It's not every day California's chief justice shows up to your classroom.
On Thursday, students at C.K. McClatchy High School were in for a treat when Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye returned to her alma mater to share her experiences as the state's top judicial officer.
"It's great to be back," Cantil-Sakauye, who graduated in 1977, told the 110 students assembled in the school library.
For an hour, the chief justice answered questions from a panel of four students enrolled in the Land Park school's Law and Public Policy Academy. One of the questions: Does your work affect you emotionally?
"Not really," Cantil-Sakauye said hesitantly. "As a judge, my role is to apply the rule of law and uphold the Constitution."
Achieving success hasn't always been easy for the 53-year-old chief justice. She related how she worked her way through Sacramento City College as a waitress before transferring to a four-year university and completing a law degree at UC Davis.
"I never thought I would become chief justice. It never entered my mind," she said.
Her appearance was part of a monthlong civics outreach program by the state Supreme Court. It followed a Feb. 6 visit by the same students to the court in San Francisco to observe two oral arguments.
"When I was a waitress, I gave it my all," Cantil-Sakauye said. "You work hard; you do what you can. Be prepared for opportunity."
The inspirational words struck a chord with student Sam Gilbert, 16, who aspires to become a police officer.
"I was really surprised she started out as a waitress," he said.
"She earned every bit of her success," said Arthur Scotland, a retired appellate court judge who mentored Cantil-Sakauye and who attended Thursday's discussion.
Rounding out the interview, the panel touched on what was arguably its toughest topic - gun control.
"What's your opinion on gun control?" the students asked.
But the justice didn't show any bias on the controversial issue.
"When they pass a law and it comes to the Supreme Court, we will determine whether it's constitutional," Cantil-Sakauye said quickly with a smile.