Things That Matter

Miami Student Becomes First Latino DACA Recipient To Become A Rhodes Scholar And He Says He Owes It All To Elementary School Teacher

When we look back at our time in elementary or middle school, how many of us distinctly remember a special teacher or school official who went out of their way to help us?

Sure, for many of us school wasn’t always the best place. From teasing and bullying to stress over grades and homework, school can be a stressful place. But it’s also a place often filled with caring, compassionate teachers hoping to build our next generation of Americans.

One of those Americans is Santiago Potes, a DACA recipient originally from Colombia who has just been named a 2021 Rhodes Scholar – the first Latino DACA recipient to earn such a distinction.

Santiago Potes has become the first Latino DACA recipient to become a Rhodes Scholar.

Over the weekend, the Rhodes Trust announced its lineup of Rhodes Scholars and among them is the first ever Latino DACA recipient – Santiago Potes, a 2020 graduate of Columbia University.

In their announcement, the Rhodes Trust wrote, “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.”

Today, Potes works as a full-time paralegal for a Wall Street law firm and is the head teaching assistant for a physics class at Columbia. He’s also a foreign policy expert who speaks nine languages and plans to study international relations during his two-year program in England.

“I really just want to protect  the United States because it really is the only country that I know, and I think that my skills and languages and history and political science could be best used in such a career,” added Potes.

Potes traces his success back to an elementary school teacher, herself an immigrant.

In an interview with CNN, Potes says that he owes all of his success and determination to an elementary school teacher that he saw twice a week from second to fifth grade. “She was one of the biggest blessings that I’ve had in my entire life so far,” he said.

“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,” he added.

He said he would not have reached this level of success if Esteva had not told him from an early age that she believed he could do great things. For her part, Esteva said she just spotted what was already innately in Potes as a child. “I planted a seed in fertile soil. You took care of a plant. You are the one who made it possible.”

Esteva is a Cuban refugee and immigrant to the United States herself. She said it means even more to have teacher and student, both Latino immigrants and refugees, two generations of opportunity and success in the United States.

His story is one that many in the undocumented community can relate to.

Although Potes had to overcome serious struggles to follow his dreams, overcoming homelessness and a difficult home life, he owes his future to his time spent in the classroom.

Like so many in our community, Potes came from parents who both worked to provide for the family. They themselves were young, undocumented parents. His dad washed cars. His mom worked at a major chain supermarket.

It was around Thanksgiving, years ago, when the family was awakened by an early morning banging on the front door to their cramped studio apartment from what he later came to find out were U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

The 12-year-old managed to grab his school bag and the family escaped through a backyard and were later  picked up by one of his father’s Colombian friends, then taken to a residence where he, his younger brother and parents stayed on a couch for more than a year.

Although Potes is the first Latino DACA recipient to win a Rhodes Scholarship, he’s not the first DACA student.

Although many people associate DACA recipients with being undocumented Latino migrants, that’s not the case. In fact, the first DACA recipient to be named a Rhodes Scholar was Harvard University student Jin Park, of South Korea.

Park, 22, arrived in New York City with his parents from South Korea when he was 7 years old and grew up in Queens, N.Y. Park studied at Harvard working toward a degree in molecular and cellular biology with a minor in ethnicity and migration rights.

“I’ve proposed two master’s degrees for my studies at Oxford: one in migration studies, the other in global health science and epidemiology,” Park says. “I want to do those two degrees and come back and hopefully work in the context of public health department … [to] implement evidence-based policies to improve and work on immigrant health.”

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‘National Treasure’ Is Being Rebooted on Disney+ With a Latina Lead, And She’s a DREAMer!

Entertainment

‘National Treasure’ Is Being Rebooted on Disney+ With a Latina Lead, And She’s a DREAMer!

Courtesy Buena Vista Pictures

Look, the 2004 movie “National Treasure” may be corny, but it’s also a classic. We’ll admit that we’ve revisited the movie a few times over the years, and hey, it holds up!

