The phone rings in the middle of the night, jarring him awake. On the line is a Wright State student in a full-blown meltdown over a personal crisis—a failed test, financial worries or a broken heart.
Relying on his own experience of overcoming challenges and fears, 22-year-old Victor Colon talks the student through it.
The assistant community director at Forest Lane Apartments—who worked three years as a resident advisor before that—is no stranger to emotional emergencies. It comes with the territory.
“I have gotten to the point where people respect me—not only respect me—but listen to me,” Colon said. “And they call me at two or three in the morning to say, ‘Victor, I’m struggling with this.’”
Colon was born and grew up in Puerto Rico. With the help of a strong-willed mother, Colon and his three younger siblings successfully avoided the drug dealing and other criminal activity on the mean streets of Juana Diaz, an impoverished village on the southern coast.
“It was survival mode,” Colon recalled. “My mom is the reason I was able to come out of that. She was very strict.”
There were always chores for her children. She pushed them to get good grades and encouraged them to get involved in school activities. Colon was active in baseball and basketball, which he credited with keeping him out of trouble.
When Colon was in sixth grade, his mother lost her job helping manage a hotel. In hopes of securing a financial future, she moved the entire family to Sidney, Ohio, where her brother lived and worked. She landed a job at Stolle Machinery, and her kids landed in school able to speak very little English.
“The biggest challenge was the language barrier,” Colon said. “I had no idea what people were saying. It was just such a big hurdle to get over.”
Again, it was Colon’s mother who stepped in, helping her kids learn English within six months.
“She was the one that sat down with us for an extra hour-and-a-half just to study English,” he said.
Colon continued to play sports—baseball, basketball, track and football, in which he played both fullback and linebacker and was a captain.
“That’s how I stayed out of trouble, that’s how I did well in school, that’s how I stayed responsible, and it was a good way to be a role model for my siblings,” he said.
Colon is proud of his Latino descent.
“It’s something that I talk about every chance I get,” he said. “I love my culture and how rich it is.”
When it came time for college, Colon wanted to stay close to his family. Wright State seemed like a perfect fit. He arrived with the intent to study engineering, but quickly changed his major to modern languages. He has since studied Spanish, Italian, French and Chinese.
When he was a freshman, Colon was inspired by his resident advisor and decided to become one his sophomore year and for the following two years. At Forest Lane, he currently helps oversee roughly 300 students in four buildings.
“Every single RA has a different style. I built community the way I wanted to. It was based off of my personality and the way I worked,” Colon said. “You could tell the students were receiving it well because they would come to my events and come to my door just to hang out. They would come to talk to me when they had problems. It was very gratifying to me when I saw the results of my own work.”
The toughest part of the job is when Colon has to confront people.
“I’m not a confrontational person; I’m comfortable with it, but I’d rather not do it,” he said.
To relax, Colon listens to music. He also loves dancing to salsa music and has been playing the guitar for the past five years. But the best de-stresser for him is his religious faith.
“It lets me know that everything is already taken care of; it’s already planned,” he said. “That keeps me from worrying about the things that I can’t control. When I know there’s nothing for me to worry about, I can do my job to the best of my ability.”
In addition to majoring in languages, Colon is studying criminal justice and has an internship with Montgomery County Juvenile Court. After college, he would like to have a job in which he can counsel troubled youth and keep them out of the criminal-justice system.
“If I’m helping a young adult through their problems by diving into their emotional state, I really believe I can have a positive impact on them,” he said.
Colon, who graduates in April, said he has had a great experience at Wright State.
“I couldn’t have asked for more,” he said. “Wright State is so willing to take you in and just mold you, transform you into a top-notch student.”
And Colon said coming out of Wright State has him wanting to leave a legacy.
“Whether it’s here or in a kid’s heart or a fellow student or a resident,” he said. “I want to leave something to be remembered, something that can be related to the great experiences that I’ve had at Wright State University.”