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LatinX student challenges herself to learn, inspire others

September 29, 2022
Genesis Santos by the CAC
Genesis Santos, a senior majoring in political science, international studies and Spanish, seeks opportunities to share her Puerto Rican culture and engage with the UW-Stevens Point community.

Genesis Santos describes herself as “the kid who sat with the adults.” She listened and learned. Her curiosity turned toward history, guided in part by her history-buff grandfather. The more she learned of various perspectives, the more she challenged herself to question what she thought she knew. And that inspired her to want to learn even more. 

Santos, who grew up in Arroyo, Puerto Rico, worked hard in a competitive private school in Puerto Rico to attend college in the United States. She toured a few universities in Wisconsin, where her father now works. UW-Stevens Point was comfortable, charming and safe, Santos said. “It reminded me of home.”  

A senior majoring in political science, international studies and Spanish, Santos is pursuing a profession to help people. She plans to study international or immigration law and work for a humanitarian organization or government agency that provides greater opportunities to individuals globally.  

Initially interested in being a doctor, she was intrigued when a high school history teacher suggested someone with her charisma who was so articulate might consider being a lawyer.  

She has high praise for faculty at UW-Stevens Point, citing John Blakeman in political science and Valerie Barske, history and international studies. “This university is so supportive,” Santos said. 

When a professor gives a lecture about a policy in one country, it sparks her interest in whether other countries follow similar practices. Colonialism in various countries is another topic that she has studied in and out of the classroom. Learning about the detanglement of African heritage in the Caribbean in an International Studies class had a huge impact on her. 

“Every day I learn something new. I apply what I learn in the classroom to what I learn in my own research,” Santos said. “While you’re learning academically, you’re also learning and growing personally,” she said, adding, she hopes to continue learning and challenging her own perspectives through life.  

Santos also takes pride in sharing what she learns. She likes learning about other cultures, listening to stories of other students and sharing her own Puerto Rican culture. Often, that exchange occurs in the Multi-Cultural Resource Center, where she is a peer mentor.  

“The MCRC has been a beacon to me and other people like me,” she said. “Sometimes it can be hard when you’re different to share differences.” 

For example, in Puerto Rico, skin color is not an issue. “There was no need to classify myself as Black LatinX. In the U.S., people ask, ‘what are you?’” 

Santos uses this as an opportunity to teach people – fellow students and others – more about the Puerto Rican culture and to point out LatinX-Hispanic cultures have many, varied origins. Often people simply are not aware, she said.  

She has shared her passion about Black hair because she’s proud of hers and wants to encourage other Blacks to resist conforming to someone else’s expectation.   

“Everyone’s normal is different. My normal is waking up at 7 a.m. and helping my grandma clean fish. People of the Coast taught me to cook,” Santos said. “What is normal for you isn’t normal for me. We all have stories to share. We need to respect each other’s realities, appreciate our diversity and have an open mind about everyone, not just the BIPOC community.”  

She joined the local Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT), which advocates for black, indigenous, people of color and is a fellow with LIT. “I’m here to be part of the change, not make people feel guilty, but turn these things into something positive,” she said.                                                                             

Santos advocates for incorporating a second language at an early age. “Doing activities with kids and exposing them to world customs, world religions and cultures helps cultivate understanding.” 

Working at the Boys and Girls Club last summer gave her additional opportunities to share her culture and inspire others. “If you cultivate good, you’ll get good back,” she said.  

See Hispanic Heritage Month highlights