Public Defender Yvonne Sosa To Receive TOYO Award Tonight 2/13/18 02/13/18 11:55:54 AM
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Yvonne Sosa is receiving an award for her exemplary commitment to improving the Omaha community.
South Omaha Proud
Public Defender Yvonne Sosa
To Receive TOYO Award Tonight
By Andy Roberts
The Daily Record
The daughter of a Mexican-born father and a mother whose parents came from Mexico, Yvonne Sosa remembers well the time when she decided a career in law was what she wanted.
She had suspected that she wanted to be an attorney, but in high school an effort was being made to introduce her to another career.
“I was a student at South High School,” she recalled “I was going through the Academy of Finance.” That involved internships at banks, which did not excite her, so she approached the instructor to see if a legal internship was possible.
Her teacher responded: “You find the law firm, you make the contacts and I’ll sign off on it.” Sosa’s mother knew an attorney who connected her to the Public Defender’s office and Sosa was on her way. She also remembers that first meeting with Public Defender Tom Riley, and then learning the pay was about $4 an hour less than it would have been at the bank.
“I’m doing this for my heart,” Sosa remembers thinking. “I’m doing this because this is what I’m really interested in doing.”
Even earlier in school she had pictured herself as a lawyer, working in a tall building with big windows, wearing stylish clothes with all the other trappings of success. Today her office is on the lower level of the Douglas County Court House, still working for the Public Defender, but she has decided that’s all right.
Because “there was a need for people like me. That’s what’s always kept me here.”
That internship put her on a path to a bachelor’s degree at UNO and a law degree from Creighton. She was the first in her family to earn a college degree. While in law school, she received the Bennett G. Hornstein Endowment award for aspiring students.
Recently she was named one of the Jaycees’ Ten Outstanding Young Omahans. Sosa will be honored with the rest of the recipients tonight at the Scoular Ballroom.
The award honors individuals between the ages of 21 and 40 who “show exemplary commitment to improving the Omaha community through selfless acts of kindness while excelling in their professional careers.”
Sosa was not expecting the honor.
“I was very appreciative,” she stated. “It’s not often that lawyers in public service get recognition.
“Going before the panel of judges for the interview … I appreciated the response that I got and I guess they appreciated my work.”
And it is important work, and equally critical to have a Latina in that position. As the country diversifies, it is helpful for young Latinos to have role models. Those who face legal challenges also benefit from seeing people who look like them and have an understanding of their culture.
“It can be even something as simple as a male pursuit of a woman,” she pointed out. “Translating that into the American legal system, you have charges like stalking.”
In one culture some actions may be acceptable or even chivalrous, Sosa said, while in another culture those actions may be considered malicious or hurtful.
“To have someone who understands the culture, the family dynamics,” she explained, “is important when you are in an orange jumpsuit.”
Sosa is bilingual, speaking English and Spanish, which is another highly valued asset she brings to the job. She acknowledges she grew up poor, but said that background is helpful for her clients, as it provides her with an understanding of the poverty that the indigents she deals with are experiencing.
Sosa stays busy at work and outside the job as well. She was a board member at the Latino Center of the Midlands until last year and now is a member of the New Leaders Council. That group helps people who come from less affluent backgrounds prepare for leadership roles in the community. That provides her with the great experience of helping build the potential of the city she loves.
A member of the Nebraska State Bar Association, she is a founding member of the NSBA’s new Diversity Section and serves as its co-chair. Sosa also is on the sponsorship committee for the Barrister’s Ball.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Heavican appointed her to the Committee for Equity and Fairness.
Home life is busy with three daughters, including a niece she adopted from the foster care system. The girls’ ages range from 15 to 3.
She enjoys reading and looks forward, per her New Year’s resolution, to reading more “fun fiction books.” There are plans to get out of town now and then.
“If I could do one thing more it would be travel.”
Then, there is the possibility of new challenges in the future, but not right away. She does like her work at the PD’s office.
“I’m going to be here for at least another five years,” she stated. “I started in 2002.”
So do the math and the still-young Sosa will soon have 20 years on the job and a retirement possibility.
“This is like my first job, and I’ve been here ever since,” she said. She thinks about the excitement of trying new things, weighing that against her love for the place where she knows she’s needed.
In the meanwhile, “I stay busy.”