My name is Heriberto Soto. I am from Mexico, and I stopped attending school after the second grade. Education and social justice are very important to me, even though I only went to school for a short amount of time. My father was a ranchero from Michoacan, and he went to school for about two months and then worked for the rest of his life. He was a humble man, but he was ahead of his time.
One day, my father had to go into Mexico City to file some paperwork. He made the 200 mile trip in his huaraches and work clothes. But when he arrived, the officials wouldn’t see him. Why you might ask?
Because he looked like a campesino.
My father went back home and wrote a letter the then President of Mexico, Jose Lopez Portillo and explained the injustice he faced and asked for help. Not long after, a letter of recommendation signed by the president himself arrived.
With that letter, my father was able to get into any office in Mexico City, huaraches and all. He soon became a voice of justice not only for our family but for our entire village.
Él que no vive para servir, no sirve para vivir. Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.
I forgot that story until years later when my oldest son was in 4th grade, and I faced a similar challenge. We came to San Jose for better opportunities for our children, but my son was struggling in school. His teachers kept passing him along to be someone else’s problem until he was too far behind.
We were in the land of opportunity, but my son’s future seemed dark. It wasn’t only him. I saw the same thing happening all over my community, and I remembered my father.
I knew that we deserve a school that would treat us with dignity and respect, a school that believes in our children, that partners with parents and supports us in advocating for our community.
My son didn’t have this kind of supportive school, but thanks to Rocketship Public Schools, my daughter did. Diana, who is now at KIPP Prize Preparatory Academy, is a proud Los Suenos Rocketeer. Rocketship involved me in my daughter’s education and prepared her for a great middle school. I know that her future is bright because she has a strong foundation.
Not only has Rocketship and KIPP prepared my daughter, it also prepared me to fight for my community. I got involved in the parent leadership program at Rocketship, and I learned how to organize actions, make sure my voice is heard, and hold public officials accountable. To this day, I continue to fight for high quality education options in my community even though my daughter is already attending, in my opinion, one of the best middle schools in East Side San Jose.
Para grandes problemas, tienen que haber grandes soluciones. For big problems, there has to be big solutions. My oldest son had an unfair experience in school. But through it, I learned how to best advocate for my children and community.
I envision a future where my community is no longer overrepresented in prisons and underrepresented in colleges. I envision a future where all kids in my community reach for more than high school diplomas. I envision a future of respect, dignity, and opportunity for all.
My father couldn’t give me an education, but he gave me my values and passion for social justice. For my children and my community, I want them to have both.
Heriberto has been a parent leader and advocate for KIPP Bay Area Schools (Knowledge is Power Program) and Rocketship Public Schools and actively advocates for high quality choice in East Side San Jose and other underserved communities where schools are not preparing students to learn and be successful citizens of the world.
He wants to make sure that his children and other children in his community are not limited to opportunities to compete with the fast paced technological world we live in. He truly believes both KIPP and Rocketship are doing just that, opening up opportunities to children in East Side San Jose that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to attain.
“Every child can learn, you just have to give them the opportunity to do so.”