Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Monica Gordo knew she wanted to be a lawyer since she was a little girl. She discovered she wanted to be a judge after prosecuting the case of another little girl, killed by an AK-47 round as she played in the front yard of her Miami neighborhood Liberty City home.
Sherdavia Jenkins died in her mother's arms. She was 9 years old.
"It really affected me," Gordo said. "I thought, this shouldn't happen in America -- that children die at the front door of their house."
The case took three years. Gordo was pregnant with her second son by the time it finished. When she came back from maternity leave and stepped into a new position as a division chief in the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, she discovered she had a new ambition: to become a judge.
"Something happened in that process," she said. "That was when I realized that my passion was different. It changed."
Becoming a prosecutor, and eventually a judge, almost didn't happen.
"It's funny, because in law school I never even took criminal law," she said. "I went to law school thinking I would be some kind of corporate transactional type. I might not even practice law."
Gordo was born in Miami in 1975, the daughter of a doctor and one of the first woman vice presidents at Miami-based Eastern Airlines. Watching them work two and three jobs each and enduring three years of separation so her father could go to medical school in the Dominican Republic inspired her.
"He had an absolute passion for what he wanted to do in life," Gordo said. She followed his example, just not into medicine. "What I did want to do is find something I had a passion for."
Gordo graduated high school at age 16, and got her bachelor's in business at the University of Miami when she was 21. She went straight into UM's school of law. In her third year, she took a litigation skills course just to make sure her education was well-rounded. The professor pushed her into an internship at the state attorney's office.