Stories of Strength & Resilience | Elaina Sotelo

  • June 10, 2020

Elaina Sotelo
Safford, AZ

Elaina is a lead teacher at Easter Seals Blake Foundation - Palomita Children's Center, a five star center located in Safford, AZ. As a First Things First College Scholar recipient, Elaina was able to attend Eastern Arizona College and pursue her degree in Early Childhood Education and graduated in May with her Associate degree.

Read a message from Elaina:

I would like to share my journey with you. I grew up in a small town in Thatcher, AZ and graduated from Safford High School in 2000.  A few months later, I became a single mom of now amazing young women. I tried to go to college when my daughter was in pre-k thinking it would be easy.  I was wrong. I had to choose between working, feeding my daughter, or going to school. Yep, I picked my daughter.  Long story short, co-parenting was anything but easy and I felt my daughter suffered. I worked a lot to try to give her the best life. In 2008, I was blessed with another gorgeous daughter. In 2015, I married the man I had a secret crush on since I was 15 years old!  The transition from being a single mom, making all the decisions, to being married was exciting and scary. I also suffer from manic Depression and Anxiety. Living with this can be disabling. In 2014, I started babysitting from home but it wasn’t paying the bills.  So, in 2015 my husband pushed me into job hunting. I took a chance and applied at an actual children’s center. I had no education for this but I knew I loved children and caring for them.  Apparently, Ms. Betty and Ms. Veronica could tell I genuinely cared for children because I was offered the job, Yay me!  This was the beginning.

I was offered a chance to get a CDA in Early Childhood Education. Did I stop at just a pre-k CDA?  Nope, I went on to get my CDA in toddlers as well.  A few years later, a lead teacher spot opened. I was very unsure of myself, hence the anxiety.  Of course, there was a road block. The position required an AAS in ECE and all I had was a dual CDA. I knew I couldn’t afford to go back to school so I was extremely upset. I had been acting lead for some time and now I would have to give it up. Nope! I heard that the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry offered scholarships for those of us who wanted to continue to better ourselves. After talking to my husband and my parents, I applied. I was impressed with the Registry because they made it so easy to apply for the scholarship.  Not to mention they are so sweet and helpful; they always answered my ridiculous questions. I was 30 something starting college, raising my girls, and working. I am not going to lie, sometimes I wanted to quit but I had an amazing support group that reminded me of the reason I was doing this- for my girls, for my children in my class, and most of all, for me!  I am the queen of self-doubt and self-sabotage. However, I pushed myself and made sacrifices, not only me but my family did as well. I am so grateful for everyone who has pushed me and given me pep talks, and listened to me cry when I thought I wasn’t good enough. I graduated in May from Eastern Arizona College with an AAS in Early Childhood Education. All because Ms. Betty and Ms. Veronica gave me a chance. Maybe they saw something in me I didn’t. If you are like me and full of excuses and self-sabotage, I am here to tell you that YOU CAN DO THIS!!  Isn’t your turn to feel pride in yourself? The Registry is the whole reason I am able to feel pride in myself. FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART, THANK YOU! WITHOUT YOU I WOULD NOT BE HERE!!  Thank you for giving me the tools I needed to continue the career I never thought I would have. Bachelor’s, here I come!

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