Going to class wasn't enough. Victoria L. Soto wanted to help children. So, she started as a volunteer.
"At Eastern, while she was studying education, she felt the most direct way she could affect children's lives was by being a mentor," said Andy Fleischmann, president and CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization has created a new award to honor the former mentor who has become known for her heroic actions during the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. She was killed shielding first-graders from the gunman. Soto's mother, Donna, says her daughter was passionate about meeting weekly with her "little" Darlene. "If you look at the events of December 14th, you can tell what kind of person it was. She would protect her children, whether it be her children in class; whether it be her little sister or her own family." Jillian Soto says her sister kept her in line when she also became a mentor at Eastern Connecticut State University. "If I wasn't feeling good, she'd yell at you: 'You know, you have an obligation. You need to be there for your little.' She loved everything about it." Ana Robles, of Wethersfield, was awarded the first Victoria L. Soto Memorial Award at a ceremony recently. The Soto family said it's too hard to appear at all of the events that honor their daughter and other Newtown victims. But it was important for them to talk about mentoring because of how much it meant to Victoria Soto.