1994 Inductee - Richard Soto


1994 Inductee - Richard Soto

Education/Politics

Richard Soto was born on August 19, 1944 in Stockton and raised in the Tracy area with his mother and five brothers and sisters. He has had many tragedies in his life, starting with the death of his father when he was a young boy. His mother struggled to make ends meet and installed a strong work ethic in all her children. Mr. Soto feels growing up in poverty has made a significant impact regarding the direction of his life. Since he has had so many traumatic experiences, he has chosen to ventilate his feelings in a vehicle traditionally known as “poetry”. After the death of his father, and grandmother he was involved in a tragic accident which took the lives of four young people. Through all this, he was determined to persevere.

Mr. Soto enlisted in the military and served in Vietnam running operating rooms and assisting in surgery. It was the experience of endless casualties that inspired him to write the poem “Harvest of Death”. After returning from his military service in 1969 he enrolled in college to continue his education. While in college he achieved a 4.0 grade point average at San Joaquin Delta College and earned a scholarship to attend CSU-Sacramento. He became heavily involved with the “Brown Berets” and was jailed in the East Los Angeles riots for medically attending to victims of police brutality. He returned to this area and continued his fight by organizing high school walk-outs.

When he lived in San Francisco, he directed a Junior High School Repeat Offenders Program in the Mission District and taught in the La Raza Graduate Studies Program. In San Francisco he was able to participate in different ethic advisory committees. In 1976 he returned to the Tracy area and was a counselor at Tracy High School. He has had the opportunity of serving on numerous committees for the city of Tracy and San Joaquin County. In particular, the planning commission, where he served as chair.

Mr. Soto has been influenced by a number of talented Hispanic individuals, both women and men. His commitment and efforts are fueled by the poverty and discrimination that he has observed, as well as by the “good” that is possible, as evidenced by the accomplishments of students who have allowed him the opportunity to assist them. From 1976 to 1984 he organized the Chicano Youth Leadership Conferences at Tracy High School, and started the Bilingual Hispanic College Night for talented Junior and Senior high school students. He also started the “Outstanding Hispanic Family of the Year award” at Tracy High School. Over the years he has been personally involved in sports and organized events for the youth. He directed the California Dry Bean Festival Fun Run and brought in 600 runners in its third year. Not only does he coordinate runs, but he participates as an avid runner in 10k and 5k events.

For many years, Mr. Soto has been speaking and making presentations about Mexican and Chicano History. He has accumulated and organized a comprehensive library, and to compliment his library, he has secured numerous artifacts, with a long range goal to create a Mexican American Museum by generational time periods that will be as historically, linguistically, culturally, and politically accurate as possible.

Richard is a proud parent of Miguel and Enriqueta Soto. He is a strong admirer of Jose Montoya, Joe Serna, Steve Arvizu, Robert Segura, Susan Casillas, Sally Rivera, and most of all his mother, Celia Munoz-Soto.

Richard completed his Master’s degree at CSU-Sacramento in 1975. He holds Life Teaching Credentials in General Secondary and Community College Education and a Life Pupil Personnel Counseling Credential. For the past twenty five years, Richard has served the community as an educator, a teacher, and a counselor. His efforts have focused on our youth without wavering in his vision for a better community. His vision includes instilling pride and self-esteem in our youth and helping us all to recognize the richness of the history and culture of the Mexican Chicano in this society.

He has served on numerous boards and committees and has been involved with Hispanics for Political Action and the Mexican American Political Association, and with the Planning and Allocations Division of United Way. His awards include Certificate of Appreciation for “Outstanding Service to the Multi-cultural Student Affirmative Action” by California State Stanislaus and a Certificate of Appreciation from the San Joaquin Country Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Commission. He was also named Outstanding Soccer Coach by the Tracy Latin Athletic Club, and recognized for his Outstanding Contribution to the Guadalupe Gang Intervention Center. Richard was hired by the Private Industry Council to be a coordinator Counselor for at risk youths.

Mr. Soto states, “One of the driving forces in my life is the realization that there is no alternative to life…..and since we only have one life…and so many others have lost theirs, we need to make the most of ours. And from that perspective every minute counts”.