By Sydney Felder
Armando Martinez Soto, son of Mexican immigrant parents, was born in the U.S. to fulfill his parent’s desire of getting a successful education and the pursuance of the American dream. However, the difficulty of sudden immersion into a new language and culture proved to be an unanticipated hurdle.
Soto’s experience as a first generation American citizen and high school graduate acts as a testament to the power of devotion to hard work and the strength it takes to succeed.
“When I was born, the doctor held me in his hands and said to my mother, ‘He’s going to have problems with his tongue and speaking. We’d like to cut the tip of his tongue to help that.’ My mother said no.”
In addition to the traditional issues surrounding a young son of immigrants growing up in America, Soto had to deal early on with his severe speech impediment and subsequent difficulty mastering English and even his native tongue, Spanish.
“I had to go to ESL everyday”, he said, “a class that teaches you how to speak and lets you work on classes at your own speed”. Soto recalled quite of bit of bullying from his peers in elementary school. However, the struggle Soto has faced has served to strengthen his confidence. He calmly said, “I don’t care [about the bullying] now. It’s my voice. It’s how I talk”.
Soto acts as many “firsts” for his family, the most significant being his family’s first high school graduate.
Soto believes his parents wish more for him. “They want me to do better and do things they couldn’t”, he said. “Reading class”, didn’t come very easy for Soto. He said, “For me school can be stressful”. His early memories of school include threats of failing reading class from “mean” teachers and “sometimes working harder in reading” than his peers more fluent in English.
Though his parents wished the best academic experience for Soto, they were not able to help bring that about. “They didn’t help me and didn’t have time for me or to check my grades,” he said, “that makes me sad but I understand.”
Long work hours and juggling parental duties left Soto feeling like his parents didn’t care. He is appreciative of their dedication but is saddened by the consequences stemming from it.
School proved to be quite an obstacle for Soto. However, his experiences were not always negative. His favorite memory is “having fun dancing with people who were his friends” at his school’s military ball. He describes the event as “a blast”.
Soto wishes to succeed primarily to please his parents in his completion of high school. “They came to the United States about 19 or 20 years ago… they had little money and had to work hard.”
Upon graduating from St. Paul’s High School in the coming year, Soto hopes to enter the United States army as a bridge to bigger dreams of college and rewarding his parents for their sacrifices.
Soto plans to attend college close to his home in St. Paul’s to study criminal justice and to continue to protect others.
“I want to send them back to Mexico,” he said in regards to his motive for joining the army. Soto wishes for his parents to return to “their homeland” and to see their own parents again. Soto understands that military life will hinder him from seeing the people he loves as often as he’d like. He said, “I won’t see them but at least I’ll know I’m protecting them”.
Soto attributes his desire to enter the military as characteristic of his parent’s work ethic. He said, “Your grades are important but work is more important”. He believes good grades make you “less tired” in the long run.
Soto believes in the firm importance of education. “It might make you cry, it might make you stress but your education is the best thing you can get… without it you’re nothing,” he said. He realizes that the lessons he’s learned from both academics and through harsh bullying have been the best things he’s learned and has matured him. “It’s made me stronger”, he said.
Soto has very practical views of the world and his life after high school. He said, “after this is the real world”. His primary goal is to succeed and “just do better”.
Similar to his parents, Soto simply wants more for those coming after him. “The only thing I will ask my children is to be better than me in school and in everything.”