•  Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize Ms. Sonia Clayton for her tremendous accomplishments with her business, numerous awards she has received and for being featured on the cover of Small Business Today magazine. Sonia is a perfect example of the American Dream.

  • Sonia was born in Colombia, where she spent the first part of her childhood, before moving to Venezuela and eventually the United States. Growing up, Sonia said life was not easy. She had no father figure, and grew up poor in an underdeveloped country. She said that living without a paternal figure, she had to figure things out on her own and learn how to survive. It is during this time that Sonia learned how to "think outside the box,'' as she put it.

  • She said that she learned to get creative and embrace the challenge, tackle it and overcome it. As she explained, when there is someone there to prevent chaos in your life, you learn nothing, but when you have to figure it out on your own, you learn how to survive, because you have to.

  • In 1984, Sonia moved to the United States. In order to support herself, she had three jobs. She first worked as a caretaker for an elderly couple close to death. She then worked in a rest home and from that job, created a crew who cleaned houses around the Salt Lake City area. It was during this job that Sonia learned English. Sonia also worked as an interpreter; she is fluent in French, Spanish, Portuguese and English.

  • In 1990, Sonia came to Texas. She first worked for Air France and from there went on to work for Continental Airlines. She started out doing transit operations and later went on to work in corporate security. Sonia pioneered a team that put together Continental Airlines first security group.

  • It is during this time that Sonia began working with different databases and programs for training purposes, and first got into IT. Shortly after 9/11, Sonia created Virtual Intelligence Providers, L.L.C (VIP). VIP is an information technology company that focuses on oil and gas. It first started out as a way to help her friends find jobs that had been lost due to the events on September 11th. She began reaching out to different companies and as Sonia put it, she didn't just start with the little guy, she reached out to huge corporations and Shell Oil became her first client.

  • VIP grew very quickly, making $300,000 in its first year and hitting the million dollar mark in its second. VIP has been in business for 13 years.

  • In all her success, Sonia always remembers to give back and promotes this spirit throughout VIP and its employees. She has started three nonprofits: The VIP Education Foundation, The Angels for Soldiers Foundation and The Cancer Foundation.

  • Sonia also continues to support the Mormon Church. It is through Mormonism that she grew to become familiar and be involved with Christian and American values, which she witnessed growing up through the works of missionaries and Red Cross workers.

  • Sonia said that Americans are very generous people and America is the only country in the world that worries about its neighbors and helps maintain their freedoms and liberties. She also knows that it takes genuine people who are willing to sacrifice that make this country great. She raised her children with the principle that they can either serve God or their Country. Her son is an officer in the US Navy and her daughter is a returned missionary in the Mormon Church.

  • Sonia believes all these works are a way to give back to America so that someone is able to benefit from her and her family's generosity, the same generosity that she once benefited from.

  • Sonia is a remarkable, successful woman, gracious and giving citizen and a cancer survivor. Her exceptional story reminds us that even in times of great adversity, we can succeed if we work with tireless determination. She teaches people everywhere the importance of giving back and I am thankful to have her as one of my many neighbors in Houston, Texas. Sonia embodies the character of a Texan through and through.

  • And that's just the way it is.