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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Socorro Vallejo, Emmanuel Saldana

Aired August 13, 2003 - 20:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I love this next story. It's an inspiration for all of us. Emmanuel Saldana will soon start his sophomore year at one of the country's most prestigious prep schools. The 15-year-old boy from a low-income neighborhood in the South Bronx not only got into Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts, he got a full scholarship. The journey attracted a reporter and a photographer from the "Christian Science Monitor," who followed Emmanuel during his first year at Deerfield. Emanuel Saldana is here with us now in New York, along with his mother, Socorro Vallejo. She's very proud of her son as well. Thanks to both of you for joining us.
What was it like to make the transition, Emmanuel, from the South Bronx to Deerfield?

EMMANUEL SALDANA, DEERFIELD ACADEMY STUDENT: Well, it was pretty big. There was a lot of open space. And there's like -- you get -- it's a different environment because you don't see tall buildings. It's like a lot of open fields. And you meet a whole bunch of new, different people from what you're used to.

BLITZER: Well, you grew up in the South Bronx, a very different environment indeed from Deerfield. What inspired you? How did you make that jump? How did you get attracted to going to Deerfield? Obviously, a huge accomplishment.

SALDANA: Well, it was more like I knew what I had to do. Like, my school, East Harlem School, helped me out a lot during the whole application process. And I applied to a lot of different boarding schools. And they helped me out through the whole process. Because at first, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to go away or stay home. And after a while, I knew that it was better for me to go home -- to go away, because I would get better grades, I would do a lot better, and I could get into a better college, and I could see my future going to a whole new place with that.

BLITZER: Socorro, you were 15 years old when you delivered this young man. This is an enormous accomplishment and a tribute to you. How did you do it?

SOCORRO VALLEJO, SALDANA'S MOTHER: Emmanuel is great. He knew what he wanted. I just had him focused at, you know, I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to -- him to do or have better than what I have, and I guess like most parents, they just want their children to excel.

BLITZER: But what did you do special, because there are a lot of people in your situation that unfortunately don't deliver a son, and have a great son like Emmanuel emerge.

VALLEJO: Well, I kept him very busy. Since he was young, I kept him in karate, swimming. Whatever sports I could get him into, whatever after-school program I could get him into, I got him into, just so, to keep him off the street, keep him level-headed and keep him focused as to having a goal and just reaching for that goal.

BLITZER: And to do all of his homework. Emmanuel, what's it like at Deerfield? Obviously, a lot of the other boys there have come from a totally different background. How do you get along with them?

SALDANA: Well, it's easy. They get to know me, I got know them. But if they don't want to get to know me, I don't -- it works, we just ask each other questions and get to know each other. Because we all come from different backgrounds, and the best thing to do is try to get to know them. You can't just walk up to a person and judge them, because you don't know anything about them. And maybe they did that with me. And I'm positive I know I did that to some people at the school. But it's better that they asked me questions, and I got to know people that way, and I gained a lot of friends.

BLITZER: Your 15-year-old friends in Deerfield, how are they different than your 15-year-old friends in the South Bronx?

SALDANA: Well, I visited a couple of friends that live -- a lot of them live in like Fairfield County, Connecticut. They live -- their houses are amazing. And I guess we're different in the way that we've grown up. They've grown up, they're the same person, but they've grown up in a more -- in a society that's more -- that has more opportunities, and they can get more things. But for me, I had to go after these opportunities. They didn't have to do all this. It didn't take them so long to get (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Emmanuel, we're all very proud of you. We're expecting some great things to come down the road. Good work. Socorro, good work to you. We're proud of you as well.

VALLEJO: Thank you very much. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thanks to both of you.

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