STRATFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — Two-and-a-half years after the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, one of the victims is being remembered by having a school named after her.
Victoria Soto was a teacher at Sandy Hook, and she gave her life trying to protect her students on that horrific day in December of 2012.
Victoria Soto School had its grand opening Friday morning; an open house followed in the afternoon. It is a beautiful building, named after a beautiful young woman, and it is dedicated to continuing the mission to which Soto dedicated her life: quality education for young children. Local leaders at the grand opening ceremony spoke about Vicki’s dedication to her first-grade students.
“Victoria defines the word hero, and this school ensures that her sacrifice is never forgotten,” said Stratford Mayor John Harkins. “Today we honor and celebrate her life.”
Soto was one of 26 people killed by a crazed gunman in Sandy Hook Elementary School almost three years ago. She died trying to protect her students from the bullets. She grew up in Stratford, attended Stratford schools, and her family still lives in town. They cut the ribbon at the ceremony, marking the opening of the new school. Vicki’s sister, Jillian Soto, spoke about how much her sister loved her students. She said she always looked forward to the first day of school.
“Although Vicki won’t be setting up her classroom this year as she should be, I am proud to say in her loving memory and honor we have set up her own school,” she said.
It seemed only natural to name a school after her, especially once the former schools chief from Newtown became the Superintendent in Stratford.
“The natural light and colors reflect the joy of learning that will now be the legacy of Victoria Soto for generations of Stratford children,” said Dr. Janet Robinson, Stratford Superintendent of Schools.
The school has all the latest security, including bulletproof glass and a buzzer system to only let in authorized guests. What the students are going to see is the latest technology in all 14 classrooms. More than 200 preschool through second graders will attend the new school. These kids are about the same age as the students Vicki gave her life protecting.
The building also features a big mosaic mural, the tiles for which were designed by the Soto family. Many of them depict flamingos, Vicki’s favorite animal. There are flamingos throughout the school. Each classroom has one pink chair to symbolize Vicki’s love of the birds.
Anybody who has attended the annual Vicki Soto 5K run knows about the flamingos, as many people in the race run in flamingo costumes. The next run is coming up on November 7th, and they are looking for runners and sponsors.
November 7th is just days after what would have been Vicki’s 30th birthday. The family hopes the school is another way to honor Vicki and continue her legacy.
“The students that attend may have never met my sister but they will always remember who she was and what she did,” said Jillian Soto.
School starts on Thursday, September 3.