After all, who doesn’t want to see Nicolas Cage steal the Declaration of Independence in order to find a mountain of hidden treasure? So, if you’re a fan of the original movie, we have good news for you.

Disney+ just announced that they’re rebooting “National Treasure” as a series. And, this time, the main character will be Latina!

You heard it here first, folks. According to Deadline, the series’ protagonist will be a twenty-year-old Latina named Jess Morales. Throughout the course of the series, Morales will “uncover her mysterious family history and recover lost treasure”.

And to make things even more exciting, Deadline also reported that Jess Morales will be a DREAMer! In addition, Morales will have a “diverse group of friends” who will help her in her adventure. Sounds a lot different than the completely-white 2004 cast.

And unlike the original, apolitical movies, the “National Treasure” reboot will explore issues of “identity, community, historical authorship and patriotism”.

Sounds juicy! While the original Nicolas Cage movies were fun, they definitely never looked at American history through a critical lens. The 2004 movie was much more about finding hidden treasure than exploring what it means to be a person of color in 21st century America.

The fact that the lead of the “National Treasure” reboot is Latina signals to the audience that there are different ways to be American. Being a white male (like Nicolas Cage) doesn’t make you “more American” than being a person of color does.

Of course, Twitter users couldn’t help but express their opinions about the “National Treasure” reboot.

This person made an on-point observation about how the premise of the “National Treasure” reboot sounds suspiciously familiar…

Jess Morales won’t be the first Latina to use a map to find hidden treasure!

And of course, there were the haters that were mad that the hero of “National Treasure” will no longer be an old white dude.

This man doesn’t sound bitter at all…

And naturally, there was plenty of Latino talent ready to throw their hat in the ring.

We can’t wait to see who Disney+ casts to play Jess Morales! We need as many Latinos represented on screen as we can get.

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A Black Teen Earned Over $1 Million In Scholarships From 18 Colleges That Accepted Her

Fierce

A Black Teen Earned Over $1 Million In Scholarships From 18 Colleges That Accepted Her

Joe Sohm/Visions of America / Getty

Shanya Robinson-Owens applied to over 20 colleges and has been accepted into 18 of them.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the high school senior has also been offered more than $1 million in scholarship money. The 17-year-old Philadelphia teen currently attends George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science but is headed towards a pretty bright and educated future.

According to a recent interview with “Good Morning America” the star student earned $1,074,260 in scholarships.

“We are overjoyed,” Robinson-Owens aunt told the show in a recent interview. “I knew she wouldn’t have a problem getting into colleges, but we didn’t know they would award her this much money in scholarship funds.”

Shanya, who was accepted to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; La Salle University in Philadelphia; Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri; Temple University in Philadelphia and Cabrini University in Radnor, Pennsylvania, told GMA that she “wasn’t really expecting it” so many offers let alone so much money.

The senior currently holds a 3.2-grade point average and is a member of the school’s yearbook committee. She also works as an intern alongside her Chinese language teacher.

When it comes to the advice she’d give other students, Shayna says it’s important to “take your time” with your work and the application process.

“You really have to be patient,” Shanya explained. “Stay focused. If you need to have some time away, it’s OK. You can tell your teachers that because they know you’re stressed.”

“We’ve always been extremely proud of her,” Shanya’s aunt, Christine Owens, explained to GMA. “My mother has helped raise Shanya since she was a baby. We’ve just been working as a team making sure Shanya keeps God first in anything she does and she is succeeding.”

Speaking about Shanya, her school principal Ted Domers told GMA that Shanya is a “well-respected student at her school.”

“In addition to being a part of a movement to bring more social action to our school, she’s involved in a number of extracurricular activities that show the breadth of her skills, from robotics to journalism,” Domers explained. “It is a privilege for us to count Shanya as one of our own and we are excited to see her create opportunities for her future.”

Shanya has yet to make a college pick.

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