By Jasmine Twitty, as told to Priyanka Mattoo

Plenty of 25-year-olds might be considered judgmental. Few of them get paid for it. Count Jasmine Twitty among them: At 25, she is the youngest person ever to be sworn in as a judge in Easley, South Carolina. After college she landed a job as a night court clerk, and thanks to her confidence, empathy, and work ethic, she was appointed five years later as associate judge of Easley Municipal Court. Here, she tells us why the early mornings and long nights are worth it.

I was born and raised in Greenville, South Carolina, and was one of those super-smart little kids who might be called “mouthy”—if my parents hadn’t been so proud of my vocabulary.

My mother is a social worker who’d give anyone the shirt off her back, and she expected the same of us. We had a big fight because she was so insistent on my candy striping one summer. I never wanted to go into medicine, and didn’t understand the point. I cried hysterically because we never got a summer break—I wasn’t a morning person and just wanted to sleep in. Later, I realized nothing made me feel better.

When I graduated with a political science degree, I knew I wanted two things: to work in public service and to get out of South Carolina. It was hard to find a job that felt like the right fit, so I reluctantly moved back home. After visiting my old guidance counselor, I set up college prep workshops for high school kids. It felt like I was making an impact instead of treading water while looking for a “real” job.

A few months in, I heard about a clerk position at the Greenville County Bond Court. I didn’t realize it was open around the clock. My job was to coordinate bond hearings and deal with paperwork. The hours were long, but I was excited. I was the youngest person there and asked 1001 questions a day.

I was a night court clerk for four and a half years when I realized I had the job experience to make the leap to judgeship. No one had set out for a judgeship at 24 before, but I ran my goals by my family. They encouraged me to go for it. I wasn’t required to attend law school because in South Carolina, summary court judges don’t need a law degree—they’re appointed. I started talking to people. After that, I had to complete a training program and pass a certification examination.

The day I was sworn in felt surreal. My job is to oversee the initial proceeding in a criminal case. As a judge I must remain impartial, not get emotionally involved. I had to learn that early on, working in night court, seeing what things people are capable of. The hardest part is the effort it takes not to bring it home. I have to unplug, or I could stay up all night thinking about this case or that case, this person or that one. It helps to have interests outside work. But for now, I’m enjoying the little things—like the days I get to wake up without an alarm clock.