Pursue your passions and goals, shoot your shot and don't count yourself out

The Journey of former D.C. Fellow Jason Santiago ‘20 and his path to self-discovery 


Jason Santiago

“Pursue your passions and goals, shoot your shot and don't count yourself out”: The Journey of former D.C. Fellow Jason Santiago ‘20 and his path to self-discovery 

Jason Santiago is a second-generation Bronxite and a proud product of the Caribbean Diaspora from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A passion for giving back to his community along with first-hand experience with struggles of food insecurity, housing instability, and environmental and economic racism motivated Jason to pursue his education at Bronx Community College. There, his involvement in student government introduced him to activism. Driven by this purpose, he devoted his work to community organizing efforts and immersed himself in political campaign spaces at the local, state, and federal levels. Jason currently serves as a College Transition & Success Counselor and urges current students to build networks, skills, and knowledge while in college to help propel their life and career aspirations. 

Where are you from and what is your background story? 
I'm from the South Bronx, I'm the product of a Caribbean diaspora from the islands of the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I grew up in a single-parent household in a family that has lived in the Bronx for two generations. This has shaped my upbringing and worldview on justice and community. Growing up in the early 2000s gave me a special sense of community and also introduced me first-hand to our common struggles of food insecurity, housing instability, and environmental and economic racism. Themes that would follow me later in life when reading and studying gave me the language to describe the structures in place that gave me and my family, our neighbors, and community hurdles to overcome that quite a few of us would fall short of beating.

What brought you to CCNY and to the Colin Powell School?
I decided to join the working people's college and specifically, the Colin Powell School for its strong political science program. I wanted a strong grounding in government theory, philosophies, ideology, and practice.

What is your passion or purpose behind pursuing what you did at City College?
My passion has always been giving back to my community and pushing forward the struggles of our past by any means necessary. I have worked in grassroots and institutional forces, and community and political organizing spaces in the pursuit of changing the conditions that I grew up with. Having realized the power structure does not work for communities like mine, I worked to study power in abstract discussions throughout college work and my professional career.

How did City College and/or the Colin Powell School help you to get where you are in your career?
I was a transfer student from Bronx Community College, where I first got involved in student activism and advocacy through student government and the New York Public Research Group. I continued contributing to these groups on the City College campus and gained enough experience to bring my skills and network out into the community. I began working as an intern for a local council member. I eventually went on to volunteer on political campaigns until I gained enough experience to get hired and subsequently worked on several local, state, and federal campaigns. I took classes in community organizing and also interned for the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition in the middle of the pandemic, which exposed me to virtual organizing for the Community Land Trust Movement. In organizing and activist circles, I've been a part of housing organizing efforts and activism in advocacy of Puerto Rican Independence. 

Do you have any significant memories or accomplishments from your career or time at City College / Colin Powell School that you would like to share?
During my time at City College, I was able to study abroad in Argentina. Right after my return flight, I set out to begin the Washington D.C. program where I studied and interned in the Democratic National Committee under the Association for State Democratic Chairs. These experiences had a profound impact on my political development and where I saw myself moving forward in the near future.

Do you have any advice you could give to current or future students?
I would urge students to network as much as possible. Being part of a commuter college can be a challenge to socializing in the university space especially when you are working and taking care of other life responsibilities. But, if you can manage to get out to events and meet as many peers, professors, and faculty as possible, it could make a huge difference in your time on campus. Take advantage of all programs and financial assistance as possible to pursue your passions and goals, shoot your shot, and don't count yourself out. These relationships, skills, and knowledge can help propel you forward in your life and career.

What are your future aspirations for your career?
I'm perpetually discovering what I want to do and where I want to contribute my energies. But, the constant is my passion for community and working to improve our conditions of living and relations with one another. Organizing and engaging people with love and respect brings transferable skills that help improve my vision of aspirations for a better community and move with me in all spaces I commit to. There is a lot of work to be done to make a better life for those who are born with extra societal challenges against us, and I hope the intention is to commit to any endeavor that is communally beneficial.

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