In celebration of Black History Month, the African American Cultural Exchange student affinity group hosted The Honorable Kimberley Baker Guillemet ’96 for a very special Pushing Perspective on Friday, February 4, 2022. She shared with the Marlborough community the power of embracing your differences because they are what make each of us so extraordinary.
Judge Guillemet began by reading an excerpt from her recently released memoir, Black Prep, which chronicles her journey growing up in South Los Angeles to attending some of the nation’s most elite private schools and universities. The particular excerpt she chose demonstrated who she was when she began Marlborough in 1990. She describes how she spent the first several days of school trying to blend in, rather than sticking out “like a sore thumb.” These careful calculations seemed to crumble when her grandfather drove her to school one day in his white Plymouth, a moment she recalls with embarrassment.
When her grandfather noticed her trying to avoid being seen with him in his car, he told the 11-year old Kimberley, “Let me tell you something: Don’t you ever be ashamed of who you are. As long as you’re clean and you're right, you have nothing to be ashamed of.”
This was a lesson Kimberley took to heart. Despite consistent negative self-talk throughout her preteen and teenage years at Marlborough, Judge Guillemet proved to herself that the toxicity of her inner critic needed to be shifted. Rather than feel ashamed of who she was, she made the deliberate decision to seize every opportunity. So she developed lifelong friendships at Marlborough, served as Senior Class President, became the Speech and Debate Captain, won championships on the track team, and was on the Honor Roll every semester.
“Please hear me,” Judge Guillemet addressed the students directly, “I didn't prove these things wrong by changing myself…I did it being the brown, round girl with OCD from South LA and I was thriving. I’m sharing this because I want to highlight the danger in believing lies that we are not good enough. Because if we believe them, they will stop us from achieving our destiny and our dreams. You are all more than good enough, you are all here for a reason. And this lesson that I’m sharing is not just about Marlborough, this is about your life. Each and every one of us has a special gift that we share and bring. You choose what your life looks like. I want you to have the courage to be you.”
Students had time to ask questions and share thoughts at the end of the Pushing Perspective. It is clear the impact that Judge Guillemet’s personal experience has had on our students. One sophomore shared, “I read your book and I wanted to say thank you for putting that perspective out there. While reading [Black Prep], I found that my story was actually quite similar to yours and I have never read a book that I was able to relate to on that level.”
Judge Guillemet beamed behind her mask. “Thank you! That really touches my heart. And that,” she said, “that is what I was trying to do.”
Judge Kimberley Baker Guillemet, Marlborough Class of 1996, was born and raised in Los Angeles. Judge Guillemet has served the community for her entire adult life. Immediately after graduating from Stanford University in 2000, she served as a teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. After graduating from law school, she served as a public interest attorney where she represented youth with disabilities and youth in the juvenile justice and foster care systems. From there she went on to serve as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice where she practiced consumer protection and criminal law under former Attorney General Jerry Brown and, later, former Attorney General and Vice President Kamala Harris. In 2015, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appointed her to launch the city’s first ever Office of Reentry. As the director of that office, she developed policies and implemented multi-million dollar programs that created employment, housing, legal advocacy and family reunification opportunities for thousands of Angelenos who were formerly incarcerated. Many of her initiatives continue to be implemented today.
In 2018, Judge Guillemet was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court by Governor Jerry Brown. She currently presides over a criminal trial courtroom, co-chairs the outreach committee for the Los Angeles Superior Court Mentorship Program and serves on the court’s Community Outreach Committee, Ethics Committee, and Diversity Committee. She also serves as a Teen Court Judge for Los Angeles High School and as a lecturer and subject matter expert at various speaking engagements.
Judge Guillemet resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Adrian, and their four daughters, two of whom are now proud Marlborough students themselves.