Alicia Soto, a recent graduate of Santa Rosa High School. Photo by Jeff Kan Lee of The Press Democrat

By JULIE JOHNSON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Alicia Soto has moved a lot.
She moved from a Central Valley farming town to Santa Rosa when she was about 4. She returned to Delano near Visalia to be with her father for much of elementary school and was back in Santa Rosa with her mother by the sixth grade.
After seven schools in 12 years, including Spanish-language immersion programs, charter, college prepatory and public schools, Soto said the experience made her strong.
“But to be honest, it was also just really hard,” Soto said.
Soto graduated May 25, along with the rest of Santa Rosa High’s senior class, after playing second base on the softball team, being a staff writer with the school newspaper, a singer and a Democratic Party volunteer.
It’s a long way for a teen who once was too shy to form deep friendships or join clubs, knowing she may have to move.
“Always being really nomadic, getting up and leaving every year kept me from getting close to anybody,” Soto said.
She was quiet and reserved when she entered high school, said Yolanda Martinez, Soto’s step-grandmother and a retired Santa Rosa High Spanish and English teacher.
“Suddenly, she’s playing softball, she’s working on becoming more outgoing so she can accomplish her professional goals,” Martinez said.
Oddly enough, a devastating D grade on a U.S. history paper last year, in her first year at Santa Rosa High, helped set Soto on the right path.
Soto went to the teacher and asked for help. She studied how to write thesis statements, where to place commas and how to form academic paragraphs.
“My next essay I got an A on it. I was so proud,” Soto said.
Since then, she’s recited Carol Muske-Dukes’s poem “Ovation” before a full auditorium at the school.
She wrote, took photos and edited for the school newspaper, the Santa Rosan. The Press Democrat awarded Soto first place for a photography feature about the school design club trip to a San Francisco design school.
She’s teaching herself sign language. She pens fiction and nonfiction stories to relax.
“To me, she’s just a role model,” Martinez said.
Soto joined the choir, and, in March, she drove to Los Angeles with her mother to audition for “The Voice” TV singing contest.
“In my freshman year, I never would have done anything like that,” Soto said.
She will start Santa Rosa Junior College in the fall and hopes to transfer to UC Santa Cruz to study nursing or interior design.
Soto now says attending so many schools taught her to talk to all different types of people.
Now, she sees friends everywhere she goes.
“I go to the Wednesday Night Market, the mall, parades, and I see so many people to say, ‘Hey’ to,” Soto said. “Other people say, ‘How do you know so many people?’ It’s because I’ve been to so many different schools.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com.

Alicia Coreen Soto
Age: 17
Birthplace: Delano
Lives with: Mother Sophia Martinez, stepfather Rolando Martinez, brothers Thomas Soto, 16, and Matthew Soto, 13
What’s in her iPod: Foster the People, Frank Sinatra, jazz
Favorite hobby: Singing and running
Dream job: Write fiction or nonfiction stories from home
Favorite TV show: “Modern Family,” “Once Upon a Time”
Favorite food: Chinese
Quote: “You do better when you know better.”