the path to success often begins with a decision to try.