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District Court Judge Alfred Laureta sits among countless awards and certificates that mark the milestones in his 95 years of life, at his home in Kapaa. In the foreground is a newspaper clipping from , when he became the first Filipino-American to be appointed to a federal judgeship. House of Representatives, before he was appointed by the president of the United States to serve as a federal judge on a tiny island in the South Pacific, even before he had 17 great-grandchildren, Alfred Laureta was a poor Filipino boy in a plantation camp.
He was born 95 years ago at Banana Camp in Ewa, Oahu, the only son of Filipino immigrants who came to Hawaii so his father could work as a laborer on the plantation. It became a pattern in his life, and he now attributes his success to the people in his life who put the development of his mind ahead of their own financial or practical concerns.
Laureta finished high school and worked his way through college at the University of Hawaii at Mano, paying for tuition with a summer job in a pineapple cannery. But just as he was ready to abandon the idea of becoming a lawyer, Laureta said the community once again took an interest in him.
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It was a three-year scholarship to a private college in New York City, widely recognized as one of the most prestigious and selective in the nation. Fordham University alumni include U. In the late s, Laureta got accepted.
And it was a big deal, he said, not just on a personal level, but also because of what he represented. So the few Filipinos that could send their kids to go to college were very rare. The lack of college-educated people in the Filipino population translated directly to their socioeconomic status, Laureta explained.
After he was admitted to Fordham, Laureta said he got a second scholarship from an unusual source — a Japanese organization that, until then, had provided funding for causes exclusively within the their ethnic community. It was not lost on him.
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