He is an accomplished violinist, speaks nine languages fluently, and is a recent graduate of Columbia University in New York. He is also an undocumented immigrant who entered the country from Colombia when he was four years old. He is Santiago Potes and has just become the first Latino recipient of the Deferred Action Program (DACA) to receive the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
As explained by CNN, Potes is the son of two young parents who searched in the U.S. for an opportunity.
After narrowly escaping arrest by customs agents in Miami at age 12, Santiago ‘Santi’ Potes will now be one of the new students at Oxford University in England.
At 23, Potes has had to overcome homelessness and a troubled family, finding refuge in his studies.
Thanks to a teacher’s support, Potes found his way in academic life, intellectual training, and leadership development, eventually leading him to stand out from his peers.
Once President Barack Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) in 2012, Potes had the opportunity to study abroad for a month in China, which would mark her professional life later.
Thanks to his excellent grades, he entered an Ivy League, where he graduated earlier this year with degrees in East Asian, medieval, and renaissance studies.
Despite some initial obstacles to applying for the Rhodes Scholarship due to the Trump Administration’s blockages to the DACA program, Potes was finally able to submit his paperwork and wait for a response.
“Santiago has been a teaching or research assistant for leading professors in physics, philosophy, social psychology, and neuroscience, and won numerous college prizes for leadership as well as academic performance,” the Rhodes Trust wrote in their announcement. “He is widely published on legal issues relating to DACA status, was one of the DACA recipients featured in a brief filed with the Supreme Court to preserve DACA.”
Now, Potes will study contemporary East Asia and international politics at Oxford, with an eye toward working on U.S. national security. His program will begin in October 2021, and, in the meantime, he works from Eric and Lynell Engelmyers’ home in Niskayuna as a full-time paralegal for a Wall Street law firm and is the lead teaching assistant for a physics class at Columbia.