As a 2021 Rhodes Scholar, Potes will study at the University of Oxford. His parents settled in Miami after fleeing Colombia when he was 4. He is a new graduate of Columbia University in New York.



Santiago Potes is one of the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients currently living in the United States. DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. It's a program that offers protections for young people who arrived in the U.S. without legal documentation.


Santiago's parents moved to Miami from Colombia when he was 4. Now he's a graduate of Columbia University in New York. And he is also the first ever Latino DACA recipient to be awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.

SANTIAGO POTES: I just couldn't believe it. I was just like - I just thought that they were going to call me and say, oh, actually, you know, we made a mistake. Sorry about that. You - we actually didn't choose you.

GREENE: That is Santiago. And, yes, they did choose him. Santiago says his love for learning really took off when he was elected for a gifted and talented class in his elementary school.

POTES: It was just such a rigorous - very, very rigorous - education, like, elementary school education. It was kind of like an intellectual boot camp for elementary school students.

KING: Marina Esteva taught that class. And she became Santiago's mentor. She told us that he was a star student.

MARINA ESTEVA: He was a very compassionate, caring, cooperative - he was always helping his classmates. And, I mean, he has qualities that, right now, as an adult, I can see him, you know? That little boy's flourished into what he is now. So I am very happy to have been part of his life.

KING: Her classroom offered Santiago more than an education.

POTES: She really kind of became my first maternal figure. Both my parents were really young when they had me. They were 16 years old. And I just felt, like, certain, like, respect and also, I guess, a sense of safety coming from this woman who just went out of her way to teach me a rigorous education. And I'm really - yeah. I'm just - I'm so happy that she thinks I'm heading in the right direction.

GREENE: That direction will take him to the University of Oxford in the U.K. for a master's degree in international relations. Santiago then plans to come home.

POTES: I want to be a national security expert working at the Department of State or working as a counselor to a senator. Yeah. I want to use my academic research to help the United States, ultimately.

KING: Santiago Potes, the first Latino DACA student to win a Rhodes Scholarship.

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