When Talissa Soto was accidentally placed into an NJROTC class, it changed her high school career.
“It taught me a lot about working with a team. The team was like a family at first. It taught me a lot about not letting people get to me. Some people said it was lame, but I stuck through it,” Soto said.
Soto uses the experience gained in NJROTC to maintain her 4.0 GPA and status as valedictorian. She says another factor in her success was her time in middle school.
“I was really lazy in middle school,” Soto said. “That motivates me.”
Soto’s middle school placed her in ESOL classes after she arrived in the United States from Holland. Originally from Venezuela, Soto could speak Spanish and Dutch, but not English. After a year, she learned English and was ready to move out of ESOL classes. Soto’s parents were an important element in her making the transition into more difficult classes while maintaining her grades.
“My parents pushing me to get involved motivates me. I want to make them proud,” Soto said.
Soto is involved in NJROTC, where she now helps teach underclassmen, French Club, Model UN, SAFE Ambassadors, National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She plans to attend Florida Gulf Coast University in the fall and to study psychology.
“I’m taking AP Psychology this year and love it,” Soto said. “It’s one of those things that really comes easy to me, understanding how people work.”
Soto says becoming valedictorian is indicative of her ability to achieve her goals.
“I think it shows me if I set my mind to something, I can accomplish it. If I have a goal, I can work for it. It makes my proud of myself and shows me what I am capable of,” Soto said.

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