How this Shooting Survivor Plans to Use Her Nursing Degree to Give Back

Sonia Brito’s decision to make healing her life’s work began when she was a teenager and survived a hail of bullets.
February 07, 2024

On March 13, 2020, then 16-year-old Sonia Brito began her day like any other. She went to school and then hung out with her cousin. They decided to have a sleepover and invited a few people. During the early hours of March 14, an argument broke out and a young man was asked to leave. He left reluctantly, punctuating his departure by firing two bullets into the air.

The shooter then returned with four friends and more shots were fired. Brito was shot 12 times, her cousin was shot 18 times, and a friend’s father was killed. 

Sonia and her cousin were taken to UNM hospital and their stay coincided with the first wave of COVID-19 patients. She clearly remembers all the care and compassion she received from the nursing staff who were facing a hospital-wide crisis. 

“My hair was full of blood and a nurse washed it several times—until the water finally ran clear—and braided it,” Sonia says. They did the same for her cousin and allowed Sonia and her cousin to visit, even though they were on separate floors.

“That was something that made me think about different ways of healing—the care those nurses took washing and braiding our hair and making sure my cousin and I saw each other for a few minutes, even with the pandemic restrictions,” she says. 

After leaving the hospital, but while struggling through multiple surgeries, Sonia became convinced that she wanted a career that involved care and healing. She remembers that even during the shooting, she looked beyond her own injuries and started thinking about her cousin, her friends and their families as well as her own mother. 

Nursing was the obvious path forward, and CNM was the obvious starting point. Both her parents are alums and CNM’s smaller class sizes and affordable tuition were big selling points. 

Today, Sonia is in the middle of her Nursing degree at CNM and plans to transfer to UNM — with its attendant teaching hospital, where she was treated — to earn her bachelor’s of science in Nursing. 

Sonia is still dealing with her injuries, and still going through surgeries, but says she’s grateful to be progressing toward a nursing degree so that she can help others just the way the UNM nursing staff helped her on that fateful day back in 2020. 

“My mother says she always felt I was a healer. I’m excited to get the opportunity to put my education, skills and ability to stay calm under pressure to work helping others and innovating care strategies,” said Brito. 

For more information, explore CNM’s Nursing program page