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Versatility and passion: Paola Santos in action

By Olivia Pluska

Paola Santos of Los Angeles, California, explained she is a beach person when describing taking sunset walks along Venice Beach with her family during quarantine. She also has an eclectic music taste and plays tennis on her high school’s Junior Varsity team. She loves Mamma Mia so much that she ended up singing The Winner Takes It All at her school’s chorus concert and describes the latter experience as “getting to feel like Meryl Streep for just a moment.”

But Santos has proven to be much more than a beach person, a music person, or a tennis player. Her passion and devotion towards helping the refugee and immigrant community burns all the way to her core and influences much of what she does in her free time.

Inspired by her Latin American heritage, Santos has joined Curamericas, an organization that is devoted to uplifting impoverished communities across the globe. As of now, Curamericas has partnered with a Guatemalan consulate to help stop the spread of misinformation during the pandemic.

Santos has been making phone calls to Guatemalan immigrants living in the southern United States to ensure that they know the symptoms of COVID-19 and understand their rights as well as the possible risks of going to a hospital to receive treatment. “It’s been really nice to make that connection and avoid the spread of misinformation,” Santos said.

While Santos is putting a stop to the spread of inaccuracies, she has been a shoulder to lean on for many of those she has called during this tough time. “Some of the most meaningful calls I have had ended up being unexpected conversations about a caller’s continued belief in God despite this moment of such intense fear,” she said.

Long before COVID-19 was thrust upon the world, Santos served in her school’s Refugee and Resettlement group and has recently, along with a few of her peers from her school, Brentwood School, founded an organization known as the Refugee Empowerment Program. It serves to raise awareness of the issues that impact refugee and migrant communities in various countries across the world. While serving on the research team, she became a beacon of hope for refugee communities all over the world.

Through educating her community about the issues affecting refugees and migrants across many countries, it has become evident that taking action is an intrinsic piece of Santos’ character. Moreover, Santos takes her voice to virtual town halls to speak about women’s issues and serves as the vice president of her school’s Latinx Students Association.

Santos’s interest in immigration policy has inspired her to one day become a civil rights lawyer to help fight for those suffering in the United States and abroad.

“As poet Warsan Shire said, ‘No one puts their children on a boat unless the water is safer than on land,’” she said. “In the future I hope to be a civil rights lawyer or work in immigration reform in order to make meaningful change for the courageous asylum-seeking refugee community.”