"Joining Student Senate has been amazing. I've been pretty impressed by how much faculty and staff value what we have to say and how much they depend on our work, 'cause this campus is pro-student, and that's what I love about it."
Karianne Santiago moved to West Springfield from Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico, just so she could attend Holyoke Community College. She is now an honors student, scholarship recipient, member of the Student Senate, and co-founder and president of HCC's CommITTed community service club. One of her favorite pastimes is teaching fellow students about Puerto Rican history.
Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico
Co-founder and president of the CommITTed (community service) Club; student senator; note taker (math and biology); volunteer, Holyoke Senior Center. (We were going every Friday to do tech support there. We helped the elderly with their computers and their phones, understanding Facebook and using email. It was a really nice experience.)
Awards & honors:
Henry S. '71 & Carol Andrus Scholarship from the HCC Foundation (Spring 2016); Edwin Perez Award for Outstanding Character, Initiative & Service to Others (Spring 2016); Lorraine Hansberry Award for Academic Excellence & Outstanding Contributions Towards the Development of Ethnic Awareness; Student Activities Rising Star Award (Spring 2016)
Favorite course or teacher:
My LC and my honors classes, both because of my English professors. The LC (Learning Community) I took my first semester was Nutrition and English 101 ("All About Food"). My professors were Elizabeth Trobaugh and Laura Christoph, and it was amazing. Last spring I took English 102 with Fred Cooksey, and that class just blew my mind. It was literature and writing, but it was at an advanced level. We analyzed poetry and short stories, and we read two novels. We would sit in a circle and just share our opinions on what we read and have group discussions and debates. I've never had a class like that before. And just that whole new concept of the classroom, the dynamics, how it's set up – the approach from the professor to the student was very friendly and very professional too.
What classes are you taking this summer?
Inorganic chemistry I and II
What will you be taking next semester?
Honors Colloquium ("Punks, Queers, Freaks"), microbiology, pre-calculus
What brought you to HCC?
It was really funny. I went to a college symposium back home in Puerto Rico at the Hotel San Juan in August 2014, and there were all these big colleges there, like UConn, Syracuse, Cornell, Harvard. I was like, these are big schools and these are expensive schools too. My mom was standing near the HCC table, and she asked the guy from Admissions, Harold Santiago, where are you guys located? And he said, oh, we're in Holyoke, Mass. My sister and brother-in-law were living in West Springfield. And my mom immediately called my sister and asked her where HCC was. And she told them it's like 10 minutes away from here. I got in contact with Harold, and he told me about HCC, how long they've been here and the philosophy and methods of HCC. And I really liked it. By September, I was already out here to go on a college tour with my sister and brother-in-law. I went and saw Bay Path and Syracuse, UConn, UMass, and Smith College, and then I came here to HCC. I saw HCC, and I loved it cause it was very similar to a college I was going to go to if I stayed in Puerto Rico, and I liked it cause it wasn't too big. I didn't feel overwhelmed with the campus. It turns out that Harold's uncle and my grandpa are cousins, so we're family.
What's been your most meaningful experience at HCC?
Joining Student Senate has been amazing, and I thought the Senate was going to be mostly like a student council, but it's way much more than that. We have more involvement on campus and with students, faculty, and staff. They actually want to hear our opinions and know what we think. Even when we were interviewing candidates for the VP of Academic affairs. We went to all of the interviews with all of the candidates, and they were looking for our feedback to see what we like cause that was the person who was going to deal with students too. I've been pretty impressed by how much faculty and staff value what we have to say and how much they depend on our work, 'cause this campus is pro-student, and that's what I love about it.
What is your favorite thing about HCC?
I've got to say I like walking around here a lot. I like just going down all the hallways, going through every staircase, just to get familiarized with the school and the campus. I find it peaceful. I walk around on the campus road when I want to do some exercise, and go into the woods too and walk around the trails. I think that's one of the things that I most like about here. I'm an exercise junkie so I love to walk wherever I go.
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?
Coming here was a bit of a culture shock. Sometimes when people talk to me, they ask, oh, do you have a visa? I'm like, no, I'm from Puerto Rico. I'm an American citizen. I understand that to a certain extent it's just ignorance. I dealt with a lot of that at the beginning but then I got over it. That's why I turned to giving people lessons about the history of Puerto Rico. I take my culture with me wherever I go. Anybody I sit with, I give them a lesson in Puerto Rican history. I just love talking about Puerto Rico.
What's the most important thing you've learned at HCC?
I figured out how to walk around to all the buildings on campus without going outside. It gets cold up here.
Why is education important to you?
Education is the key to growing, and it's key to achieving greatness. Without education, you don't know your past, you don't know your present, and you don't know your future. You need education to achieve goals in life.
What are you looking forward to this year at HCC?
I'm looking foward to getting more involved with Student Senate activities around campus and organizing activities related to Hispanic Heritage Month in October and Black History Month in February.
What are your plans after HCC?
My first choice for transfer is Mount Holyoke. I want to study stem cell research and microbiology. After that, medical school. I want to be an orthopedic surgeon. And there's a lot of research done using stem cells to help fix and reproduce bones.