Bridgeport Student Overcomes Challenges
When he arrived at Carriage House apartments to film the first story for a UConn broadcast journalism class, Victor Santos was wearing his favorite suit: a caramel jacket with matching pants and a light amber tie over the manila colored button-up shirt he got for Christmas.
He was concluding the final stand-up, "I'm Victor Santos …," in an appropriately serious fashion, when he added an unrehearsed, over the top, sign off. He turned his shoulders slightly to the left, pointed at the lens, and said, "YOU guys have a good one!" Both Santos and the cameraman maintained their composure long enough to get the shot, then started laughing once the camera stopped rolling.
Santos knows he's funny. In his Facebook biography, he describes himself as "a chilled guy who likes to hang out, joke around and drink beer … so Ill make you laugh. Blah Blah Blah."
But there's seriousness behind him. Santos is a sixth-semester journalism and communications major with a 3.0 GPA and dreams of becoming an online sports journalist for ESPN when he graduates. This summer he has an internship in the sports department of the Connecticut Post. His future looks bright, but his past has been filled with challenges.
Santos was born and reared in some of the poorest, most dangerous areas of Bridgeport. His mother, Melissa Siberon, was 16 when she became pregnant and dropped out of high school. She says that Santos's father was a drug addict who spent his son's childhood either selling drugs or in jail.
"I always told my son to never hate your father, to always love him no matter what the circumstance," Siberon said. When Santos was born in 1987, she vowed to do everything she could to give her son a different future.
"My mother pounded it into me," he remembers. "She would always tell me, 'You have to go to college. It isn't an option. I don't want you to end up on the streets like your father,' and so it was almost like a requirement."
And Siberon didn't waste any time getting her son ready for college. She enrolled him in Bridgeport's High Horizons Magnet School from kindergarten through middle school.
"Victor was always bright and I'm sure if he didn't go to a magnet school he would've still been fine. But I didn't trust the kids in public schools so I didn't want my son getting mixed up with the wrong crowd," Siberon explains.
It was a justifiable concern because at the time, Santos was sharing an apartment with his pregnant mother and newborn half-sister, Amanda Cruz, near one of the most dangerous housing projects in Bridgeport – the P.T. Barnum Apartments tucked behind Captains Cove Marina along the south-western coast of Long Island Sound.