By Anna Sokiran
Santiago Potes just became the first Latino DACA recipient of the Rhodes Scholarship, an international postgraduate award for students to study at the University of Oxford.
He is one of almost 790,000 undocumented immigrants (also known as “Dreamers”) protected under the federal government’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He was 4 years old when he came to the United States from Colombia. His parents had him when they were 16. And they left their home in Colombia, hoping for a better future for their son after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia killed Santiago’s grandparents.
Today, Santiago Tobar Potes is a Colombia University Graduate, class of 2020, who is about to pursue a Master of Studies in global and imperial history to analyze the relationship between aesthetics and law in Deng Xiaoping’s China at Oxford. In addition to Santiago’s academic success and being a first-generation college student, he is an accomplished violinist and fluent in nine languages, including Chinese. Santiago thanked his elementary school teacher Esteva, who is herself an immigrant and a Cuban refugee. “My parents didn’t go to college. My parents had me when they were 16 years old. So, she really became kind of like my first mother figure actually. She went out of her way to teach me a rigorous education.”
The Rhodes Trust wrote, announcing Santiago the first recipient of the scholarship, “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. 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.”