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Puerto Rican Student Creates a Community Service and Engagement Club at Holyoke Community College

Karianne Santiago

Camila Vazquez

Karianne Santiago is a young leader from Puerto Rico, who pursues higher education in the United States, and forms part of the National Puerto Rican Student Coalition (NPRSC). She spoke to us about her experience as a student in Massachusetts and as a leader with NPRSC. This is what she had to say to us:

“Leaving Puerto Rico straight out of high school to pursue higher education in the United States had always been a dream of mine, but I knew that it would be a challenge. Through an amazing familial effort and tremendous support, I was able to embark on what would be the start of my journey as a Puerto Rican in the diaspora. I began the first half of my bachelor's at Holyoke Community College in Holyoke, MA, a city where half of its population are Puerto Rican and/or identify as Puerto Rican. Needless to say, Holyoke immediately felt like home, minus the fact that there was snow, now. I was able to get to know the community and its leaders, as well as, learn more about how important and prideful it was for them to identify as Puerto Rican.

"During my time at HCC, I was able to create, alongside an amazing mentor, a community service and engagement club as well as hold a VP position in the institution’s student senate. After my time at HCC, I later continued the second half of my undergraduate studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Although I was not in Holyoke any longer, I was still in contact with its community leaders and remained active. It was thanks to those leaders from Holyoke, Betty Medina from “Enlace de Familias” and Myriam Quiñones, my advisor from HCC, that I  was encouraged to apply and later selected to attend the Puerto Rico, Puerto Ricans National Youth Leadership Encuentro, in New York.

"Attending the Encuentro was an extremely resourceful and rich experience. It was at Encuentro that NPRSC took a bigger shape and form than what it originally was. Puerto Rican students from all over the country and from the island, came together to generate a network that could be accessible, with the help of Centro, to every single student out there. We wanted to be able to provide educational opportunities, connections to fellow Puerto Rican students at every institution possible, have Centro as our bridge to historical archives and as our resource for data documentation of how Puerto Rican life in the diaspora is.”

There is no better outcome than networking and brainstorming, from having young leaders come together for a common purpose. Karianne is the example of courage and perseverance through the transition to a new environment and achieving goals for the future of the Puerto Rican population in Holyoke, MA. NPRSC is incredibly proud of Karianne and her work in Holyoke and Amherst, MA.