PHOENIX (KGUN) — As the first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor paved the way for women everywhere.
"It was like the moon landing for a lot of women. I can remember where I was. I know women that pulled over to the side of the road and wept. They were attorneys who now knew that the sky was the limit for them," said Sandra Day O'Connor Institute for American Democracy CEO, Sarah Suggs.
O'Connor was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and served on the Supreme Court for 25 years. In 2018, O'Connor announced her retirement from public life. She was diagnosed with the early stages of dementia, but her legacy continues.
"She was really looking for something that could be a catalyst for change and to help society. That's when the 501(c)(3) nonprofit was established," said Suggs.
That nonprofit is the Sandra Day O'Connor Institute for American Democracy. CEO, Sarah Suggs, said the institute's mission is to empower people of all ages to make a difference in their community.
"Civics education and civics knowledge is so important for every age group. To be an engaged citizen, a responsible citizen. To understand your role in our democracy. What we can do as citizens to become more involved," said Suggs.
The institute's work is best showcased through events like Camp O'Connor. Every year, middle schools students are invited to learn about each branch of government.
"It's a week long Summer camp for incoming 7th and 8th graders. Kids come in on Monday morning not really knowing much and they leave Friday ready to lead the world," said Suggs.
The institute is also home to the Sandra Day O'Connor Digital Library and Resource Center. It's available online 24/7 and gives the public an inside look at her life and many accomplishments.
"We have a national treasure here that forever changed the course of history. She's someone that we should be truly proud of and honor," said Suggs.
The institute has reached people in all 50 states and 20 countries, but their most important work happens, right here, in Arizona.
"She would want us to pursue our civics knowledge, civic engagement, and civil discourse in everyday life," said Suggs.