Episode 41: Back to Puerto Rico: An Interview with Sandra Soto Santiago

Ep: 41

Dr. Sandra Soto Santiago has come full circle in her career, finding passion and purpose in helping others with similar backgrounds to access higher education. She talks about being a first generation college student and the first in her family to earn graduate degrees. She also shares her personal story, being raised by a single mother who worked hard and emphasized education for a better life for her family; moving from Puerto Rico to the US then back to Puerto Rico; the challenges she faced and people who helped her along the way. We discuss how vital mentors are to youth who come from impoverished and underprivileged backgrounds, and the ways Sandra is now actively engaged in this vital work.

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Key points discussed:

  • Growing up as the child of a single mom who struggled to provide for her family and emphasized the need for her kids to get an education [5:00]
  • Moving to the US and the shift from being  top of the class to struggling with English and getting poor grades [8:00]
  • The importance of mentors encouraging her to take AP classes, SATs, and apply for college [10:00]
  • Moving back to Puerto Rico, scraping together money for entrance exams, and going to college a year late [14:00]
  • Realizing she was different; not a lot of other first generation college students who had come from her kind of experiences [21:00]
  • Seeing herself and her story in her research participants [28:00]
  • Mentoring and its importance to first generation college students [32:00]
  • Getting a tenure track teaching job at her alma mater [42:00]
  • Increasing poverty in Puerto Rico and disparities in college access [46:00]
  • The CUA (University Center for Access) program [50:00]

 

Key Quotes:

  • “Being a college professor would give me power, in a good way, to do other things in the classroom.” -Sandra Soto Santiago
  • “When I was…doing the interviews with the return migrants, I kept listening to my story.” -Sandra Soto Santiago
  • “You have to know what you’re worth.” -Sandra Soto Santiago
  • “You should be able to make choices that work for you.” -Sandra Soto Santiago
  • “There are parts of my career that I’ve decided not to focus on as much.” -Sandra Soto Santiago
  • “The reality is that when you really have to choose between eating and paying for books or paying for tuition, it’s not accessible, it’s not fair.” -Sandra Soto Santiago
  • “I think if there’s one thing you should do, it’s surround yourself with the right people.” -Sandra Soto Santiago

 

Connect with Sandra Soto Santiago:

Facebook
The CUA (University Center for Access)

Connect with me:

Facebook Page

 

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