Samuel Vilchez Santiago


Samuel Vilchez Santiago, 24, a graduate of Princeton University, is the Florida campaign coordinator for “All Voting is Local,” a project of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group of civil-rights organizations. Born in Venezuela, Samuel was 13 when the United States granted his family asylum as political refugees fleeing persecution by the regime of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whom his parents opposed. Passionate about education and immigration policy, Samuel is co-founder of Familias Presentes Movement, a non-profit that advocates for better educational opportunities for Latino students across Florida. As the youngest member ever appointed to the Orange County (Fla.) Charter Review Commission, he championed proposals to expand access to clean water, protect conservation lands and strengthen environmental regulations. As a commissioner, he reviewed the county’s governing charter, evaluated potential changes, and presented ballot amendments on issues of importance to the county’s 1.4 million residents.  He also has been active in promoting naturalization and immigrant integration. “As a former refugee … who is now an American citizen,” he says, “I see citizenship as a powerful tool [for] building collective power among immigrants.” Through civic engagement he came to understand that he could “not change the world from the sidelines.” Samuel wants to use his studies at Oxford to develop an interdisciplinary approach to policy advocacy that will allow him to “continue growing as a public servant.” A long-term goal is the creation of a non-profit to equip immigrant Latino parents with the knowledge they need to better understand the American educational system, including free, bilingual presentations on college admissions, financial aid and the scholarship-application process.

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