Santiago Potes has made history as the first Latino DACA recipient to receive a Rhodes Scholarship—but he's far from bragging about it, CBS Miami reports. The Columbia University graduate gives all the credit to his elementary school teacher, Marina Esteva: "She was one of the biggest blessings that I've had in my entire life so far," he tells CNN. "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." Potes says she taught him to be a "Renaissance man" who pursued multiple interests, including academic pursuits, violin-playing, and speaking nine languages, including Chinese.
"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," the Rhodes Trust wrote in naming Potes a 2021 scholar. "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." Potes arrived in the US at age 4 as an undocumented immigrant from Colombia, while KDRV reports that his teacher, Esteva, was a Cuban refugee. What does Potes have to say to critics of DACA? "I can empathize with people that have those just erroneous ideas—it's really motivated by fear," he says, adding that "the vast majority" of immigrants "want to improve the United States, in gratitude, just like I am." (Read more DACA stories.)