Class of 2013
De los Santos ’13 likes to map things out.
Born in Santo
Domingo, Dominican Republic, De los Santos moved to Boston
at age 8, and decided by eighth grade that she would likely
attend Smith. By her junior year at the John D. O’Bryant
School of Mathematics and Science, her course was clear:
enroll at Smith, major in economics, and go on to law school
to practice immigration law.
For as long as she can remember,
De los Santos intended to become an attorney. But during
her sophomore year at Smith, things changed. “I realized
that while I was doing well in econ, I didn’t really love
it,” she says. She took an inspiring class on the Caribbean,
at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, that ultimately
led to a minor in history. And a Praxis internship that summer
at a women’s health center in Santa Cruz, Calif., gave De
los Santos the opportunity to work with a predominately Mexican
and Central American community, exploring the nonprofit field.
De los Santos returned to Smith
and approached Michelle Joffroy, associate professor in Spanish
and Portuguese, equipped with a list outlining her goals
and wishes for the next two years. “I
had a sort of a table,” she says, “and she was blown away
by that.” So began a student-adviser relationship that blossomed
into a mentorship as De los Santos decided on a major in
Latin American studies.
Lucia Suarez, an associate professor
of Spanish at Amherst College, also became a mentor and friend,
and De los Santos participated in a summer
research program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“I started analyzing how the
Latino students were using activism to promote positivity
in their communities,” she explains about the Chicago program. “A
lot of the time when you see the news you see only the bad
things that are happening in Latin America. Because I love
history, I ask, ‘Well,
how about thinking about all of the great things that have
been happening, such as the women’s movement and children’s
Her passion for her Dominican
heritage and her identity as a Latina were a catalyst for
De los Santos to join Nosotras, Smith’s Latin American association. Unity
House is a place she says she will miss in particular. “It’s amazing. It’s homey.
I’ve organized teas there for Nosotras and the last two years we’ve had cafecitos.
We get to talk about all kinds of things.”
De los Santos looks forward
to joining the Association of Latina Alumnae of Smith (ALAS),
but she realizes that being at Smith has also made her consider
and embrace all the parts of her identity, including being
a woman of color, a U.S. citizen and a Smithie.
los Santos’ path has meandered, there are a few constants.
One is her determination to remain involved in working with marginalized communities. “I
want to give back to the community, whether it’s teaching, after school or working
with the immigration rights movement,” she says.
As De los Santos steps up to
receive her diploma, she will be the first in her family
to graduate from college in the United States. In five years,
De los Santos sees herself with a master’s
degree in Latin American studies, pursuing a doctorate and blending her interests
in history and the Caribbean.
“It’s going to take a long time, but I’m sure I’m going to be able to fulfill
all the goals I’ve set for myself,” she says with conviction.