Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.

AWOL

Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.

AWOL

Critical. Subversive. Irrepressible.

AWOL

Chasing history
Magazine Release
The Magazine has been released!

An activist for the Latino community, Edwin Santos rises to AUSG role

A profile of the first Latino student body president
An+activist+for+the+Latino+community%2C+Edwin+Santos+rises+to+AUSG+role
Ben Ackman

Within Edwin Santos’ first year on campus he said he decided to start an organization to connect the Latino community. 

After brainstorming this idea, Santos co-founded Latinos En Acción, LEA, in his sophomore year along with Isabel Alvarado and Jocelyn Lopez-Arias.

“Seeing what we were able to accomplish within the Latino community specifically made me think about what we could do at large if we had the opportunity,” Santos said. “I saw student government as the platform to be able to do that since it represents all students and engages with everyone.” 

LEA is a chapter of United We Dream, which is the largest immigrant youth-led network in the country, according to their website.  

Santos said that co-founding an organization to connect the Latino community at AU was not the end of his work to create a sense of community on campus for students, especially those in the BIPOC community at a predominantly white institution. During his second year at AU, without any prior student government experience, Santos said he decided to run for American University Student Government President, and credits LEA with being a starting point for his drive to create a community. 

“At the time, I was thinking about something to educate people on their rights because I knew I wanted to go into law, coming from a background of not having resources, not knowing a lot of information or having access to higher education and things like that,” Santos said. “I saw the importance of sharing those resources with people.”

In April 2022, Edwin Santos was elected as student body president, the first Latino president in AUSG’s nearly 20 year history.

Edwin Santos is a first generation Salvadorian from Woodbridge, Virginia, pursuing a dual Bachelor of Arts in Legal Studies and Master of Public Administration. Santos is a part of the Politics, Policy and Law Scholars at AU. He has interned for the U.S. Senate and Virginia House of Delegates. Santos is also a recipient of the Obama-Chesky Voyager Scholarship.

At the beginning of Santos’ campaign, he said he decided to bring in his close friend, Annalissa Garcia, later officially making her a part of his cabinet as Chief of Staff.

“Edwin and I met the first week of school my freshman year, we went night monumenting in groups and everything,” Garcia said. “I have known Edwin since the very beginning.”

After a few weeks of campaigning and holding several different events to garner support for Santos’ campaign, Garcia said she recalled the moment official results were announced.

“We were all in one of our friend’s dorm,” Garcia said. “When we got the email of the official results, it was just exciting. When you accomplish something, especially something this big, you see there are people around you who support you, even when you feel alone. This win encompassed that.”

Santos’ win was met with an outpour of support on social media, with his announcement post on Instagram receiving over 7,000 views, and notable celebration amongst the Latino community in the comment section. Instagram user @BatoolSports commented, “¡Si se puede!” translating to “Yes, it can be done!” The motto symbolizes Latino strength and perseverance first coined by the United Farm Workers, according to their website.

Although Santos’ time campaigning may be over, Santos said he is overseeing eight events this semester. 

“I don’t know if I’m trying to do too much, but I am a very ambitious person, and I care about doing a role right,” Santos said. 

Santos’ said his first weeks in office this year have been extremely productive with several events. Santos said he hosted the “What’s the Tea” initiative that brought administration and students together. Santos also spoke in Chicago on behalf of AU’s Change Can’t Wait campaign. 

Santos said he began applying to college only two years ago and remembers not knowing where he wanted to go.

“In high school, I spent hours researching what universities are around me, how do I apply? What is FAFSA? What is Common App? Where do I submit applications and all these things?” Santos said.

Santos said these questions aren’t out of the ordinary for first generation college students, especially in the Latino community. According to a Department of Education report, around 44% of Latinos are the first in their family to go to college. As a result, Santos said many Latino students are left to navigate the intimidating college application process on their own, similar to Santos. 

“I knew I wanted to pursue an education, and I knew I had to, but I didn’t know how,” Santos said. “This pushed me to figure it out on my own.”

Santos said that another part of his motivation for pursuing a college degree is derived from his community and family.

“In the Latino community, pursuing education is a central value,” Santos said. “Both of my parents immigrated to the United States when they were teenagers. My mom finished and graduated high school, but my dad didn’t. My dad has always worked in construction, and I have always seen him come home tired and sweaty, he was usually working outside and for long hours. He has always said ‘you need to prepare and do good in school, you need to do all this stuff so you work in a nice office with AC, so you don’t have to be like me when you grow up.’” 

Santos said his parents have had a large impact on his drive and ambition.

“A lot of what I do isn’t necessarily for me, but for my parents, in hopes of one day providing for them what they have provided for me,” Santos said. “I wouldn’t be here today without my parents. I do get stressed, I do get tired, sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything, but I keep going and I encourage others to do the same because there is a broader purpose, and in the midst of all of that, also try to find a balance and prioritize yourself.”

Looking towards the future, Santos said he hopes to attend law school and work within the intersection between criminal and immigration law. When reflecting on his journey – from becoming AUSG’s first Latino president, as a first generation Salvadorian and college student – Santos said he had one piece of advice to offer to others looking to break barriers. 

“I didn’t have much guidance getting here, and I had to figure everything out on my own,” Santos said. “I want other Latinos, or others from a similar background as me, to know that they can navigate systems that seem like they weren’t built for you. You are very much needed in a lot of the spaces you don’t think you are, and in fact, those spaces were meant for you.”

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