Success Stories

Santonio - Illinois

Author: BHGH Web Admin/Monday, February 17, 2014/Categories: National Success Stories

Santonio - Illinois

Chicago collegian SANTONIO’s drive was evident from an early age. Raised by a single mother in the Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood—an area blighted by poverty and gang violence—he took on the responsibility of getting himself and his younger brother to school in Rogers Park, an hour and a half away via two trains and two buses, on his own.

In seven years, he and his brother were never late once But shouldering that responsibility didn’t come without a price.

“I had to become the man of the house when I was six,” he says, “And I had a lot of anger built up. I took care of my brothers, I did the shopping, and I didn’t have my father around.”

But he soon learned to channel his anger into something productive. When he was seven years old, a mentor suggested that he try wrestling—a suggestion that changed his life.

“Wrestling saved my life,” he says. “I had ten friends I was close to in elementary school. Half of them are dead, half of them are in prison. It kept me busy, focused, and gave me the structure I needed and goals to meet. It’s made me who I am. It taught me discipline, hard work, and self-sufficiency. When it’s just you and an opponent on the mat, you can’t blame anyone else if you fail. It’s up to you to win or lose on your own. “And like my coach says,” he adds, “after wrestling, everything’s easy.”

He came to Boys Hope Girls Hope at the age of 14—another watershed event in his life. “For the first time in my life, I had access to all the things I needed,” he says. “It gave me the opportunity to go to a top school academically. I always had the ambition, but BoysHope gave me the opportunities.”

He continued wrestling and playing football after he came to Boys Hope Girls Hope at the age of 14, and throughout his high school career at Loyola Academy (where he also played football), taking 3rd and 5th in state, and 10th in National for Greco-Roman wrestling.

Now studying business at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he’s continued wrestling, racking up an impressive 13-3 season. He plans to try out for the U.S. Olympic team in 2016.


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My name is Laura.  I am a Junior at Regis Jesuit High School.  I have been at Boys Hope Girls Hope for almost a year now.  Before coming to BHGH I had a very unstable home and attended many different schools. Even though life was hard, I knew all along that I had potential to reach success.  The decision to come to BHGH was difficult.  I had to leave family and friends behind.  But I knew that it was the right choice, given the high expectations that I have for myself. 

This program provides me with wonderful tools and opportunities. My tutors are my life savers! They are here to help me with my weakest subjects and they do a great job helping me understand the material. I have a wonderful mentor, Concetta, who is a fabulous cook and great at giving advice. She’s like my best friend and I love spending time with her.

Boys Hope Girls Hope has given me the opportunity to participate in several community service projects.  I love going to Bessie’s Hope, which, for all of those who haven’t heard of this place, is a retirement home. When we go, we get to interact with the elderly who live there. We get the opportunity to make their day, and to make their stay more pleasant. We’re there to make them feel loved and cared for. I became very close with a lady named Feliz Ann.  She was the one that made me look forward to going there.

Recently I have learned to caddie at the Colorado Golf Club and I love it! I get to work out in the sun and I’ve had the opportunity to meet great people. I really enjoy caddying. I’m getting a tan, I’m getting in shape, and I’m making money all at the same time. It can’t get any better than this!

In addition to community service and work, I’ve also had the chance to experience new activities such as sailing and rock climbing.  These activities have encouraged me to take risks.  I used to be afraid of what’s hidden beneath the water…. and there I was, on a boat, in Cherry Creek Reservoir, waiting for the wind to take me somewhere!  And when I went rock climbing, I had to climb to the very top and then they told me to let go!   I had to trust the equipment and people to get me down safely.   I was afraid of what was going to happen once I let go, but I knew I had to do it.  There will be many times in my future when I’ll have to take risks to get to where I want to be.

So…I have several life goals. First, I hope to finish high school at Regis Jesuit with outstanding grades. I hope to get much more involved with sports and after school activities. After I accomplish this, I hope to go off to a college that fits me and that I will love.  There, I will pursue a career in the medical field. It will be a long journey with ups and downs but I know that Boys Hope Girls Hope will help me reach my goals.  

On behalf of all the Boys Hope Girls Hope scholars, I thank you for providing us this opportunity.