Samantha Soto isn’t the typical graduate from The University of New Mexico. The child of heroin-addicted parents, she decided early on that she was going to break the cycle and create a good life for her children. At the age of 41, the single parent of three will receive her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications when she walks the line at commencement.

Born in Albuquerque’s north valley, Soto was raised by her grandmother because her parents were in and out of prison for most of her childhood.

“I always knew I wanted better for myself and didn't want to follow in my parents’ footsteps. It wasn't until I had my son at age 27 that I realized that my parents chose drugs over me, and that was a hard pill to swallow. I knew I had to be the best mom I could be for him and my twins born three years later.”

Completing her high school GED in 2000, Soto started college classes at what was then known as TVI, graduating with an associate degree in business administration in 2013. She enjoyed college and because she worked at CNM, which would pay her tuition, she decided it would be best for her career to get a bachelor’s degree.

“I also wanted my children to know that hard work pays off and you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.”

After taking some Communications classes while working toward her associate degree in business, Soto decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Communications instead.

“There have always been challenges, but because of my resilience with my childhood I knew I could do it. It took a lot of baby steps, especially being a single parent with three kiddos and working a full-time job.”

Since 2018, Soto inched toward her degree, taking only two online classes each spring and fall term to take the summers off to have time for her children.

“I have loved UNM. I would have liked to be on campus more since all my classes have been online, but the times I have been on campus have been amazing. UNM is such a great school with amazing faculty. I had some issues for a couple of semesters and my instructors have always been so willing to help and accommodate me as much as they could.”

Looking ahead to the future, Soto plans to use her new degree in her position at CNM.

“But if my journey takes me elsewhere, I am open to that as well. I have always wanted to help those in need, whether that be addicts, homeless, the unfortunate, I would really like to do my part in helping others help themselves. I also think I will take the next steps in pursuing my master's degree. I am so used to being in school and taking classes, the thought of not continuing makes me a little nervous because what would I do with my extra time?”

Soto’s love and pride for her children shines through in her conversations.

“My son is soon to be 15 in June and just got accepted to Albuquerque Academy on a full scholarship. He’s an amazing student and athlete in soccer and basketball. He’s also been in the gifted program since elementary school, for math and English. My identical twin daughters just turned 11 on April 11 and they love to dance. They have been in dance since they were 4 and just completed their recital for ballet and hip-hop a couple of weeks ago. They will all be leaving their schools next year, with the girls going to middle school and my son going to high school and they’re all nervous and excited.

Soto’s children and sister will be at commencement to cheer her on.

“I am always excited to show my kids that hard work pays off and knowing my background and where I could be now to where I actually am makes me so proud. My kids are the most important thing to me, so walking the line for them is what it is all about. They are so proud of me and that makes me proud of me too. I am proud to say I am a Lobo and have a UNM degree. Go Lobos!”