When Dayra Santana’s parents emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the U.S., they worked hard to achieve a better life for themselves and their family. That dream is being realized by Dayra, a recipient of the University’s Presidential Scholarship, as well as the voice of St. John’s students as Editor-in-Chief of the independent student-run newspaper, the Torch.
“For my parents, and a lot of other Latinx and immigrant parents, college is a key to success,” she said.
“My parents came to the U.S., and they grinded when they got here. They worked day and night to provide for me and my siblings, and there was only one thing they wanted for me—to do well in school so that I could go to college and get a degree.”
Now a senior, Dayra was first drawn to St. John’s because of the financial aid she was offered as a Presidential Scholarship recipient and because of the location of its campus in Queens, NY. “I really wanted a ‘campus feel’ when I was looking for colleges, but being so close to the city was important, too,” she said. “I knew I wanted to work in media and needed to be near a city to have internships.”
Dayra complemented her course work with no fewer than three internships over the course of a calendar year—two at WarnerMedia’s truTV network and one at Neighborhood Watch Films—all while working as a member the Torch editorial staff as Assistant Features Editor and Managing Editor.
“I first met with the Torch staff at the Fall Activities Fair and attended one of their production nights late one Tuesday evening,” she recalled. “There was something about the energy of the room that kept me coming back every week. There were always people running around, editing stories, printing out pages, making phone calls, and asking questions. I was fascinated by the level of dedication.”
Dayra was also intrigued by the makeup of the newspaper’s staff. “It was as diverse a room as I had ever seen at St. John’s, and I really felt at home,” she said.
“At St. John’s we are incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by people from different backgrounds and cultures. I think that students who take advantage of being in one of the most diverse places in the world and learning about their peers will find that they’re better off for doing so.”
After serving as Assignment Editor and Managing Editor at the paper, Dayra was appointed Editor-in-Chief in April 2020 and has received high marks for her honesty and integrity.
“Dayra is a sharp editor and an engaging team leader, but what impresses me most is her strong ethics,” said Torch advisor and Newsday reporter, Jim Baumbach ’00C. “She has such an earnest belief in transparency, and that undoubtedly resonates with her fellow editors, her sources, and her readers. Trustworthiness is a trait that will help her succeed in whatever role she chooses to pursue.”
A Communication Arts and Legal Studies double major, Dayra chose the former after taking Intro to Mass Communication with Assistant Professor Candice D. Roberts.
“We talked about television, film, video games, and music,” she said. “I couldn’t believe that there was a major where I could learn about everything I loved. I picked up a second major in Legal Studies in my sophomore year, because I really wanted to learn more about the American legal system. I feel incredibly well-rounded due to the broad scope of my majors.”
Outside of the classroom and away from the newsroom, Dayra has made it a point to answer the Vincentian question “What must be done?” by participating in service activities, including a Midnight Run as part of a short-term program in Rome, Italy.
“My parents instilled in me a drive to do well in school, and over time it’s translated into a drive to do well in my professional life and extracurricular responsibilities,” she said. “I’m really fortunate to have parents who push me but also who believe in me.”
Looking ahead, Dayra’s goal is to be a part of the creation of media that is both diverse and representative. “It is so important to see yourself in the media you consume,” she said. “It all starts with Latinos and other people of color being in writers’ rooms and newsrooms, or even by seeing a name like ‘Dayra Santana’ on a byline.”