Cornell student becomes Fulbright Award winner

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MOUNT VERNON, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A Cornell College senior can't believe he's headed to Madrid, Spain in the coming months after receiving a Fulbright Award.

The Chicago native grew up in a violent atmosphere-- both his parents were in a gang. Gun violence took a close childhood friend.

"Initially, when I read the email, I thought it was a joke," said Randy Santiago. "So, I reread it at least five times before I let it sink in."

With that Fulbright, for nine months, Santiago, an English and Creative Writing major, will teach English to students in urban areas around Madrid. Plus, he'll be starting up an English book club for the community.

Santiago is giving back after overcoming a lot. The Chicago native grew up in a violent atmosphere-- both his parents were in a gang. Gun violence took a close childhood friend.

He said he never imagined leaving his neighborhood and becoming the first in his family to attend college.

Helping others do the same was important to Santiago.

"I feel like I can actually help students not just learn the language," he said, "because that's primary function there-- but, learn how to navigate the world and not feel as though you're just doomed for failure."

Santiago said after he's done in Mardird, he'd like to get into professional creative writing-- maybe doing screenplays.