A photo of Robert Soto

Introducing Relay It Forward Scholarship Winner, Robert Soto

In May 2021 we proudly announced Relay It Forward, a national partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging (AHLA) Foundation. At a time when every element of the hospitality industry was impacted due to COVID-19, we wanted to find even more ways to give back. 

As part of Relay It Forward, in addition to rewarding every purchase of Relay push-to-talk devices by a hotel, we created a scholarship program. In the past few months, we’ve begun to sponsor several hotel employee training and development provided by the Foundation’s Empowering Youth Program, which recruits Opportunity Youth to entry-level hotel positions. Among other things, the training provides the next generation of hotel employees with valuable job skills. But the scholarship isn’t limited to younger applicants. There are also opportunities for more seasoned hotel staffers interested in spending time updating and improving existing skills. 

At Relay, we’re proud that our devices connect distanced workers and empower them through the use of a panic button and a completely connected cellular network. Contact us to find out how to empower your staff and clientele through connectivity with a device that alerts anyone to potential danger.

Meet Robert Soto

One of the first recipients of a Relay It Forward scholarship is Robert Soto who completed a degree in Hospitality Management. Though he’s originally from Chicago, Soto now makes his home in Vail Valley, Colorado. As he describes it “I live and work at 8,000 feet.” While Soto has worked in the hospitality industry for over two decades, he’s dabbled in some other careers along the way, but he’s always come back to the hospitality industry. 

Learn more about Robert Soto and his journey below.

What do you like most about working in hospitality?

Robert Soto: It’s not nine to five and it’s always different. You could stay at the same place ten times and have a different experience every single time. It’s guest service-oriented and I’m a guest service person. I like that it’s not the same thing every day.

Your hotel hours were cut a little bit during the pandemic. You used that extra time to complete your bachelor’s degree, what made you decide to do that? 

Robert Soto: I came to a point where I was going to keep hitting a glass ceiling even without moving, so I need a four-year degree. I mentally got ready to go back to school at an advanced age. And to do it online and also work full time to put myself through school… It was just a choice and the hardest thing was to start. 

I’m an African American man. I’m in my 40s. I grew up in the inner city of Chicago. I’ve lived and worked in Atlanta and Alaska and Sun Valley, Idaho. And having spoken with some of my colleagues I understood that many of us stop and start our careers for many reasons. I realized that I have all this experience but I’m not going to get to where I want to go without that four-year degree.

Once I got started I was able to stay disciplined and focused, but the hardest thing was going back for my wellbeing in terms of job acceleration and growth. I had all this experience but I was not going to go anywhere without that degree.

There were times when it was a real struggle. At one point I worked two jobs that were 30 miles apart. Or times when I had to be up at five in the morning.

Do you think you would have been able to continue attending college full time without this scholarship? 

Robert Soto: I think I would have because I would have been able to get a loan because somebody always wants to put you in more debt. But what would have happened is it would have exacerbated everything I was talking about what I was going through. 

One of the cool things about going to school with a full-time job is that I’m not in a position where I’m looking for a job, but it would have been several thousand dollars more that I would have had to worry about. 

What the scholarship did was it just gave me a sense of calm and peace of mind. It also helped me focus. I wouldn’t have dropped out of school without the scholarship, but it definitely would have been more stressful. 

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