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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Student Government President Edwin Santos reflects on his role: ‘I hope that more students feel encouraged’

The University’s first Latino SG president looks to the future as his term comes to an end

From the Newsstands: This story appeared in The Eagle's December 2023 print edition. You can find the digital version here

In April, Edwin Santos made history by becoming the first Latino to be elected as president of American University’s Student Government. 

Santos, a senior in the School of Public Affairs, ran on three ideals: community, security and representation. He won the election with around 62 percent of the vote. Now approaching the middle of his term, Santos is reflecting on his journey as a student, scholar and leader within the University community.

“It’s been a lot of adjusting in terms of schedule and time management,” Santos said. Last year, he was the co-president of Latinos en Acción, a student organization that aims to create space for Latinos in the community and advocate for immigrants’ rights. 

“This year, I’m even more busy than last year,” Santos said. “It’s definitely been a learning curve on how to handle all of this. A lot of meetings, a lot of emails, the emails never stop.”

Santos also discussed the stress and pressure of being in a leadership position with a great deal of responsibilities.

“I think student leaders … we usually put them on a pedestal and assume that they’re these super-human beings,” Santos said. “When, in reality, they’re just everyday people that happen to have a title.”

In addition to being SG president, Santos is currently working as an undergraduate research intern for the Immigration Lab. He has also interned and volunteered for various institutions such as the U.S. Senate, the HOME Project and the University of California, Berkeley. 

“I come from a background of parents that immigrated from El Salvador to the United States,” Santos said. “Growing up, seeing them struggle financially and sometimes not have everything we needed … I was motivated to pursue something that could support them and not just myself.” 

Santos recalled a particular moment in his childhood that changed his outlook on his future. 

“I had an aunt … she was going through a court case at the time. She had four children, and she was fighting for custody over them,” Santos said. “At the age of 12, in the seventh grade, I saw firsthand the impacts of socioeconomic status within the court system and how she was, at the end of the day, negatively impacted because she couldn’t afford an attorney who had expertise in that field of law.”

Santos said his aunt ended up losing custody of all four of her children due to the lack of representation for her in the court system. Santos said having witnessed this at a young age drives his determination.

“This idea of wanting to be a lawyer, be an advocate for people, like people who I have lived with and interacted with through my family,” Santos said. “It’s kind of what fuels me into knowing that I have to pursue an undergraduate degree to go to law school later.”

Halfway through his term, Santos looked back on what he accomplished so far during the fall semester and what he hopes to get done during the remainder of his presidency. 

Santos added that he hopes to create an environment where students feel like they have a voice and he said he wants the Student Government to continue this trend after his time in office. 

“I hope that more students feel encouraged to run in elections,” Santos said. “But with that, the organization itself fosters an environment where students even want to do that in the first place.”

This article was edited by Kate Corliss, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis, Sarah Clayton, Luna Jinks and Emilia Rodriguez.

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