He was an undocumented immigrant from Colombia who entered the country at the age of 4. Esteva said that she quickly noticed his intelligence and wanted to nurture him to success.
Potes traces all his success to Esteva, the teacher he met twice a week from grades two to five in primary school.
“She has been one of the greatest blessings I have had in my entire life so far,” Potes told CNN’s Poppy Harlow.
“My parents didn’t go to college. My parents had me when they were 16. So she really became a bit like my first mother figure. She went out of her way to teach me an education. rigorous. “
It included a lesson on what it meant to be a Renaissance man, a term the Young Potes took to heart. In addition to his academic achievement, Potes is also an accomplished violinist and speaks fluently – or almost – in nine languages, one of which is Chinese.
In its announcement, the Rhodes Trust wrote: “Santiago has served as a teaching or research assistant to renowned professors in physics, philosophy, social psychology and neuroscience, and has won numerous academic awards for his leadership and academic performance. He is widely published in the legal arena. DACA status issues, was one of the DACA beneficiaries featured in a brief filed with the Supreme Court to preserve DACA. “
“He’s so complete. He’s a well-rounded human being,” Esteva told CNN.
“With the highest moral caliber, with a sense of justice, with a sense of what excellence is, and willing to sacrifice for excellence, not for the show, but for excellence itself . “
Esteva is herself a Cuban refugee and immigrant to the United States. She said it means even more to have teachers and students who are both Latino immigrants and refugees, two generations of opportunity and success in the United States.
“I would have liked there to have been a broader national discussion on the specific importance of primary teachers,” said Potes.
He said he wouldn’t have achieved this level of success if Esteva hadn’t told him from a young age that she believed he could do great things.
For her part, Esteva said that she just spotted what was already innately in Potes when she was a child.
“I planted a seed in fertile soil. You took care of a plant. You are the ones who made this possible.