Today: Jun 17, 2024

Soto shares his journey, celebrates Latinx Hispanic Heritage Month

Jay’Mi Vazquez – News Editor

The 15th annual empowering lives event about Latinos driving prosperity power and progress in America had Chris Soto, senior advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Education sharing his life story to students in the Adanti Student Center Ballroom. 

Soto started his speech by relating to students and sharing his undergraduate experiences. 

“For me not too long ago my undergraduate journey started at the Coast Guard Academy. For me it was a time of exploration, a time of doubt, searching for the answers to the questions we have. But ultimately it was a time for growth,” Soto said. 

Soto reflects on some of the racial differences he had to overcome during his undergraduate experience. 

“I was too Latino for some classmates. But not Latino enough for others. My Spanglish was offensive to some of my white classmates, but my Spanglish was also offensive to my Latino classmates,” Soto said. 

Joining organizations while attending university provided Soto with the comfort of being himself, gaining wisdom from upper-class students and creating lifelong friendships. Soto encouraged students to join organizations for these purposes. 

Soto said there are three things every student should be left to think about. History, opportunity and paying it forward.  

Soto explained his family history, starting with the impact his grandmother had on his life. 

“For me it took my abuelita passing away to realize that she herself was a trailblazer. She was a part of the first wave of Puerto Ricans who came in the 1930s,” Soto said. 

“We read about all these people who make impacts in our world. And little did I know my grandma was one of them,” Soto said. 

Soto’s grandmother left Puerto Rico for a better life, not finishing third grade. She came to America and opened her own restaurant and became loved by her community, Soto explained. 

Part of the work Soto does in Washington D.C. is with the Puerto Rico education system. 

“We’re trying to ensure that students on the island get the education that they deserve because the situation in Puerto Rico would not be tolerated if it was any other state in the United States,” Soto said. 

Soto defined opportunity as taking advantage of anything that can create a difference. 

“The urgency of now is too great not to be prepared,” Soto said.  

“Making a difference is just planting a seed. It does not mean you have to be the one to water and nature it. You did your part by planting the seed. Now somebody else is going to come and nature and water it so that plant can grow,” Soto said. 

————– 

Soto reflected on how his grandmother was the person in his family who planted that seed for his family.  

“Those opportunities will arise. Seize them,” Soto said. 

Soto explained paying it forward means that someone paved the path for us. 

“Our journey is no walk in the park. We all have challenges. But we could always be thankful for those who made it just a little bit easier for us,” Soto said. 

Soto does not want students to forget who we are and how we made it.  

“We need to lift others up as we rise. It takes time and effort, but I promise that it is worth it. Because our journey goes beyond our own hopes and dreams. But for the next generation,” Soto said.  

President of Student Government Kyle Mashia-Thaxton, offered greetings to students and faculty who attended. Thaxton explained how important it is for students, especially in the Latin community, to get the opportunity to hear Soto’s story.  

For starters “I think it is important to be able to recognize the contributions that Hispanic culture has given to the United States and especially to Connecticut over the years,” Thaxton said. 

Some of the topics Soto discussed resonated with Thaxton. He feels that everything shared was important, but these were some of his main takeaways. 

“Opportunity and preparedness and paying it forward for future generations. It is all super important. It is important to recognize that, celebrate that and also to encourage more development of that,” Thaxton said. 

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